Sue and Steve Clarke have been fostering with their Local Authority since 2011. They transferred over to Caritas Care and were approved with them in early 2021. Sue and Steve now provide a safe and loving home to a sibling group of children on a short-term placement.
This is Sue and Steve’s fostering journey…
“We have been fostering with our Local Authority for over 10 years, and we mainly looked after newborn babies and toddlers. Anyone who wants to foster this age range of children needs to speak with their Local Authorities; however, as our family grew and our grandchildren got older, we wanted to look after school-age children. We spoke with our Local Authority but also decided to look at other agencies because the demands of changing with different social workers were a concern. Also, we knew that having older children would need us to have additional stability for us as a family; we wanted to make sure we had the right support for us to do this.
We started to look around, and the path led us to Caritas Care. Once we spoke with Rebecca, the Foster Care Manager, it immediately became clear that Caritas Care was the agency for us. The transfer process was straightforward, and Steph, our social worker, carried out the Assessment, which was straightforward as we had fostered before. However, Steph made us feel that Caritas Care had a ‘family feel’ to them. This was important to us because we felt a sense of belonging with them.
Sadly, Steve suffered a stroke in 2008. He had worked in his Joinery and Building business, and I worked as a Medical Secretary. His stroke ‘pulled the rug out from under our feet; however, it changed the way we viewed our future. Fostering was something that I had always wanted to do, but now, it has become something we could do together.”
Our sibling group has blended in lovely with the family.
“Our first placement is a sibling group that are 10 years and 8 years of age. They joined us on a short-term placement, and they are a boy and a girl. They have settled in really well; this is their first time in care and they were not really used to routine and boundaries. Thankfully, both children have settled in well with the whole family and us. Our grandchildren are similar ages and have integrated together; to be honest, all the children are stars and blended in lovely.”
Our Christian faith and family is important to us.
“Steve and I are Christians, and it is inherent in our hearts to help people and families in need. I don’t hide it; it is there because it is me. When we go to Church, the children come with us and have settled in there brilliantly. The children take in what they want, listen to what they want, and feel safe because there is also a huge social side for children in our Church.
We have been going to our Church for over 20 years, and it is a very loving and accepting Church family which the children are part of. Steve and I feel that the children can learn Christian morals and values within a broader family experience from our faith and have a sense of belonging unique to them as children.
Everything Steve and I do, we do as a family. We always include our birth family with the children, and we are the children’s ‘foster family’; we even have a ‘foster dog’ and a ‘Church family’. Every ‘family’ has a different dynamic to the children, but they are all their ‘family’ together, and the children have a sense of belonging to each one of them.”
Every child is different; it’s important to recognise this.
“The children belonged to an extensive family, subsequently, the children haven’t mixed socially outside of the family. Our eldest foster child was at first very wary of people and not very good at opening up to people; I told him that this was okay. However, he is getting better; yesterday, I called at another foster carers house with him. He later told me that she was alright; she’s kind, so progress is being made!
Both children were very protective of their siblings, especially the younger children. Therefore, the behaviour of the children is that of a protector, so we are now undoing learned behaviour. Sometimes, these blocks, or foundations we help them build upon, will take years to establish, so we are not expecting great strides at the beginning. However, we consistently nurture that learning, so the children will grow with us.
Fostering sometimes means you sometimes do things you don’t like, such as Halloween. I don’t like Halloween; however, we have got the costumes for the children, and they both have pumpkins.
Our second foster child, a girl. She is a very capable child; however, before she came to us, she kept herself very private and is selective mute. However, with us, she is a chatterbox and is blossoming lovely 95% of the time. She had powerful maternal feelings for her siblings and has picked up nurturing for others when it hasn’t been there for herself.
Family time is very important to the children; however, they are affected afterwards sometimes and all children react differently.
We have recently watched a webinar about de-escalating behaviour, and it gave us a look behind the behaviour. It was very helpful and enabled us to understand behaviour better, and we are learning every day. Learning is one of the best things about foster care; you will never stop learning. Through our learning, we understand that the triggers to behaviour mean children can’t move forward; they go back to familiar places, so we reward good behaviour.”
“The children are on a short-term placement with us. We chose short-term foster care because we didn’t want to commit ourselves long-term due to our ages. I am 59 years, and Steve is 60, and at the moment, this feels right for the family. Maybe long-term foster care would be something we could consider for the future; however, we know we have to do what is best for the children we care for.
My Mum and Dad, (who has recently deceased) were a great support to us throughout our fostering years. They were amazing foster grandparents to all our foster children.
Our daughter is 35, and she and her wife have given lots of love to Steve and me and all our foster children; they provide us with great support, both practically and emotionally.
Also, our sons are aged 38 and 37. With their wives and our grandchildren together, they also help our foster children feel included and welcomed in our family.”
The best qualities for foster carers are …
“I think that foster carers need to have compassion, resilience, and patience because it is inherent that you care, always. Every night when the children go to sleep, I say to them,’ I love you’. The children asked me why I say that, and I say, ‘God puts love in my heart for you,’ they accept it because they know it is true.”
We don’t identify children by labels.
“Steve and I hate it when labels are used. We understand how children feel different when they are labelled as a child in care or seen as different. We help children see a bigger and different world. It is a world full of promise and a world where they will not be judged by labels but for who they are as people.
We both know how labels can affect children, as our daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s in her late teens. Her ‘difference’ was seen as a barrier, but with love and support and her ‘I will overcome’ attitude, she gained her master’s degree. She is proof that if we look beyond the labels and genuinely understand the child, there are no barriers to helping them become successful people.”
Click here to enquire about fostering with Caritas Care