21 May 2021

More examples of #WhyWeCare

Throughout Foster Care Fortnight stories are being shared from Aberdeenshire’s longest-serving foster carers.

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. 

‘They always end up staying’ – Elaine Mutch

Elaine Mutch’s foster care journey started 26 years ago. She and her husband wanted to have children but unfortunately it didn’t happen for them. A friend mentioned fostering and the rest is history, resulting in a large number of children and young people finding safety, stability and a place to call home.

She loves to see the children becoming able “to feel happy and have smiling faces”. She always smiles to herself when young people come into her care and say to her “I’m not staying here”, she just nods and says “ok then” and then over a short space of time they relax and realise that they are ok and they want to stay when their views are sought.
 
Elaine believes a combination of “listening, routines and rules, being respectful towards the kids, a calm house, and being laid back” are factors in persuading children and young people to stay with her. She is the kind of carer that will not react to a situation, keeping calm and patient. She puts a great deal of value in developing relationships with the parents of the kids she cares for. There are times when parents have told Elaine visits home have been difficult and this allows for support and discussion, but it can also provide a bridge between parents and social workers, so information can be passed on in a non-threatening way.  Elaine also believes it’s important parents can come to her home to see where their children are living and have a ‘cuppy’. This openness helps parents feel that they are included, lets them see their children are safe and cared for which goes a long way to supporting relationships.

Elaine says her joy is seeing the children she cares for grow up and move on to living independently. She says her house is always full of kids whether it’s her own nieces and nephews or the children that she fosters. They all get on with each other and her own family treat them as if they were their own too – there is no differences made. 

‘It doesn’t happen overnight’ - Cathy and Tommy Drennan

A love of fostering brought these Aberdeenshire foster carers together. Tommy’s parents were foster carers with the Quarriers organisation. He followed suit becoming a maintenance painter, meeting Cathy, who was an assistant house mother when they met working in the same cottage.

Both Cathy and Tommy came from large families so naturally they wanted a big family of their own. Unfortunately, this was not to be, so they considered foster care instead.  They have now been approved for over 30 years, offering a safe and loving home for numerous children and young people in Aberdeenshire.

One of the qualities they say foster carers should have is the ability to support children to manage their feelings and to express those feelings. In turn, this frees up the children to have fun, enjoy their childhoods without the worry or stress about the other ‘stuff’ going on in their lives.

Cathy and Tommy have also seen the value of working alongside parents, as this can be a very important element of a successful placement if families and carers can work together. Cathy met the mum of a boy they looked after, who approached her in a shop and thanked her for all the support she gave to her and her son. She told Cathy how well her son was doing these days and believed that it was due to their intervention in his life, which prevented him from slipping down a very slippery slope, making all the difference.

As Cathy and Tommy gained experience and skills, they were keen to sign up to a specialist fostering scheme. They excelled in this role working alongside social workers, teachers, health professionals and families to ensure that young people who were the most vulnerable and at risk of having to leave their council area could stay and maintain links with communities.

“If at all possible, I work with the families, I accept them and do not judge”, Cathy said. She is often in the fortunate position of remaining in contact with the family and sees the children grow up.

‘The boy she was meant to have’

Cathy and Tommy have offered permanent care to a boy and girl both of whom have become part of their family and have gone on to study at Aberdeen University and pursue successful careers as adults. The girl was seen as their third daughter and thrived in a loving and secure environment, whilst Cathy describes the boy as ‘the boy she was meant to have’. He has equally shone in Cathy and Tommy’s supportive and nurturing home.  

‘This is a relationship that is life-long’ – Jamie’s story

At the time of writing this it was 25 years to the day that Jamie went to live with his Foster Carers, Lorraine and Eddie Taylor.

Jamie aged just over four years old, didn’t really know why he couldn’t stay at home with his mum. He arrived at Lorraine and Eddie’s home, thinking this was his 10th or maybe it was 11th foster placement; the others either breaking down or there being a lack of availability. Jamie describes feelings of confusion and frustration, of feeling scared and angry all at once. At that age, he didn’t have the words to tell the adults how he was feeling or to know the questions to ask. Jamie says he was a “wild child!, Lorraine and Eddie knew how to help me feel safe and they didn’t give up on me.”

Jamie describes feeling welcomed by the whole family and he remembers feeling like he was “part of the family”. Lorraine and Eddie had their own daughters and Jamie laughing says they “had the patience of saints.”

Eddie would take Jamie into the garden and kept a close eye while he romped and ran about, burning off pent up energy. Jamie said with a word of good humour “god forbid if you got in between Eddie and his flower patch”. Jamie says Lorraine would allow him the time and space to vent and to “have my feelings”. He says “she wrote everything down every day for a year” representing me and my feelings. It’s clear that this validation of his feelings was hugely important to Jamie and was the building blocks of his being able to recover from a traumatic early childhood, he speaks about having “stability, support, and a foundation to build on” – fundamental to enable children to grow and develop and to reach their potential.

Jamie describes that Lorraine and Eddie’s perseverance with him helped him settle down – he says he was happy and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else with anyone else.  At the age of 15 or 16, he felt like things were falling into place, he was doing well at school and Lorraine and Eddie didn’t want things taking a backward step. They helped him at “every bump in the road”. However, Jamie says “independence looms like a ton of bricks”.  Jamie said that at this age, he wasn’t ready to live independently, and Lorraine and Eddie had no intention of letting him go it alone, so he remained in their care.

Eddie converted an annex to their house into a “granny flat” for Jamie and he eventually moved in when he was 21. Jamie has been able to develop independence skills whilst having the safety net of Lorraine and Eddie to support and guide him.

In talking to Jamie about his experience with Lorraine and Eddie he spoke about how much he loves them and describes Eddie as the “closest thing to a dad”.

As Jamie moves into adulthood, Lorraine and Eddie’s commitment to him continues, he is as much theirs and they are his, and this is a relationship that is lifelong.

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