PICTURED: Southwark foster carer Stella
STELLA HAS been fostering for nearly 18 years and has looked after over 60 children. Here she shares an insight into what it takes to open your home to a vulnerable children.
“If you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me about the children I’ve cared for, over 60 children, I can tell you each ones date of birth and why they came to me. I can tell you that, but ask me what I had for breakfast and I can’t remember! That’s how they are to me. I always want to know what they are doing and how they are, even after they leave me. This Christmas we had over 20 of our children back. This time they came back with their partners and their children. Seeing them now and remembering them how they were- that’s the reward.
“Over the years I’ve cared for unaccompanied minors. When they arrive they can’t speak English and then later I’ll hear them calling ‘Auntie, auntie I’m going out!’ I cannot explain the feeling to hear that! When they first arrive I’ll buy a good dictionary and we used the phone to translate what each of us was saying. My grandma used to say, ‘Food is the heart of the child!’. It brought us together because we are in the kitchen together and we learnt things from them too. By listening to the child about what the type of food they want to eat for example it helps them feel more settled.
“One night a one boy showed me his home in the Middle East and how it had been destroyed. It took a long time for him to trust me and show me this. He told me about how his home and family were gone and everything he had been through since. When he arrived he was very anxious and kept saying he had a headache. We took him to the doctors but the headache medication didn’t work. I could see how on edge he was, on the bus he would always stand by the door ready to get off. I spoke to a Southwark social worker and was referred to Care Link. We had a very nice person who worked with his to get him the help he needed. People said to me ‘why do you keep him?’ but we developed a relationship with him, we couldn’t tell him to go. This experience helped me feel more confident in opening my door to someone else with mental health problems.
“I always say, fostering is not just a young person or a child coming into your home and you providing a roof and a safe environment: its love. Especially with teenagers, they need someone to love them. You show them this tiny bit of love will help a teenager go a long way.
“The best thing about fostering is seeing the child thrive in their own way, not comparing them to anyone else. To see them out there, being independent and coping with life- that’s the reward.”
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