Andy only intended to foster for a short period but 33 years later and over a 100 children/young people sharing their lives with her and her family she is still loving it. Andy is currently fostering the daughter of a young person she fostered 24 years ago.
“This is certainly a foster granny experience” she says.
“Every child who walks through my door is hurting in one way or another. In fostering you may never get to the heart of their problems and you may not be able to change their lives immediately. When they arrive they are a tightly wound spring that in time becomes looser, and that is when you can start to build a relationship and start to work with them.
I started fostering after my husband and I separated. My youngest child was only two and I needed to earn money. I had thought about fostering as I love children, but I dismissed it as my youngest son needed me and I thought having more children in the house would make him feel pushed out. But one Saturday a couple of years later, fate took a hand, and everything changed. I usually went to the library on a Saturday, I was in two minds this day, but I am so glad I did. As I was browsing, a bookmark fell out from a book above me. I picked it up and saw that it had an advert on it for fostering teenagers and that you would be paid to do it too. It was then I decided to give it a go.
I went to an ‘introduction to fostering meeting’ and was advised that the process could take around six months before I was approved to foster children aged 13 years plus. I can remember thinking, if a child is 13 and it is hell, I’ll have them for five years. It never crossed my mind that I’d tell them to leave and I never have.
My older children were all for it. Funnily enough, I only ever planned to foster for a short while, just until my youngest was old enough to come home from school on his own, which would mean that I could find another job. But that never happened, and I am now in my 33rd year of fostering.
With fostering, you learn as you go along. The first thing I remember saying to the first lad who came was, Of course your friends can come back here, because that’s what I say to my other children. And then all his friends turned up and had a competition in my lounge to see who could spit the furthest.
I don’t believe in laying down too many house rules that way there are fewer rules to break. So, I base them around safety plus I say no drinking, no drugs and respect for everyone else in the house. Most of the children have been long-term placements. I like it that way because you can really make a difference.
Some of the children throw everything they’ve got at you, but I don’t give up. I’m tenacious and I like teenagers because I can remember how it felt being one. I remember feeling like the rest of the world was against me – so I can identify with that.
There was one girl whose boyfriend was using drugs. One night he arrived to pick her up and I tried to persuade her not to go out with him, but she did. When she came home that night I told her that we needed to talk.
I started to cry out of concern for her, and she said that no one had ever cared enough about her before to cry and she said she would never do it again and she never did. She now has 4 wonderful children of her own.
Of course, there will be problems as a lot of our young people have had a difficult start in life and their way of communicating that to us is often through their behaviour. But it is never all doom and gloom and the independent fostering agency that I work for, Amicus, runs excellent training for us. We have support groups, regular activities and away days. Everyone has their own Social Worker to on call 24/7 to support them. There is an Amicus holiday home, barn conversion in Pembrokeshire that all foster carers and their families can have access to free of charge; it is a beautiful place, somewhere you can all go to get away from it all, really relax and have a lovely family holiday.
I have fostered with 2 local authorities and 2 independent fostering agencies and I can honestly say that at Amicus Foster Care I have felt the most supported. They will look after you, you are not doing this job on your own they are here with you every step of the way.
I believe it has been a positive experience for my now grown up sons. One is a fire fighter, one a teacher and youngest a sound engineer/musician. If I had not fostered, they would have grown up just mixing with their peer group but never knowing how hard it is for some children who don’t get off to such a good start. I believe our fostering experience has enabled them to become more understanding, caring adults.
It’s lovely when past foster children come to see me and bring their own families. I went to Portugal to give away one of my ex-foster children at his wedding. He had been found at the around the age of 2, in Jamaica abandoned on the streets. When he came to live with me at the age of 14 he had been in 14 different foster placements/children’s homes. He stayed with me until he was 18.
If I had my life over again I would not change a thing. I am so lucky to have shared in the lives of all the young people who were placed in my care. I know I must retire but there is always ‘just one more’ needing me so for now I will keep going.”
Andy Hider is 73 from Keynsham, Bristol and has been a single foster carer to over 100 teenagers for the past 33 years.