17 December 2014

Christmas - it's a special time for foster carers

Christmas – it’s a special time for foster carers

It’s going to be an extra special Christmas this year for Saltdean couple Diane and Keith – because it will be their first as foster carers.

They look after two young children who aren’t currently able to live with their own family.

They first started thinking the time was right to become foster carers a couple of years ago, and they got in touch with Brighton & Hove City Council’s fostering team.

“We were what you might call empty nesters,” said Diane. “We’ve got three of our own children, but only one still lives at home now.

“I felt I still had lots of love and affection to offer younger children. We talked it through with our birth children and they’ve all been really supportive.”

Keith works at the Grand Hotel, but for Diane being a foster carer is a full-time role.

“It’s good to be able to be at home and be there full-time for the children we look after,” she said. “For me the allowances we get from the council for looking after the children make fostering a viable alternative to a traditional job.”

Diane and Keith have been looking after their foster children for most of this year, and are excited about spending their first Christmas with them.

“We’ve had to put some thought into what presents to give them,” says Keith. “They may not have had what you might call a ‘proper’ Christmas before, so we don’t want to overwhelm them – but at the same time we want them to have nice things.”

The training Diane and Keith received from the council’s fostering team was extremely thorough and, they say, very valuable.

“The preparation work really forced us to think hard about what we were taking on and what our motivations were,” said Keith. “It’s important because you really have to go into fostering with your eyes open.”

“I found learning about the psychology of attachment and helping children from different backgrounds really interesting,” said Diane.

“It’s gone really well so far. So much of it is about teaching our foster children a sense of normality – encouraging good habits and establishing basic routines that they maybe didn’t have before, such as at school time or bedtime.

“The council’s fostering team put a lot of effort into matching children with the right foster carers, and I think that has really paid off,” said Keith.

“We’ve been able to build good relationships with our foster children, and it’s wonderful to see them thriving.”

Diane said: “Sometimes it’s the simple things that can really make a difference. We bought them some wellies and took them out for a walk with the dogs. They’d never had wellies before and spent all afternoon jumping in puddles!

“Or when we took them swimming for the first time. We couldn’t believe the sheer joy on their faces. It’s lovely to be able to share moments like that.

“We think the dogs are great for them as well. They can be a great distraction if the children are having an unhappy day.”

Diane and Keith say they are really enjoying being foster carers.

Diane said: “If you like children and have a spare bedroom then I would say you should definitely give the council’s fostering team a call to find out more. They’ve been there for us 24-7 and have been really supportive.”

Keith said: “We’ve also really benefited from the buddying scheme run by the local foster carer association and met some very nice people.”

To find out more about fostering in Brighton & Hove, please:

  • Phone the council’s fostering team on 01273 295444 for a friendly chat
  • Email fostering.adoption@brighton-hove.gov.uk
  • Visit www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk

Photos by Peter Tierney