Why I foster - Martin Leworthy
Martin Leworthy started fostering, together with his wife, in 2005. Since then, they have fostered 15 young people. Martin is also a trustee of The Fostering Network.
Fostering is a crucial role that underpins the lives of the most vulnerable families and children in our society. My wife, and I started to foster after she had got to know a young Kosovan unaccompanied minor in her job as a teacher. We thought about it for a while and after assessing the impact it would have on our young adult family we decided that fostering would be a positive experience for all of us.
That was in 2005; since then, we have fostered many children and young people; most of our placements have been long term and teenagers; one of them stayed till he was over 21 years old as he had learning difficulties and needed more time than usual to prepare him for independence; another one stayed till she was 21 years old under the 'Staying Put' scheme.
As well as long-term placements, we have also had some children on respite or short term and even four male siblings aged from 21 months to 8 years. This variety of placements is not unusual and in fact reflects the wide range of children and families who are supported by fostering services. As foster carers we have had to be resourceful in finding local organisations that offer support and encouragement to looked after children.
For one young Romanian boy we found a boxing club in a nearby town that gave him an outlet for his aggressive tendencies and helped to develop his self-discipline and self- esteem. For two female siblings who needed separate evening activities, we found Air Cadets and Army Cadets in our town; both of these organisations offered fun within clear boundaries, plenty of activities to learn new skills and to grow at their own pace; they both also had the chance to go on activity camps with their relevant organisation.
One of these girls also had a great need to be useful (as she saw it) so she took up a volunteering role for a charity that provided extra-curricular activities for children with learning difficulties; through this she learnt that there are many children and young people who have to overcome difficulties in their childhood and they all need a measure of support; she learnt to be responsible and punctual, to ask for help and to take instructions, to be creative and to channel her compassion for younger children in useful ways.
Our first two young people were profoundly deaf, which presented new challenges for us. We had already learnt British Sign Language in evening classes and they were placed with us for that reason; however, signing in evening class is very different from being able to understand an angry teenager who is signing faster than I can think!
All these children and young people have come with their own unique problems and characters; they have become part of our lives and our extended family. They have given everyone who has come into contact with them an insight into their resilience and the strength of character that they develop to make a better future for themselves.
They have also given us an enormous amount of joy and have enriched our lives so much that we can't imagine our lives without fostering.