I first thought about fostering after I had a chat with my neighbour and she said she thought that I would be good at it. At this point, I had raised my own two sons and my youngest was getting ready to go off to university. I was working as a teaching assistant which I had been doing for over 15 years. During that time I worked with a range of different children, some with complex needs. Working in the schools, I have seen kids who if they had the right support, could really blossom. I just thought that I have brought up my own sons well and I could do this for other children.
It took me a couple of years before I made the first move to apply to foster. Once the kids were both out, I thought I’m either going to be a cat lady or a foster carer! My neighbour knew someone who worked for an independent fostering agency so when I was ready to apply, I went through them. They told me I wouldn’t be able to continue working as a foster carer so I left my job, unfortunately I didn’t get my first placement with them until 12 months after I was approved. During that time, I got a job in customer services to keep me going. I ended up fostering with the independent fostering agency for 5-6 years. After my last placement I had with them broke down, I decided to take a rest.
I first heard about Walsall’s Mockingbird programme while I was doing some voluntary work. My boss at the time had seen an ad for a job with Walsall Council as a ‘Mockingbird hub carer’, she knew I fostered so sent this on to me. When I read about the job and the Mockingbird programme I remember thinking this is what fostering should be and this is what I needed to do.
I applied for the job and after a visit at home and an interview, I was offered the role. Once I got the job, it all started coming together, I had so much training to prepare me for me role as a hub carer. I went to the Mockingbird forum in Leeds where I got to speak to other hub carers, and this is when I really started to understand what my role would be.
The Mockingbird programme officially launched in Walsall in July 2018. At the launch, I hadn’t yet met my constellation, I got to meet a few on the day but I arranged to meet with all of my hub individually too to get the know them. After all of these initial meetings with everyone, I had my hub pre-launch at home. This was the first time the whole group got together, I planned a few activities and made cakes and it was just a really nice informal chance for us all to get to know each other. The main hub launch was at The Crown in Brownhills. This was the first time the birth and fostering children also got to meet.
The hub has now been active for just under a year and it’s been a busy! As part of my role I offer my constellation respite care which means lots of sleepovers, day care, individual trips to the cinema or for meals, and home visits. I also offer emotional support to the kids and carers. The carers and I are always in constant contact, they know that I am always on the end of a call if they need me. I organise monthly events with the whole constellation, these outings take a lot of time to plan as I always try and find something the whole hub can enjoy and I have to take into account that the kids are all of different ages and have different needs. So far these outings have included a Christmas trip to the Snowdome in Telford, lots of picnics and walks, a pizza making class at a vegan restaurant, messy play at another carer’s home, and a trip to Drayton Manor Park!
My hub has really come a long way in the past year, I have no regrets in becoming a Hub carer for Walsall Council. This is something I have loved doing, it’s had its challenges but I can see myself doing this for a long time.
For anyone considering becoming a foster care, all I can say is really think hard about it because it’s going to change your life. You need to have a really open mind as it’s a 24/7 commitment. Saying that, I would change absolutely nothing about my time as a foster carer and now as a Hub carer.