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"Fostering is so rewarding and so worthwhile"

After wanting to foster all their lives, Debra and Graham finally made it happen 3 years ago. Today, they share their fostering story so far...

December 16 2021 - 5 min read

Debra and Graham started fostering three years ago. Debra had watched her mother foster for over 20 years and as a couple, it was a shared ambition. After Debra became redundant, they decided to apply.

Very soon after they applied, they went on the two-day Skills to Foster course. “They were two well worthwhile days,” Debra commented. “You get a first-hand account from other foster parents and it’s good to hear the true facts of fostering.”

At the beginning of their journey, they thought they would focus on caring for children on a short-term basis, but after a while and following discussions with Orange Grove, they both decided that they could provide a foster home to a child on a long-term basis.

Long term foster parents set out to provide a more permanent home for a child or young people, that will last for at least 2 years and often until they turn eighteen.

Reminiscing on their first experience in fostering, Debra said: “As daft as it sounds, it doesn't take long to become a family of three, from just the two of us.”

To help settle their foster children into the family, they prefer referring to the family as “we” rather than referring to the child or young person as “you”. They also find decorating the child's bedroom to their taste during their stay is important. “It’s giving them their own safe space and somewhere to be by themselves when they need to.”

Often it will take the children a while to relay their feelings and by putting themselves in their shoes and empathising, Debra and Graham help make the children feel safe. “We have swings in the garden and they are fabulous for talking. With one child we looked after, we used to go sit and swing. You’re not looking at each other and you can talk about all sorts of things.”

The most rewarding times are in those little moments. “When you can tell that they feel comfortable in the space and they are happy to put their point of view across or you get that hug.”

The couple are currently caring for a young boy who has struggled with his education. Graham said: “He came in a few days ago and had a good day at school. He couldn't wait to tell us about it. It made it clear that he felt at home but also brought us so much joy seeing him so filled with pride.”

Feeling safe and happy is so important to build the confidence needed to continue with their journey. By recognising and praising the achievements of the children in their care, the couple have become an important part in many of these individuals’ lives and a truly great support system.

The response from friends and family at first was mixed but now it’s lovely to see how the grandkids especially have really bonded with the child currently in Debra and Graham’s care. “He’s got the best of both worlds; he can have friends to play with but be an only child when they go home and reap the benefits of that.”

“Our mantra is ‘there’s no such thing as a naughty child, it’s just a child trying to tell you something in the only way they know how’ and one of our foster children really took that on board and it was such an important moment for us.”

The couple acknowledge that at times, fostering can be very challenging with many obstacles and battles. The team at Orange Grove are there to help, even out of hours, to provide advice and guidance. The couple had been recommended to go to the agency because of this support provided. “We’ve felt that ten times over. You need a good agency to provide support when you need it.”

“It seems that every problem you come across there’s a person who is just perfect to solve it or help you solve it or at least talk it through with you,” says Debra and Graham agreed: "We can’t fault Orange Grove, from their support, explanation and help throughout it has been amazing.”

There is also the bonus of Orange Grove’s social activities. Their “star of the month”, days out and holidays put a smile on the children's faces and really help give the family that sense of community spirit. Debra and Graham are excited to be taking their little man to a pantomime very soon.

For those looking to foster, the couple’s advice is to “Do your research, get your family on board and do as many courses as you can together. It’s just a case of getting everyone on-board and then once it clicks, fostering is so rewarding and so worthwhile.”

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