Liz & Rob

Keeping Siblings Together: The Inspiring Fostering Journey of Liz & Rob with Nexus Fostering

Liz & Rob embarked on their fostering journey five years ago. Their story resonates with resilience, empathy, and the profound impact foster carers can have on vulnerable children’s lives.

Liz reflects, “Fostering was something I had thought about for years, but it wasn’t until I met Rob that it became a reality”.  With a forty-year career in nursing and Rob’s passion for volunteering at the local Army Cadets, they found common ground in their desire to make a difference. Thus, in May 2019, they took the plunge into fostering, despite the challenges it presented.

The fostering process, as Liz describes, “was invasive and at times emotional, bringing back memories for both of us”.  However, they understood the necessity of thorough background checks and assessments, “Nexus Fostering went at a pace we were comfortable with, and the gathering of information was done with sensitivity”.

As the UK went into national lockdown in 2020, Liz and Rob accepted a group of 4 siblings, the eldest 9 years old and the youngest 10 months old. Liz said, “The local authority had been unable to find a home for all four siblings when they were removed from their birth home urgently; initially the youngest had been placed with a separate foster carer, this had been very upsetting for all the children, but mainly the older girl, as she saw herself as ‘mum’ and carer to her younger siblings. When they came to us, they were so happy to be together again”.

Lockdown for many had its pros and cons, with many families spending more time together than ever before. Liz stated: “The children and I got to know each other very well, very quickly! We couldn’t go out anywhere, grocery and the kid’s clothes shopping was done online. Fortunately, we have a garden and summer was fast approaching. I had never been so creative, busy, resilient, patient, compassionate, flexible, calm or tired…..ever! Rob was working 12-hour shifts at the time, so trying to keep them occupied and quiet when he was sleeping before night shifts was a trial!”.

Maintaining relationships with birth parents can sometimes be a challenge for foster carers but is important to the children and young people’s identity. Liz explains how they dealt with the challenges:  “Birth mum would cancel sometimes last minute, so we learnt to deal with this eventually by not advising the children where we were going until we were on the way. If family contact was cancelled, we would either call into McDonalds or have a ‘picnic tea’ on a rug sitting on the floor with a movie on, more as a distraction, than a ‘replacement’. We ensured that opportunities occurred so mum could be spoken about, that she was not forgotten about”.

Towards the end of lockdown Liz and Rob had formed a close bond with each of the siblings and the children were able to go back to school and nursery. Going back to school came with some different struggles, Liz said “Although I only had the one-year-old to look after for a few hours while the others were at school and nursery, initially taking them to school came with its issues as the eldest girl would refuse to put her uniform on or perhaps get in the car. We luckily had a fantastic relationship with the school head & class teachers, who helped with words of encouragement, advice, and suggestions; they made what could have been a bumpy journey at times, a smooth pathway”.

Fostering siblings can be challenging when they all have different needs. Liz describes “Of course we had challenges along the way, but we learnt to deal with each issue as it arose; most of it was a learning curve! We realised the stories were true and that children in care can have many, many social workers! During the lockdown, I now see that I probably had compassion fatigue, trying to give each of them the individual attention they craved and deserved for nearly 2 years without a break as Rob was working 12-hour shifts at the time”.

A highlight for the family came from a week’s holiday in Wales. Liz explained “Watching the faces of the children after telling them they were going on their very first holiday! We had a great time and discovered holidays need to have just the same firm boundaries and rules as at home, if not more so! Don’t expect to relax! On a positive note, their table manners improved tenfold. They worked out a rota between themselves for washing and drying dishes on weekdays and learnt that pocket money was a result of weekend chores being completed”.

After a court case decided that all four siblings were to remain in long-term care, the struggle for the local authority to find a permanent home to keep all four siblings together became apparent. Liz explained, “Sadly this was not to be, and the eldest two siblings stayed together and moved on. The eldest girl is now fourteen and sends me a message now and again, I sincerely hope that she continues to do so, so that I can support her if needed. Rob and I were not expecting what happened next and we found ourselves stepping forward to look after the younger two until they were 18 years old! It was not on our initial game plan”.

Liz went on to say. ‘The next 14 months we established solid routines, giving them a bedroom each, taking them on a foreign holiday and flying for the first time. It was amazing to watch them gain confidence, as they were no longer overshadowed by their elder siblings – although we still meet up with them every school holiday”.

Liz and Rob both have grown-up children, and they maintain a close relationship with the boys in their care. “Our grown-up children and their partners have been screened by Nexus Fostering so they can go to stay at their homes too in Leeds and York. Something they love to do. Our families send the boys birthday and Christmas gifts and cards, and they have interwoven into our extended family easily and naturally”.

After the two eldest siblings had moved on, they had the space to welcome another child. “We offered respite to a 10-year-old girl for a few days. She had met Rob and our boys at carer meetings and functions held by Nexus. Although she struggled with trust issues, her stay with us turned out positively, we felt it helped the boys realise that they were not the only ones in this position”.

Liz and Rob describe some of the most rewarding moments throughout their fostering journey so far. “A 10-year-old girl we cared for suffered from Alopecia areata.  Supporting her through this and helping her choose a wig through the Princess Trust was a big milestone. Also, when one of the four-year-olds we cared for came to us still in nappies and unable to use buttons or zips. After a few weeks, he not only learnt to do both but was found helping his friend at school to do the zip on his jacket. Finally, when I was told by one of the children’s social workers that they had said “they had the best Christmas they had ever had”.

As an agency, Nexus Fostering offers round-the-clock support and training. Liz said “Nexus has always felt ‘comfortable’ with us and has provided support when we were fatigued and didn’t even know it! They arranged respite care for the children we had at the time and encouraged us to have regular breaks. Support and guidance have been fantastic, with regular face-to-face supervision. Training via Zoom, face-to-face and online has been available on every subject”.

Often the best support for foster carers can be fellow foster carers, and having a good support network is important. Liz and Rob said “We are encouraged to attend Carer meetings which we find so helpful, where we meet like-minded people, not only gaining ideas and potential solutions but sharing our experiences, funny and not so humorous.  Not only are ‘meet-ups’ beneficial to carers but also the children in our care, they can see that they are not the only ones unable to return home and are living with foster families”.

Many people have the skills to be great foster carers without realising and the training allows you to be reflective in your own childhood and parenting experiences. Liz said “Developing different ‘parenting’ styles is broader than I think and being able to adapt these to meet each child’s needs. Just when I ask myself – what more can I do? There will be something I haven’t tried or said”. Rob said, “to be able to think outside the box, because even after all the training, every child is so different and comes with such individual issues, it’s about us as foster carers giving them the right tools and support so that they can understand and move forward”.

As the need for more foster carers continues, more and more siblings are being separated as they come into care. Liz and Rob urge more people to come forward and offer top tips to anyone considering fostering. They said: “Be open-minded, loving, adaptable, honest, and open and have patience in abundance. Set boundaries, have routines, and pick your battles. Be aware that small transitions i.e. tidy up time, put your shoes on, wash your hands and bathtime can trigger an emotional outburst. Be reflective on everything you do and accept training opportunities that are offered to you. Talk to and listen to your Supervising Social Worker and attend carer support meetings as these are invaluable. Remember that no matter how much time, love and devotion you put into your family, there will be grumbles, try not to take them personally and focus on the difference you are making”.

Could you help keep siblings together? If Liz and Rob’s story has inspired you, you could make a difference to a child’s future with Nexus Fostering. Contact us on 01952 916 002 or book a call with a member of our team here.

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