Jack and Jeanette’s fostering journey started in 1989 when they looked after the daughter of Jeanette’s best friend, who at the time was experiencing issues. They did this as a ‘family and friends carer’ for one year in order to preserve the girl’s schooling.
Throughout their careers, they had extensive experience of working directly with children and young people. For 15 years, they ran a stage school in Surrey for ages 4-16 years – though many didn’t leave until the age of 19.
Eventually, Jack and Jeanette decided it was time to retire from the stage school. They genuinely thought they would be happy to retire but soon realised that they missed looking after children, so much so, they applied to be foster carers. In March 2020, they were approved as parent and child foster carers with Foster Wales Swansea.
Jack and Jeanette discuss what it was like to be approved during respite, what it’s like being a parent and child foster carer, the importance of support, and what people should do if they are interested in fostering.
“we have never looked back”
Jeanette: “We were approved as foster carers for our local authority in March 2020. I was 66 and Jack was 79. We decided to be parent and child foster carers as we were interested in helping parents to look after their child safely and equip them with the parenting skills they needed to live independently in the community. I have to say, whilst there has been a lot of learning and challenges, we have never looked back since, we genuinely love it.”
Jeanette: “My first respite placement was in Bristol Hospital for four nights. I needed to stay in the hospital by a baby’s bedside. I was very grateful to one of the nurses there as they gave me an understanding of what to do. Invaluably, I was linked to another foster carer who I spoke to whilst at the hospital. It taught me a lot, especially as she was too a parent and child foster carer.”
support is key
Jack: “Being approved just before Covid was difficult. All interaction and meetings were online. There weren’t any face-to-face support groups or coffee mornings so we weren’t able to meet up with other foster carers in person. However, having another foster carer to talk to was invaluable for us.”
the rewards are plentiful
Jeanette: Whilst it was difficult being approved as foster carers just before Covid, the rewards are plentiful. As parent and child carers, we really enjoy seeing a mum or dad (or both) progress and manage to take their little one home to live independently. Every placement teaches you something else that will help you with future placements.”
Jack: “The rewards for us have been the contacts we have made and the positive experiences that the parents get from being in a parent and child placement with us. We feel like a mentor to the mum or dad, as there is so much for them to learn in order for them to be able to live with their baby in the community. Naturally, the baby is the most important person, but the parent/s need to learn how to deal with things and give their baby the happiest, kindest life as well as know how to correctly feed and change their child, how to clean, cook and also budget. This probably seems very practical and easy to other people but these parents haven’t done these things before, and it is all unfamiliar territory.
Jeanette: “Some parents take longer than others to understand and learn what they need to do, but in all fairness, we learn just as much from them sometimes in terms of understanding what they are going through. Some might have ADHD, OCD, autism or learning difficulties. Gaining an understanding from them and professionals, helps us to give the parents better support, care and guidance.”
there can be challenges
Jeanette: “Naturally there are challenges to being a foster carer. There can be sleepless nights as the baby has to sleep in our bedroom initially. There are daily reports to complete as these are used by social workers and the courts to assess whether the parent can safely look after their children independently once the placement ends. You also need to learn how to help the different placements succeed.”
Jack: “Unfortunately, parent and child placements don’t always succeed and sometimes the decision is made for the baby and parent to separate. This was hard for us initially but now we appreciate why those decision are sometimes made. It’s all about the safety of the baby.”
considering fostering? attend an information event
Jack: “If you are considering fostering, go along to one of the information session where you can talk to other foster carers. It will help you to think about what would fit in with you and your family.”
Jeanette: “There are so many different ways to foster, to suit all personal circumstances, so attending these information events are the best way to help you decide whether it’s for you and what type of fostering is best for you. Also talk to the Foster Wales Swansea Team as we found that really helpful too.”
Jack: “Fostering for your local council is the best way to foster, we’re not vacant for long.”
get in touch
If you can open your door to a local child or young person and offer them a safe and loving home, then please get in touch for more information or to make an enquiry