Your heart has got to be in it to be a carer but once you start seeing the smiles on their faces, knowing that they are happy and that they feel safe, that’s all that matters. I have learnt over time to treat all the kids in my care differently but at the same time, to treat them equally. In my house, the kids are not foster kids because this is their home.
One of the biggest challenges of being a carer is remembering that they belong to someone else, that they have families and hopefully they are going to go home, because that’s where they should be. In the beginning its really hard but as time goes on, you learn.
I think patience is the key, it’s so important to sit back, to listen and always stay calm. You can’t get in a child’s face because it will just scare them. Like everyone, I made these mistakes but I came to understand that once a child feels comfortable, they will come to me. I once fostered a 5 month old, I set up a little cot in the corner and for 6 weeks they would not engaged with me. If I walked close to the cot, they would turn around so they didn’t have to face me. I would feed, bath, and play with them and would get no response. It was their survival method; if I pretend I am not here, nothing bad can be done to me. And then one day they looked up at me and smiled and from that day on, do you think I could shut them up? To building trust will take as long as it takes, sometimes it takes a week, sometimes a month and sometimes it doesn’t come at all but you just keep trying.
It’s the small things that really make it all worth it. The girls that live with me now are always writing letters and saying I love you. They left a letter the other day that said, “I love you thank you for beautiful dinner” But that has taken years.
At the end of the day, you are just there to make sure they are safe.