Debbie Douglas is a foster carer and the Westminster Government's fostering ambassador. Here she talks about the multiple roles a foster carer takes on - and how proud she is to say that she is a foster carer.
Fostering is not for all people and definitely not for the faint hearted! But for me I can honestly not think of anything else in my life I'd rather be than a foster mum. Thrown into a world I knew little about (and purely by accident), after 24 years of working alongside social services, fostering over two hundred children, I still learn something new every day and there truly aren’t many paths in life that can do that.
I have sat in many coffee mornings, afternoon teas, gym classes and exhibitions, talking to complete strangers. I have this annoying habit of talking to every Tom, Dick and Harry and, strangely enough, when we get onto the subject of careers or what our dreams are and what we aspire to, I'm normally the last at answering the question. I have mastered the avoidance technique. I sit listening to their stories of ‘I am a fitness instructor and personal trainer,’ ‘I am a head hunter,’ ‘I am a finance analyser,’ until it comes to me – ‘I am a foster carer!’ What normally follows is an awkward silence or a polite ‘oh that's nice’.
Whether it’s a profession or a lifestyle is up for debate, because a person with no knowledge of the care system might see a foster carer as a glorified baby sitter or child minder.
I [like other foster carers] am, without a doubt, neither of these and I stand tall, with confidence, because I am many things to many people…
…I am part of a fostering family who open our home, but more importantly our hearts, to these very children.
I am a therapist without the letters after my name.
I am a mum in every possible way, without the blood.
I am a nurse when they are ill, having mastered diagnosing every illness possible without attending uni. You name it, measles, chicken pox, ear infections and the most common by far, TLC (tender loving care) - an illness that pops up quite often when they need a cuddle.
I am a teacher, without the qualification - reading at bed times, memorising the times tables and liaising with school teachers.
I am a sports personality, without any knowledge of biology or football teams - spending hours by side lines in the pouring rain, never giving up on their dreams.
I am their friend when no one else likes them.
My one priority is that I care. I care about children who by no fault of their own have significant voids in their little lives.
So I stand tall and say quite loudly (as no one can ever say I'm quiet) ’I'M A FOSTER CARER, my job description is endless and my heart humongous, because in life my friends, I live by the mantra – “follow your heart because in the end love is all that matters.”’