Real fostering stories in Havering
One word to describe fostering with us
Alison Fox - Fostering ambassador
Havering residents who have been signing up to become a foster carer have been given a warm welcome and greeting from someone who knows a lot about it.
At the other end of the telephone is Alison Fox.
She is one of Havering Council’s fostering ambassadors. Her role is to welcome new and potential carers into Havering’s fostering family, answering their questions and putting them at ease about what is expected of them.
“Because I understand, I am able to answer their questions openly and honestly.
“I can give them a first-hand account of what it’s like to be a Havering foster carer as I have personal experience of it.
“Once they know I’m a foster carer, I have their full attention. There’s no one better way to promote this role than with someone who’s in it. We’re passionate about what we do and when you’re passionate about something you want to tell everyone about it so that they can make a difference too.”
Once Alison has had a chat and the initial form-filling is completed, the prospective carer’s information is referred to the assessment team who then make a follow up call to book a home visit where they meet you in person and make sure your spare room is ready to foster.
The person is then invited to Skills to Foster, a two day training course, where they receive more in-depth information about becoming foster carers, meet some members of the fostering team as well as the ambassadors. The prospective carers then decide whether they want to continue with process in becoming a foster carer.
Ordinarily, Alison can be found caring for her 15-year-old foster child, who has been with her for the past five years.
She said her love for children was first and foremost in her decision to become a foster carer.
A family friend was already a foster carer and it intrigued Alison, who already had two children of her own. She went along to an information evening at Havering Town Hall and that was it.
Seventeen years later, she describes the journey as “incredible”, having fostered many children short and long-term.
So what does it take to be a foster carer?
“We need foster carers who are in it for the long-run, not for a few weeks or months, but for years.
“The children need an environment where they can stay comfortable for a while. We class short-term as up to two years. It really is something that people need to think seriously about and whether they can provide that nurturing environment a child in care needs.
“And you definitely need to have a spare room, unless you are caring for a baby” adds Alison.
In return, Havering offers a bumper package of benefits, including council tax exemption, free parking in Havering council car parks, free green waste bin collections and more.
Fostering households also have lots of fun. Regular outings are made to London’s West End theatres, park days throughout the summer and different events throughout the year.
The ambassadors support the new carers for their first two years with monthly support groups, training sessions and being available whenever needed, in addition the fostering team support is continuous 24/7.
Head of Service, Tendai Dooley, said “Having Alison on board is fantastic as it not only frees up our social workers to recruit and assess potential carers, she’s a foster carer and can speak about it in a way that we can’t do, which is priceless.”
Camille - Supervising Social Workers
Camille is one of our wonderful Social Workers she has been working for Havering since 2016 and has been in the Fostering Team since August 2019.
In this short clip Camille talks about her role as a Supervising Social Worker and the support and supervision that a foster carer for Havering can expect to receive.
Dean - Supervising Social Worker
Dean is an Advance Practitioner within the Fostering Team. Dean has been in the team since June 2014 and is a vital member.
Dean leads the monthly support groups within the borough.
Here is a short clip of Dean talking more about the different support groups offered to all foster carers in Havering.
Demi - Foster Carer
Demi was approved as a Havering Foster Carer in October 2018 however his fostering journey started way before that as his Mum is also a foster carer for Havering and grew up in a fostering household.
Demi is a single carer. Listen to Demi talk about the support, rewards, role and process of becoming a foster carer.
Dreece - Care Leaver
Dreece is a 22 year old Carer Leaver.
Dreece talks openly about his experience of being in care, the impact of the positive relationship with his foster carer and provides some helpful tips to any new foster carer.
Paula Kenneally – Foster Carer
"I have always wanted to be a foster carer but as a single parent and working full time at a primary school, I didn't think I would be able to.
"With the encouragement of my headteacher and friends I applied and Havering said yes. The Havering fostering team is fantastic and the support you get is amazing. I've never felt alone or had to deal with anything by myself.
"All through the Covid 19 pandemic they phoned, emailed and provided me with any information I needed.
"Being part of the Havering’s fostering community is like having an extended family as your fellow foster carers are there to help you too.
"We have support groups and training and everyone works together to help each other.
"As a foster carer I feel valued and appreciated. Fostering for Havering is rewarding, fulfilling and enriching. I work, live and foster in Havering and I wouldn't want to do it anywhere else."
Rebecca Reid – Foster Carer
"I thought I could use the skills I’d learned in the hospital at home to make other people happy and to help young people to achieve their goals, so I went along to training where I met all kinds of people from different backgrounds.
"We exchanged our telephone numbers and ideas and we became friends. For someone who has never worked in this environment, it can be very scary.
"The social workers and staff are very considerate and treat you as if they have known you for a long time.
"Anyone who is a responsible adult can become a foster carer if they have a spare room and meet the requirements. I am happy I am able to give back what has been given to me in this country.”
Eileen Caisey and Alison Fox – Havering Fostering Ambassadors
“We quickly realised that new foster carers needed looking after, so we set up a support group to buddy up with them and take them under our wing.
"New foster carers need nurturing as the first year can be daunting as there are so many questions. We offer reassurance and help them navigate how it all works.
"We act as a link between Havering’s fostering team and the carers. There are challenges but we look to overcome them by focusing on the positives.
"We are always learning and there is guidance to help you.
"There is a huge demand for foster carers and the main thing the children need is love, whether they show that need or not.
"The scary thing is, what would happen if no one fostered?
"Don’t be scared of loving a child who may leave you. Be scared of a world full of children who have never felt love.”
Deidre - Foster carer
This foster carer's name has been changed to protect their identity.
Deidre is one of the newest foster carers to come on board at Havering.
She contacted the Council after seeing our appeal for foster carers for some of the borough’s most vulnerable children, although fostering was something she’d been considering for some time.
“The situation changed at home and we found that we had that spare room that we hear being talked about. It was also to do with a bit of self-discovery as well.
“I come from a background of trauma and I know the difference it can make to be cared for, and to have someone in care in our home we just thought that we can make room.”
Deidre, 50, had worked in high profile jobs in London. She and husband Richard (53) met later in life and struggled to have children.
She said they put everything into work and travelling, but they still felt empty.
Eventually, they had children – a boy, aged 11, and a girl, 14.
But she said when the time presented itself to foster, it was a real joy.
“I never thought that someone like me would be able to foster, because I came from a background of harsh parenting and my sibling and I experienced a lot of trauma. But I want to say that even if you’ve been a part of a background that you had no control over, it doesn’t mean it’s the end, there is still hope.”
She said the challenges she faced has made her more resilient and she feels that children in care are resilient too because of the things that they have had to overcome.
After going through the fostering process, Deidre and Richard were given their first placement - a two-year-old boy.
“He came to stay with us for a week and then came back when his mum needed some respite. It was a nice way of easing us into it. It was surprising how quickly he became part of the family and the ranks closed around him. Everyone became quite protective.”
Deidre described the approval process as lengthy, thorough, but as anticipated.
“I had investigated the process and this was key to an easy transition. We knew most of what was coming and accepted this as due diligence.
“We are reflective in our approach to life and have used this to process and to understand our childhood and adult life. Therefore, we enjoyed this approach.
She added: “It did trigger some memories and raise questions on our perspective on things but that helped us reflect as adults in a way we hadn't before.
“It also made us realise these negative experiences could lead to a real empathy for some of the children we may foster.
“I would say to anyone wishing to foster to understand the processes and be honest about any concerns they may have, and remember, for a child in a difficult situation, we could all make a little room.”