11 May 2021

Foster carers explain #WhyWeCare

Now Foster Care Fortnight is underway, here are a selection of stories from some of Aberdeenshire Council’s longest serving foster carers, giving you an insight why fostering is so rewarding.

The theme of this year’s Foster Care Fortnight, which began on Monday, May 10 and concludes on Sunday, May 23, is #WhyWeCare. The fostering service hopes by reading these vignettes you will appreciate the hashtag’s true meaning. 

Kids have been my life – Helen Cox

Helen got into fostering by accident. Her daughter made friends with a girl at school who was living at a children’s home in Rhynie and asked if she could stay for a weekend. This young girl ended up living with Helen’s family for two years! Not only that, but Helen has also provided a safe place for children and young people to live in Aberdeenshire for 48 years, beginning her journey back in May 1973.

Whilst she might not know the answer to what the secret is to a long career as a foster carer, she believes you must show an interest in the children and young people you care for. “You have got to be into kids. You need to be passionate about childcare and caring for young people. Be interested in what kids are interested in. Make sure you’re supporting what the kids want to do,” she explained.

She said everyone staying with them knew that there were boundaries, consequences and strategies to be used to cope with things. Learning this helped the kids manage their behaviour. Helen liked to feel she was developing the life skills of the kids coming to stay with them.

Given Helen and her husband Jimmy were respite carers, they didn’t really keep contact with anyone who stayed with them but would always say ‘hi’ if they met them after they finished staying with them.

When going on holiday or for trips out, Helen and Jimmy took the kids to beautiful places such as the Black Isle or Lossiemouth.  Even if they were working shifts, they made sure the children didn’t miss out on fun. Helen met Jimmy after a shift, he would have all the kids ready and together they would do something.

Often little things make the biggest impact – Marjory and Keith Ruddick

Marjorie and her husband Keith have been fostering for 38 years. Their own childhoods were somewhat challenging, and therefore wanted to give children positive family experiences.

Marjorie believes her most successful placements have been those when she has been able to work closely with parents too. She opened her home to a young mum and her two children to assist with an assessment. Both children had considerable challenges and fears in relation to traumatic experiences. One of these fears was water, and Marjorie and the family introduced water play: washing cars, water fights and so on gradually reducing their fears.

Over a two-week period, they worked together to build the basis of trusting relationships so the children could leave Marjorie and Keith in an emotionally stable way, and could move to live with their grandparents. Marjorie and Keith were later to receive a card with a photo of the children playing in the garden enjoying a water fight! This news made them smile, and their hearts swell.

Marjorie and Keith have been invited to countless weddings, graduations, christenings and other milestone events in the lives of the young people they care for. It’s a mark of the strength of relationships they form, many of the parents of the children will keep in contact and thank them for the support that they gave them during a very difficult period in their lives.  Young people they cared for will call them just for a chat, some of them aged in their 40’s now with children of their own. Marjorie and Keith feel they are their extended family.

Marjorie believes that she has a lot to thank her role as a foster carer for. She and Keith feel they have learned so much and have become better carers, her own children had a better understanding of what children need through their fostering experience. Marjorie has had the opportunity to undertake courses through the Open University, which led to doors opening for her. She was actively involved with the Fostering Network and travelled throughout Scotland delivering training for foster carers. She also supported a big event and organised activities for over 200 children in Aviemore.

She recognises the value of the ‘team around the child’ and talks about the support she had from social workers, supervising social workers, managers, and extends her thanks to them. They also have the joy of the kids coming back to see them to share their own children with them, and their successes which is truly heart-warming for them.

It’s a family affair – Viv Ballantyne

During the last 30 years Viv and her husband Norman have provided exceptional support and the children who have lived with them over the years are considered family. Viv talks about helping the children’s family members develop life skills and having the opportunity to welcome parents into her home to teach cooking skills or sitting with them in neo natal units supporting them to provide care to their children. She supported a number of young vulnerable mums, during assessments and offering advice and support which has at times ensured their children can stay with them, or in some cases helped ease the process of their child moving on. This is sensitive and emotional work, and Viv would struggle if she didn’t have her family to support her.  Donna, Viv’s daughter, plays a big part in the fostering role. She provides both emotional and practical support as well as helping Viv to keep up to date with changes in policy for example, when it comes to choosing and fitting car seats!

It is this sense of family and relationships that stands out in Viv and Norman’s fostering. Her home is covered in photos of the kids and when they visit, they use the pictures to talk about their time with her and Norman and the things they did together as a family. Viv conveys a sense of inclusion and belonging when she talks about her role with the children and their parents, she doesn’t judge or criticise, but instead offers support, help and hope, alongside a nurturing loving safe place to call home where the door is always open.

If you are interested in becoming a foster carer or would like an information pack, please contact fostering.befriending@aberdeenshire.gov.uk or 01467 532700.

For more information about Foster Care Fortnight or to donate to the Fostering Network please visit https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/get-involved/foster-care-fortnight