Today, in anticipation of our special information evening on Wednesday for people to find out about fostering teenagers, we hear from some of our very own award winning foster carers, John and Stephanie Forbes from Leeds.
“We have been fostering teenagers since 1982. Our first placement was a 13 year old girl – and she taught us a great deal! She is now almost 45 and a grandparent herself and she has been a part of our family ever since she first came to us.
“Getting into fostering in the first place was always something we had talked about as a couple even before we had children of our own. We were aware that some children couldn’t live with their birth parents for any number of reasons, but we didn’t originally plan on fostering whilst our own children were still so young, as they were only three and five at the time. We saw an article in the Yorkshire Evening Post about an information evening being held by the council, so we went along and discovered they needed foster carers for older children and teenagers and that’s how it all started.
“We have only looked after about 30 young people since we began mainly because we prefer longer term placements rather than lots of short term placements.
“The rewards of fostering are not always evident when the young people are living with you but seeing them parent and care for their own children, and knowing you had an influential part in that process is very rewarding.
“Another rewarding thing is when you are able to work with the birthparents to help the teenager return into the care of their families, in some cases after many years of separation. This is something we have done on a number of occasions and feel a great deal of satisfaction from it.
“The most challenging part means different things to different people – in our case it was the waiting up for them to return at night or not, when you had to be up next day to carry out your daily tasks. Another ongoing concern is keeping the young person in some form of education which is almost always a constant challenge!
“What would we say to someone considering a career in fostering? We suggest you talk to as many people as possible involved in fostering and be clear on what is involved. Working for Leeds social care as a foster carer, you would be appointed a supervising social worker who will meet with you on a regular basis. We have monthly support groups, regular training opportunities, an out of hours support team, a buddying scheme, an option to join the Leeds Foster Care Association and automatic membership to Fostering Network, (a nationwide organisation which supports carers in all aspects of fostering).
“There are many funny or surprising stories when fostering. One girl would and could sell anything to buy her cigarettes and once sold a dead moth to another lad in the house for 50p! Another teenage girl that we fostered said to me as her own children were growing up ‘you once told me that raising children is one of the hardest jobs in the world – and now I know what you meant’.
“One girl came to us when she was 16 she stayed less than a year but has returned every year for a visit at Christmas for the last 20 years.”
John and Stephanie Forbes have been fostering teenagers in Leeds for 32 years. They have recently won the Child Friendly Leeds award for looking after children and young people, and in 2009 were awarded an MBE for their services to fostering, having been nominated by people who had previously been fostered by them – so they must be doing something right!
If you want to find out about fostering teenagers with the council, come along to our information evening on Wednesday 26th February, from 7 – 9pm at the café in Waitrose supermarket, Meanwood. No need to book – just drop in.
0113 247 7443
Photo posed by models