My partner Mark Jackson and I have been foster carers since October last year. We were travelling home in the car from my stables one day early in 2014 when I noticed the poster on the back of a bus we were following inviting people to contact West Sussex County Council if they would like to apply to be foster carers. I mentioned this to Mark and he had also thought he would like to do this.
We contacted WSCC straight away and they got in touch quite quickly. We were invited to attend a 3-day ‘Skills to Foster’ Course. We went and really enjoyed the course and meeting other prospective foster carers. We had frequent meetings throughout the summer of 2014 with our Assessing Social Worker, Karen. We provided references and all the information she needed to put together our application to go to ‘Panel’.
A date was set for 9th October 2014 when we met with Karen at County Hall North in Horsham to face the panel for their consideration. We felt a little nervous but we had Karen there to support us and we were delighted to be accepted as Foster Carers.
We had said from the outset of our assessment process that we would like to foster children of school age and above.
We waited a little while until 3rd December for our first placement to commence – a 16 year old girl who was on a short term placement. We had our ups and downs caring for her, but on the whole we felt we had helped her and she ended up returning to her family after about 5 months.
We then had a bit of a lull before being put forward for our second placement, a 14 year old boy. This was to be a permanent placement so we had the chance to meet each other before a final recommendation was made for the move. We all got on very well and he is now living with us on a permanent basis. He has told us he would like to stay until he is 50!
We don’t have any children of our own so in some respects the assessment process was straightforward in that we didn’t have our own children to consider. We were perfectly happy prior to fostering but this is just the icing on the cake. To be able to offer a secure, loving home to a child or young person who has had a difficult start in life is hugely rewarding and we would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of becoming a foster carer.
We are both self-employed, Mark is a carpenter and I have a livery yard for horses. For the past 4 years I have organised a sponsored ride on Ashdown Forest raising money for charity. This year we chose to raise money for The Fostering Network as this is something close to our hearts.
With Facebook, Twitter etc it seemed easier this year to attract entrants and on the day I had 110 horses and their riders. It was a glorious sunny day and the riders had the choice of following a 6 or 12 mile course which I marked out for them using neon spray paint. I am also a Voluntary Mounted Ranger for the Conservators of Ashdown Forest and they were kind enough to allow me to use my quad bike to mark out the course. Unfortunately it overheated about one third of the way round so I ended up walking a long way! I also marked out a separate 3.5 mile route for walkers with or without a dog.