I was 12 years old when my mum decided to foster. Whilst we did have some discussions about it, I did not really have an opinion either way. I was aware even at 12 however that Mum needed to work and look after her 3 sons and this seemed like a good solution.
As a family we had our own fair share of problems so by the time our first placement came to stay with us I had learnt that not all family life is plain sailing.
The first young person that came into our family was a boy called ‘Danny’. Danny was the same age as me and whilst we did not go to the same school, we did have a mutual friend, so we had a bit of a connection which helped to break the ice.
As selfish as this sounds, I used to think ‘how will fostering affect me?’ When it did not, I just accepted and embraced it as part of my family life.
Was it strange having someone new in the house? No not really. There was no hierarchy (like there was with me and my big brother Adam), we all had our own bedrooms so when I needed space I just retreated to my room.
Our second placement was Gary who I had an amazing relationship with. Whilst he was younger than me, we had a lot in common with each other and I felt like I could be a big brother to him. We are still friends and when I see him it is like being kids all over again – we laugh and joke around like the old days.
By the time mum started to foster girls (who could be very challenging) I felt I had grown up a lot and moved from the role of big brother to a more parental role with them.
The gradual build of our family from 1 to 5 foster children at anyone time was good as it helped me to adapt over time.
People ask me what was the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ part of being in a foster family? The best thing was the life skills it gave me. I learnt to really care for people, to put other first, not to be selfish and to be patient. I believe my career in teaching was motivated by my upbringing. Seeing how mum was always so giving of herself inspired me to go into a role that also helped, supported, and developed children.
Of course, there were some downsides, for me that was the mysterious disappearance of my personal possessions. Because I worked hard for the things I bought with my paper round money I really valued them and it used to upset me when they went missing. However, I quickly realised that these young people have never been valued by anyone or shown respect so really it was not their fault they did not have any boundaries and value other people’s things.
I am also asked would you foster? If fostering was just about me I would do it in a heartbeat, but I have a full-time job which I love and feel I still have a lot to give. My wife also works full-time as a teacher and we have 3 young children – so the reality is I just do not have the time that is required now. But I never say never, that may change in the future when I have fulfilled all my teaching ambitions and my children are older.
What is lovely is seeing my children learning life skills like ‘caring’ and ‘giving’ from my mum. They know what Granny does and the children are often in contact with the children mum fostered.
Mum has fostered over 150 children in her 38 years of fostering and now at the young age of 75 she has decided it is time to retire.
People often said to me “your mum deserves recognition for her achievements” so 12 months ago I set about making an application for a Queens award and was delighted when this dream came true –“my mum now Andy Hider MBE”; a very proud moment indeed for all the family.