John's fostering story
"Coaching teen rugby got me thinking about fostering older children"
It was getting a real kick out of managing and coaching under 16s and under 19s at rugby that set John (65) from Bassetlaw thinking about fostering.
Transferring from an independent agency
John, a retired prison officer , said: “Coaching teens at rugby got me thinking about fostering older children. I seemed to have a natural ability to connect with teenagers and got real satisfaction seeing children develop their sporting skills and grow in confidence.
“When I worked at Ranby Prison, I also witnessed first-hand what life could have been like for some of the prisoners if they had been lucky enough to have had more of a guiding hand when they were younger.”
John originally fostered with an independent agency, but moved over to foster with Nottinghamshire County Council in 2006 and has looked after eight boys between 10 and 17yrs. Until he retired last year, he managed to juggle a single full-time working life with fostering.
Caring for more than one child
John said: “I’m currently caring for three lads. One who’s been with me for three years and is able to stay until he’s 21 as part of the Council’s “Staying Put” scheme which supports youngsters who’ve been fostered move towards independence. He’s become like a son to me and shares my passion for motorbikes which instantly gave us something in common.
“I also have two other teenagers, who stay one weekend a month each and have been able to do more of this type of caring since I retired. During a weekend we might go to the zoo or somewhere like Gulliver’s Kingdom but like many parents of teenagers, I also do a lot of ferrying older children about so they can meet up with their friends.”
John says he realises that fostering older children isn’t for everyone, but urges people to consider fostering this age group as it can be tremendously rewarding: “Older children deserve a positive future and loving home just as much as younger children.
“My approach to caring for this age group is to offer advice and feedback and make suggestions – lecturing doesn’t work. I also try to listen and be understanding.
“Although you need some natural ability to connect with older children, a lot of it comes down to having patience and time for them, accepting their individuality and valuing their opinion. The Council’s new 11 plus scheme essentially means that you can afford to be at home and more available for the child in your care.”
Matching children with foster carers
The Council takes a lot of care matching children with foster carers, but John has his own ways of settling in new placements to his home. He added: “When a new youngster arrives, I take the time to talk to them and we discuss boundaries. I like the children to feel that they can challenge my thinking on different issues and I positively invite suggestions.
“My Jack Russell, Zak is always an excellent ice breaker too as he’s so child-friendly and loving. I might also take a newly-placed youngster away for a weekend or even one day together with my other placements to see how we all rub along together and I find that this works really well.
“If everyone gets on well then I will suggest that they come for a longer stay. Doing a little at a time causes no upset to anyone because sometimes we don’t match up and decide to carry on the way we were before.
Mostly I can say that the lads I have been involved with have all had their own special character and I have found this rewarding and I think they have enjoyed their stay too.
“I do keep in touch with most of them and they will come and visit for the day or weekend. I still give guidance, where needed, and help them through any problems. This is both a life changing job and a rewarding one.”
If you share a similar story to John and need advice, just want to talk or want more information on 11+ fostering, contact us.