“Watching someone grow and change to become their own person and unfold and be their own person is just so nice,” said foster carer Angela Gash.
She is one of Islington’s foster carers who decided to take on the challenge of caring for a child in need of a foster home.
Islington is looking for more people to think about becoming foster carers and Ms Gash and her co-foster carer Amanda Davies urged people to think about it seriously.
They foster as best friends who are former partners and said that, although the selection process takes time, people don’t need to be scared of it.
“They are looking for how you resolved quite difficult situations. A lot of our children that come to us would have seen a lot of trauma and breakdown in relationships.”
Not surprisingly, foster carers go through a rigorous selection process, including an initial visit by a social worker before joining a preparation course.
Then prospective fosterers get checked out and a range of references are taken up, before a full assessment and an interview before a fostering panel of up to seven people from children’s services, education and health departments, plus councillors and an independent chairperson.
Ms Gash and Ms Davies started by offering respite for a five-year-old boy one weekend.
They took him to the RAF Museum in Hendon where he joined in an activity making a model aeroplane from a kit – which is now a treasured possession at home.
He’s still with them nearly nine years on in a permanent placement and is now in his teens.
They said that Islington Council provides lots of training which covers a range of issues such as childhood trauma, autism and ADHD to help develop strategies to support the children.
“That kind of support is invaluable. Most young children really hate going into an office type of environment so if you can avoid that it’s helpful,” they said.
The support was also key during the pandemic as their foster child came to terms with being at school, whilst at home.
Computer games also helped him keep contact with school friends when they couldn’t meet up. “There was always laughing,” said Ms Davies.
They are both involved on the committee of the Islington Foster Carers Association and said that it is an invaluable place to pick up tips and get together for online and in person coffee mornings.
The council holds fostering information sessions – with one at the Town Hall on Wednesday 18 May at 6pm and one online on Wednesday 8 June.
There are different types of foster carers – including short term and respite foster care, working to reunite children with their birth families and helping 16 to 21-year-olds as they transition to adulthood. There are also specialist fosterers, those caring for asylum-seeking children and specific age ranges.
They receive an allowance and fees to cover the daily costs of caring for a child and training, and are assigned a social worker.
Zinze Bishop, 36, became a foster carer when her son was nearly three. She was looking for an alternative to returning to an office job and had already done youth work at her church. A family member was also a special guardian so she had an idea what to expect.
“The first day I had butterflies. I was excited but also nervous as I was getting their room ready for them, “ she recalled.
She has cared for seven younger children in six years -the youngest a baby of just seven days and the oldest a child of seven.
“It’s challenging but rewarding,” she said.
“Give it a go, it has changed my life. I have seen so much good in a young person, how much they can achieve with nurturing.”
Her shortest placement was one week, and the longest was two years during the pandemic, when she fostered a boy. She said her support network of family, friends and other foster carers was invaluable during lockdown.
“In this role you are forever learning, which makes you grow and develop,” she said.
People come from a range of backgrounds too.
“I’ve got friends who have bought their own home, some live on a council estate, some of them are in their 50s, some in their 20s. One foster colleague has been doing it for 50 years.”
It is important too to look after yourself as a short term fosterer.
“When the child goes, that’s the most painful part,” she said but pointed out she is kept in touch with their progress.
Denny Delappe has been fostering the same child for eight years. She got involved when she was made redundant and a neighbour, who is also a foster parent, suggested she would be good.
Although she does not have children, she has nieces and nephews and helps out with them.
“I have loved every minute of being a foster carer,” she said.
“I was an emergency placement for my foster child. They said he may just be here for the weekend.”
He’s now a teenager celebrating the return to school after lockdown, although according to Denny, it sounds like he became an expert in the kitchen when the pandemic meant he couldn’t go out.
She advised any would be foster carers to attend any of the regular information events the council runs.
“As long as you’ve got a spare bedroom you are fit to go.
“I have got great enjoyment watching him grow, seeing the well-rounded young man he has become.
I just watched him blossom,” she said.
“I would definitely recommend it.”
You can find out more about fostering in Islington:
020 7527 7933
More details are here