‘He is my grandson first, then a child in foster care’
My name is Catherine and I am a kinship foster carer in Northern Ireland and I would like to share with you a bit about what fostering has been like for me.
In November 2017, myself and my husband became kinship foster carers to our nine year old grandson. When he first came to live with us, I hadn’t thought of it as fostering but rather doing what any other grandparent would do in this situation: provide a safe and secure environment for him to be a child and grow. Unfortunately, things weren’t as they should have been for him at home and I was shocked to find out about the different things he had witnessed in his early years. Social services got in touch with me and as he was going to be remaining in my care the assessment started to become a kinship carer. The process to become a kinship carer was straight forward enough and thankfully we were approved at panel. It was definitely worth the stress of getting all the correct information to social workers.
When I first became a kinship carer it did take a while for me to remember I had to get permission for certain things that you take for granted with a grandchild, such as a sleepover at his aunt’s house for example, but now it comes as second nature to me.
Supporting and being supported
Kinship foster care has its challenges, however, I believe it is great as it means that the child can stay within the family circle, where possible. My grandson looks at it like he is living with his granny and grandad although he knows it is called kinship foster care and that social workers are involved. There has been plenty of support for not only us but also the whole family from his social worker and my link worker. It has really helped knowing that there is someone on the end of the phone if I need help or advice about anything.
At the beginning I found it hard to report or ‘tell tales’ on my daughter when things weren’t going as they should have been. It is not an easy thing to do but now I realise it needs to be done in order to provide the best possible care to my grandson. The turning point for me was when a family member said: ‘If you don’t report it and can live with yourself if something happens then that’s okay, if not then you have to report it.’. These words have stuck with me and have really helped.
Looking back, I am extremely grateful that we could provide a safe place for our grandson and be there for him when he needed us the most. Staying within the family, close family and the extended family circle, is extremely important to me and this has given us the opportunity to become closer. To me he is my grandson first, then a child in foster care and that is how it will always be.