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Former foster child supports the work of other foster carers

Mike experienced first-hand the life-changing support foster families provide to vulnerable young people in the UK. Now, as a care-experienced father and qualified social worker, he is encouraging people to consider fostering.

Mike spent the first 15 years of his life in and out of foster care following his biological mother’s ongoing battle with mental health problems. During this time, he lived with six different foster carers for periods of up to three years while often returning to live at home when his mother’s health improved. Reflecting on his mother’s struggles, Mike said:

“My mum was always the most important person to me, even when she was struggling and battling her biggest demons, she was always my mum and her love for me never wavered. It just got harder and harder for her to provide a safe and consistent home environment for me.”

Because of Mike’s close relationship with his mum, it was imperative that he was placed with foster carers that understood the situation and were comfortable with him maintaining a relationship with her. He continues:

“I was very fortunate that my social workers matched me with families and carers who were incredibly understanding and facilitated supervised visits and impromptu meetings with my mum. The flexibility and continuous support they provide vulnerable young people is amazing.”

When Mike was fifteen, he made the decision to move back home with his mum permanently where he acted as her primary carer while he was still in secondary school. When he finished school, he enrolled at the local college where he was introduced to a mentor who helped him secure a place at university to study sociology.

During the three-year course, Mike volunteered as a mentor at a local high school to support young people with revision advice and guidance during stressful exam periods. It was moments like this, along with the ongoing care he provided his mum and the support he received from foster carers, which inspired Mike to explore a career in the care sector and he made the decision to undertake training as a social worker.

Seven years ago, Mike secured his first full-time role as a social worker for the local authority before securing a role at Five Rivers Child Care in Bristol. In his role as supervising social worker, Mike supports new and existing foster carers, ensuring they’re getting the appropriate level of support and training required to ensure they can provide the best level of care for the vulnerable young people in their care. As part of his work with Five Rivers Child Care, Mike focuses on enhancing the opportunities for children in foster care, through building on their resilience and participation.

Outside of work, Mike is married and has two young children. Commenting on his transition from foster child to social worker and parent, Mike said:

“Training in social work was in a way a therapeutic process. I think my career choice was slightly difficult for my mum to understand, she had always thought that it was social workers taking her child away from her. So, I spent a lot of time explaining that it was actually because of social workers and foster carers that we were able to maintain an amazing relationship while being safeguarded by people who were trained to care for someone in my position.

“Sadly, my mum passed away from cancer last year. She had a harder life than most and our relationship, our love for each other, was always what kept her going. As a parent myself now, I know how truly special the love we bear for our children is, and being a parent is undoubtedly the best job in the world. People that foster, that parent children that aren’t their own, are doing an amazing thing, and their work needs to be recognised and celebrated.

“I think the best thing about my current position is that I can ensure only the best candidates are being put forward as foster carers. Knowing I get to support these people as they work to provide a safe and loving home for vulnerable young people, like I was, is the most rewarding job I could wish for. I would encourage anyone who is compassionate, understanding and flexible (as it can sometimes be a tricky profession) to explore fostering as a career. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it really does change lives.

Foster Care Fortnight (May 14 – Ma7 27) is an important reminder that there is a huge shortage of foster carers across the UK, with a current shortfall of 7,180 across the country*. We hope Mike’s story inspires people to consider foster care as a potential career option and recognise the important contribution foster carers make to the lives of vulnerable young people.”

People from all walks of life can become foster carers as long as they are over 21 years of age, including single people, co-habiting couples, same sex couples and people living in rented accommodation are all eligible, the only requirement is a spare room for each foster child.

A career in foster care offers many benefits including competitive rates of pay and flexible working. For more information about fostering contact us on 0345 266 0272, or send off for a fostering information pack.

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