‘We treat them as family’
Foster Care Fortnight takes place from 13 to 26 May. We spoke to Islington foster carer Debbie about the ups, downs and personal rewards of caring for teenagers.
As a child Debbie’s neighbour was a foster carer and an inspiration to one day take up the role. Fast forward to today and Debbie has cared for more than 15 Islington teenagers.
“One thing to remember is that there’s no easy age group! You can be up all night with a baby or supporting a teenager. The difference is with teenagers there’s a lot of banter and you can really establish a relationship,” Debbie says.
While some of the young people Debbie and husband Terry have cared for were looked after for weeks, one boy was with them for 10 years.
“He’s 28 now and we still see him,” Debbie says fondly. “We treat them as family. When they come in our house, whatever they’ve done is left at the doorstep. It won’t work to lecture them.”
“They’ve got such low self-esteem coming into care. A big part of the role is re-building that self-esteem and letting them take it at their own pace, we let them settle. Providing them support is essential.”
“A lot of these children haven’t been to school much. One young lad struggled with maths and needed a tutor. After a couple of months, he could sit in class and put his hand up. That made him feel really good about himself.”
Equally vital is the fostering team’s support for the carer. As well as financial assistance there is training in specialist subjects such as gang involvement and sexual exploitation. And although there are challenges, Debbie is clear the emotional reward from seeing a young person thrive is unparalleled and there will be plenty of happy memories.
“When a teenager comes to you they want to sleep with the light on then all of a sudden the light’s off. That’s when you know you’ve cracked it.”
If you would like to know more about fostering, contact the team on 0800 073 0428 or send an email