I was recently asked in an interview why I began fostering and why I continue to do so despite all the frustrations and upsets that fostering can bring. The interviewer was a rather glamorous and highly motivated journalist who clearly had her sights set high.
She admitted she couldn’t foster although she quite liked kids. I replied to her question without hesitation that I had begun fostering, as many foster carers do, in response to an advertisement I’d seen in my local newspaper that said foster families were desperately needed, with a phone number to call for more information. I made that phone call, subsequently attended the introductory evening and, after the assessment and checks, began fostering. I said I continued to foster because I felt was making a positive difference to the lives of the young people I looked after and that I enjoyed fostering.
However, on the drive home, I wondered what else I could have said. What is it that keeps so many of us fostering for so long, despite all the trials and tribulations fostering involves. Yes, we (hopefully) make a difference and improve the quality of these young people lives, but there seemed to be something else, something more that I hadn’t succeeded in verbalising, and I suspected it was shared by other foster carers. I struggled for a while, trying to find the missing ingredient, and then it occurred to me in one of those ‘light-bulb’ moments that it was the vocational element of fostering that had escaped me: that component we hardly ever recognise or admit to.
The dictionary definition of a vocation is: a strong feeling for a particular career or occupation, usually regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication. A calling. I felt this summed up the vocational element of fostering perfectly. Vocation was that precious ingredient that keeps us on track and fostering, and loving it, year after year after year. Fostering is a profession, but we tend to forget it is a vocation too and, without sounding too pious, a calling. It is a calling to care for vulnerable children who cannot live with their own families in a non-judgmental manner.
As foster carers we tend to be a self-effacing bunch and become embarrassed if anyone suggests we must be very nice people to foster or we do a good job. I know I inwardly cringe when someone praises me for fostering, and I quickly retort that I foster because I want to and anyway I receive back – in terms of satisfaction - far more than I put in. However, with Foster Care Fortnight approaching I think it is a good time for us to drop our reserve and recognise and promote the vocation and profession of fostering for its true worth. It is a calling, and without doubt there are many others who could join us and share in the wonderful rewards and satisfaction that come with fostering.
Cathy Glass (www.cathyglass.co.uk)