How foster carers can support care leavers
Jess, now 20, reflects on being in foster care. Living with Dave and Lisa since the age of 14 has given her a second chance at life. They've also helped her achieve her ambitions. She’d been living at home with her mum but was struggling increasingly.
Lisa explains, “We have family rules but we try and lead by example. Our role is about support and mentoring, as well of course about day to day practicalities like making dinner! I remember when Jess first came to stay with us. We took her on outings and trips and tried be a family for her. However for the first 12 months, all Jess wanted to do was to be at home.”
“I was doing my own washing and cooking from about 8 years old", says Jess. "I didn't have anyone around to ask how I was. For the attention I lacked at home, I wanted more at school as a result. Sometimes I’d get home after school or cheerleading practice and be waiting outside the house in the dark. No one would be home until 9 or 10 at night. Finally I realised that it couldn’t go on. I needed help. I needed a family.
Jess, care leaver
Lisa is my “go-to” person. My mum is still my mum but I rely on Lisa for everything. She helped me trust in people, gave me someone I could depend on which was something that I'd always wanted. She’s taught me so much. Whatever life throws at me, I’ve learnt from Lisa to pick myself up and keep going.
"I remember that I was strangely excited to be in care but that I had to learn to be part of a family. It sounds silly now but I remember running out of toothpaste and not being sure how, or even if, I could ask for more! I had almost been living on my own, and desperately wanted routine, so even though I was relieved to be with Lisa and Dave and to finally have people looking out for me, I still found it hard. I had to learn simple things like asking how someone’s day had been. I’d never had that.
"I really wanted the routine, parents, family life that fostering gave me. I’m not sure that I could have made such strong, positive choices in a residential home environment. I needed a real ‘home’. I have been given the opportunity to be what I want to be, to complete my hopes and dreams."
Jess is a nursery nurse currently working towards her Level 3 Early Years NVQ. She has recently returned from travelling to China and volunteering in an orphanage in Peru. She's now looking forward to going to the European and World Cheerleading Championships later this year.
If you're interested in fostering, you can contact the fostering team for more information and advice.
Did you know?
Many children and young people in care will have experienced difficulties at home and will benefit from guidance and support from foster carers.
There is no typical foster carer. We welcome people of all backgrounds, nationalities, religions, genders and ages.
Providing a stable and supportive home for a teenager can give them a second chance and allow them to fulfil their potential.
It's important that we recruit foster carers from a wide variety of backgrounds to reflect the diversity of the young people in care.