Victoria's Story

Victoria has been a foster carer with us for thirteen years, and generously shared her fostering experiences with us at one of our information events.

What made you decide that fostering babies was the right thing for you?

"I decided to leave my job as a primary school teacher so I could make a bigger difference and be a voice for cared for children.

"My children were four and five years old at the time, so I started caring for children under the age of two, because at that time it was nice to have a two year gap.

"I fell into being a baby carer and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It really feels as if it was meant to be. Even though my boys are now off to university, - one to be a paediatric nurse - this job has changed them as people and has moulded them to want to care for people.

"I have continued to care for babies because that’s where my heart is"

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What does it take to foster babies?

"You need an open mind and an open heart, you also need resilience. Babies are going to come into your home and you may expect, like I did, that these babies are going to be your typical little babies. Quite often they’re not, they have been through some horrible circumstances, and they haven’t got the vocabulary to express how they are feeling.

"You need to have the resilience to, when you hear their story, acknowledge how terrible it is but be able to say today is ground zero and we are going to effect change starting today.

"It’s also so important not to be judgemental, because nobody knows how the parents have got to that stage where their children aren’t living with them.

"After thirteen years the excitement that you feel when a little one comes into your home doesn’t fade, the whole family is so excited to see this little new person.  However, we are meeting them on their worst day, that is their families worst experience. So you have to overcome that in some way, because parents don’t generally set off thinking that the foster carer is amazing."

What is your involvement with birth parents and adoptive parents?

"When babies first arrive, they can have contact with their parents or extended family up to five times a week, depending on what is right for the baby and family.

"The hope is always to reunite families. You can become closely involved, because you're giving feedback to social workers, hopefully developing a close relationship with parents where you can take their views into account. For example if they want certain nappies, or to dress the baby a certain way, you work with them because this is still their child and this is really important.

"It is really important to be open minded because you can make that relationship something wonderful. I still talk to some of the families now that the babies have gone back to, and that’s a blessing."

‘I get called Mama, short for Grandma’

"There isn’t a greater compliment than working with a family and them thanking you, even though they have had dark times.

"However it doesn’t always end like that no matter how much we want it.  Sometimes the plan is for adoption. In that case, we get to know adopters over the course of weeks and video calls, so we build a really good relationship with them and they build a good relationship with the children.  When they move on, hopefully the adopters want to keep in touch as it means that the child always has a link back to their past.

"The daily logs I keep, recording first smiles, first steps, and first words are vitally important for their sense of self when they get older."

Is it hard saying goodbye?

"When my first child left thirteen years ago I literally slid down the door, it was heart-breaking.  I didn’t think I would ever be able to do it again. But then you give yourself time just to regroup as a family because it is really important that your core family always talk about what is going on, especially when a child moves on.

"I ask if everyone else in the household is still feeling positive to go into this with new energy. We have had moments where my children didn’t want the little ones to leave, but then they understand that our job is done.  We didn’t come into this to adopt a child.

"We came into fostering to help as many children as we possibly could. You have to keep that in mind when the child leaves.  I like to think that we did enough to enable that child to begin the rest of their life. They are going to be resilient and happy with a sense of worth, and If we can send them off like that, that is what you must hold onto.

"It is so beautiful, because it's not goodbye, later that day you will do a video call and probably a couple of days later you will actually see them.

"I have little ones wanting to come back and visit to see their old bedroom, so excited to see where they lived, that is a lovely thing to know that you have helped so many children reach where they were meant to be."

How many children have you looked after over the years?

"I’ve looked after eighteen babies and I also care for sibling groups. Quite often we are finding that we have a baby and very often there is another sibling on the way. It is lovely if you can try and keep the siblings together.

Do you have a spare room?

"I have. Currently I have two unrelated children in the house. One is a two year old and I also have a one year old and he's in my room. Up until the day before they are three they can stay in your room.  The ideal is that there is a spare room because sometimes plans change and sometimes that baby does become part of your household.

Recording first smiles, first steps, first words are vitally important for their sense of self when they get older.

- Victoria