It's not every day your name is mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Lily Allen, Dame Jilly Cooper, and Princess Anne. Which is why respite foster carer, Vanessa Worrall, has every reason to be proud after being nominated in Citizen and Echo’s list of Gloucestershire’s 50 Greatest Women of All Time.
Vanessa has made a name for herself working in the community as a youth worker and now project manager at Together In Matson for two decades. Two years ago, she brought all her experience and knowledge of working with young people to the table and became a carer with Community Foster Care. The Fostering Network catches up with Vanessa to hear what she has to say about fostering.
How did you decide to become a foster carer?
I have been working with young people for 15 years, but now being a manager I have less direct contact with them. My house was empty as I had just lost my dog of 14 years so the time seemed to be right to try fostering – to open not only a new chapter in my life, but also to support young people.
Tell us a bit about your fostering experience – how long you’ve fostered for, who you’ve looked after and so on.
I have been respite fostering for about two years and have had many diverse young people come to stay. Different ages and different backgrounds, but all with the same common factor that they like to be listened to. Young people enjoy attention, warmth and having someone’s time given to them and them alone.
What have been some of the greatest joys and challenges for you as a foster carer?
Each young person brings with them their own hobbies, food preferences, and television programmes they enjoy watching, which has broadened my outlook on these things.
Friday night playing card games and Saturday evening pick up from a party and listening to all the gossip is different from my usual weekend.
Understanding challenging behaviour and where it all stems from can be frustrating sometimes especially when the young person has made progress but then returns to learnt behaviour. That’s what we’re there for, though, to support them.
How does it feel to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Lily Allen, Dame Jilly Cooper, and Princess Anne?
It was fantastic to see how many great women we have in Gloucestershire, from people like Margaret Hills who fought so hard for housing, education, and workhouse conditions to people like Jennie Watkins who fights to combat inequalities today.
Joy Hibbins, Julie Stokes, and Jo Sutherland who support people when they are at their most vulnerable; they truly are the greatest. I was honoured to be named but I think carers, whomever they care for are real heroes.
What advice would you offer to somebody that wants to become a foster carer?
Talk to your friends and family, you are going to need their support. Do some respite care first and see how you get on before committing to be a full-time carer. Do all the training that is offered to you and make sure you pick a reputable foster company that is going to look after your needs as well as the young person.
How long do you anticipate fostering for?
I’m sixty soon, but I find fostering keeps my outlook young. Playing Playstation games, knowing who Drake is and receiving hair and make-up tips…It will all keep me going for a bit yet!
To find out more about Vanessa's incredible achievement, check out this post on Community Foster Care's website, and in the meantime let's celebrate her success as a foster carer. Congratulations, Vanessa!