Fostering at Christmas

Sara (41) and Alan (48) Madden-Connor French from Aylesbury in Thames Valley have just began their journey as foster carers joining Foster Care Associates (FCA) on their quest to support vulnerable children and young people just 13 months ago.

The couple first decided to foster as they were considering alternative ways to start a family Sara explains:

‘’We decided that fostering was the best way to start our family as we really felt that we could offer a safe and loving home to children and young people that really needed one.

‘’Alan and I mentioned our desire to foster to several family members, and all were extremely encouraging, however, one of our family members was dubious about the impact it may have on us and the family and was concerned.

‘’Following a local recruitment event, I ended up with an FCA tote bag, teddy, and information booklets that were really impressive and informative and from there things moved along really quickly. I made my initial enquiry phone call and we’ve never looked back since.’’

In their 13 months spent as foster carers with FCA, the couple have looked after their first placement. Sara describes this experience as challenging but never the less completely life changing. She said:

‘’We have been approved and paired with our first and only placement on a long-term basis. He arrived into our homes and lives at the age of twelve having moved around several times during his young life due to challenging learning and behavioural issues as a result of his personal circumstances.

‘’For the first five months that we looked after this young person, he was in and out of school. I’ve really learnt to educate myself and access resources such asChild and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the UK. Not a week has gone by since we started looking after him that I haven’t been advocating for him in one meeting or another at every chance I could.

‘’He has complex needs, which we expected, but often with little knowledge about family history and the previous backgrounds of these children and young people in need, it can be a challenging role to take on, but FCA have supported us every step of the way.

‘’FCA has been great. Right from the get go with training and support sessions through to our supervising social worker, who has been an invaluable resource, we have been provided with so much support. FCA are always there for you especially when you need those words of encouragement.

‘’So far our experience has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve acquired new skills, and have been appreciated for my talents. It’s the best feeling in the world knowing that against all odds I’ve given a child a chance to grow and feel settled.’’

When asked to describe one of their favourite fostering moments with their first placement, the couple reminisce about a moment they’ll never forget. Sara said:

‘’We’ve had ups and downs but something that really put a smile on our faces was discovering that one day our young person spontaneously rang my mother; he simply wanted to tell her everything he’d been up to, he told her he couldn’t wait for her to visit. This small gesture made my mother’s day and ours too.

‘’We are really looking forward to a Christmas together this year as a family.Everybody deserves the chance to grow up in a safe, secure and loving environment and Christmas is a very difficult time not to have that.

‘’If we had any advice to offer new carers or those thinking about fostering, we’d remind them that it’s not going to be a walk in the park, but if you go into it with your eyes open, your family could be just what a child needs to thrive.’’