My Time in Foster Care – Alex’s Story
Alex came into care at 11 years of age alongside his two brothers. Now in his early twenties, he sat down to share his experience of Foster Care in his own words.
Coming into care was definitely very confusing. I didn’t know how we had found ourselves in the situation that we were in. It was really uncomfortable but I was still with my brothers, so we still had that togetherness. I went from emergency care to my foster home and I was scared of the unknown as well as feeling confused because when I was in emergency care I wasn’t with my brothers. Obviously I saw them but I was happy when we were all moved to our foster home together. I felt isolated at the start because I didn’t know what foster care was, and if there were other children in foster care to be honest.
At the start it was like trying to find the right balance because when I was with my dad I had a lot of freedom. I probably had too much freedom for my age and then when I went into foster care there was real scrutiny over where I was all the time, and I wasn’t too used to that. There was definitely a bit of finding common ground or testing the waters. But I feel like we handled that really well and once we found that common ground, we sort of motored on with it I would say. I get on with my carers very well. The best thing about being in care I would say is meeting other people in care. It made me feel less isolated and made me feel more comfortable knowing I was not the only one. Also, some of the supports I got in FFI like the Education Officer coming down when I needed help just made me feel important cause they were coming all the way down from Dublin just to see me! They helped me with the CAO and the SUSI process which was great.
Another good thing would be the football trip the first year that I came to live with my foster carers. It was one of the first times that I met other young people in care, and I’m a really sporty person anyways so it was nearly like a blend of some of the best things to happen to me. I really enjoyed the different activities in FFI over the years, like when we went ice-skating, the Independence Retreat, making the From Me To You booklet, and just having my opinions and everything heard. My foster carers would always bring us on holidays to Spain and that was really nice with lots of good memories as well as the little things I did with my foster carers like going to the cinema together or bowling. If I had a football final everyone would go to it which was really nice and it made me feel proud to have them all cheering me on and knowing they were all there watching.
The most difficult thing about being in care is answering the awkward questions, because if some people found out you were in foster care, they’d ask you ‘oh why?’ and all those difficult questions that you don’t really want to answer. This is not just when you start school; it’s every time you meet new people, or join a sports club, or start secondary school or college. The longer you’re in foster care you find better ways to handle those questions and situations. My foster carers were always there to talk to and help me in those situations, and I know they’d have no problem telling someone that it was none of their business! I definitely feel that they were protective of me in those situations.
At the start of my placement it was hard, like my dad had to give permission for me to go to places sometimes and that could take a while and other people would notice. They’d ask me ‘are you going?’ and I’d have to say ‘I haven’t got an answer yet’. Other children can get these things signed for the next day but when you’re in care there’s these whole steps that you have to follow that can be time consuming.
Preparing for aftercare was strange. I had an aftercare worker and he visited me to make sure that I could wash my own dishes, clean my own clothes, do some housework, and do a little bit of cooking. There was also the FFI Independence Retreat where they made sure to teach us independent living skills like cooking food and budgeting. My foster carers helped me with this too, they showed me how to pay bills, how to do my washing, ironing and how to cook some basic foods that I can now cook as well. My transition from care to aftercare was gradual, I now feel that I have my life in my own hands, I don’t need to get permissions to do things now. I still live with my foster carers so not too much has changed as of yet. I’ve just finished a PLC course in a college of further education and I’m hopefully going to be doing a Social Care course next year in the hope of becoming a Social Care Worker in the future! I’m passionate about trying to help other people that are in care now, and having gone through it myself, I want to support them having their voices heard.
For anyone that’s interested in becoming a foster carer; I would tell them to do a lot of research. If they’re worried about any situation there is probably someone who has been through it before so they should just ask for advice. If it is a challenge at the start, I would tell them to remember the reasons why they chose to foster and hope that that would bolster them. I think it’s important to find decent foster carers so that children can be given a safe home and a chance to have a better future, and also it gives their parents time to get their lives together. I would also urge the foster carers to avail of all the trainings they are offered. They’ll have the basic training from Foundations for Fostering, but like a foundation, this is something that is meant to be built on top of and I think the trainings would be a definite support for them.
If Alex story has made you think you could make a difference in the life of a child or young person, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch today via the enquiry tab on the right of the page or call our office on 01-4171944.