Stella, Richard and their children Xenan (24) and Venus (18) have been fostering for seven years. Xenan was 17, almost 18, when they were approved to foster, and Venus was almost 12. The family had their first placement the day before Venus began secondary school. We asked Xenan and Venus what fostering has been like for them, and we asked Stella and Richard about the impact fostering has had on their children.
Xenan and Venus
What do you enjoy most about fostering?
We have the opportunity to meet and interact with a wide range of different people, of different ages, from different backgrounds, with different experiences.
We love having young children in our house. We love to play with them, share experiences with them and share our home with them.
We love seeing their absolute excitement and pleasure at trying new experiences. This includes visiting places like Woods Mill, Bramber Castle and the beach, and also going to music groups, going on holiday, going swimming, running in the park and shouting “YEEEEEHAAAAAA!” as we drive through a tunnel. We love to see them try new foods for the first time, write their first letter to Father Christmas, have their own ‘special blanket’ and personalised Father Christmas sacks. We love to celebrate birthdays, have family parties, introduce them to our Granny and Grapps, and watch them become part of our big extended family.
We have the chance to help children thrive. We give them a sense of belonging to a happy, positive, well-functioning family. We make them feel safe and loved unconditionally. We see them being happy and feeling safe, and we know we have made a huge, positive difference to their lives.
What is it like when the children you care for move on?
When children leave us, it is the worst bit by far and we do miss them. We know it is the best thing for them and we feel prepared, but it is still sad.
Whether they are returning to their birth family or moving onto a family to be adopted, we like to see them settled and happy. We still visit all of them and we love the fact that they remember us and that we have been part of their story.
We think of our past foster children as our extended family; we have lots of foster siblings!
What are your favourite memories of fostering?
There are so many but here are a few…
We cared for a couple of young children, aged three and four, who used lots of funny pronunciations of words including “fashion poo” (shampoo), “Louise tea” (Halloween) and “baby chips” (baby chickens).
One child loved watching clips of themselves on my phone and would laugh so much they would have tears rolling down their face. Once they even fell over, they were laughing so much!
Watching children sing along to ‘Barcelona’, by Queen. So sweet and so loud! And their funny dancing!
Our first foster child’s favourite game was to get us to pretend to fall asleep and then shake and shout or call to us to wake up. We would do the same to her when she pretended to fall asleep. She found this hysterically funny and would do it over and over and over again.
Stella and Richard
What impact has fostering had on Xenan and Venus?
Xenan and Venus have turned out to be very empathetic and sympathetic young people because they know that not all children and young people have a happy upbringing. This includes basic needs like having a clean, well-equipped house and a happy family home where they feel safe and wanted.
They have both grown up to be young people who are kind, just to be kind, not because they think they will get something in return. They continue to constantly and consistently show the children we care for unconditional love and go out of their way to make the children feel that they belong in our family.
They have never complained about having to share their home, their holidays, their parents, their possessions, and their experiences with other children. People around us always tell us how kind, polite, empathetic, gentle and loving our children are, and we feel that as well as their happy upbringing, fostering has enhanced these qualities.
Xenan and Venus have a great appreciation of having been part of a close, happy, secure, positive and encouraging family and we feel that this will continue when they themselves become parents. We feel that they have learned skills and become people who will go on to become lovely parents themselves.
Every day the children of foster carers welcome other children into their homes and their lives. They strive to make young people in care feel safe, happy and loved, and ensure that they can thrive. Fostering involves the whole family and the contribution of sons and daughters is vital. Xenan and Venus are wonderful examples of the compassion, dedication and commitment that all fostering sons and daughters show in abundance.
If you have room in your heart and home to foster, the Brighton & Hove Fostering Team are keen to hear from you. They need foster carers from all walks of life, those with children of their own, and those without.