When men turn 40, it is traditional to have a midlife crisis. We start going to the gym, we wear age inappropriate clothes, or mourn our lost youth.
I decided to become a foster carer.
More accurately, my wife suggested we explore the possibility of becoming a foster family.
Our birth children were 5 and 7. My job as a secondary school teacher was demanding but going well. My wife was a solicitor. We lived in a semi detached house with pebble dash and a compost heap. Perhaps we were in danger of becoming a little ordinary. At first glance the risks seemed to outweigh any benefits. Would we have room in our house and hearts for an extra child? How would our kids be affected? More importantly, would my wife still have time for me?
We went along to an information event run by The Council. We heard stories from a foster carer, and a young adult who had grown up in foster homes. Their stories had us in both tears and laughter. Many adults who have grown up in care struggle in later life. Many of our homeless, our prison population and those suffering from mental health issues were once in care. This information offended my sense of justice. It was not enough to feel pity, I had to show compassion, and take action.
Our own situation also influenced me. Our children had begun to go on sleep overs. I remember my son, then aged five, showing a little bit of anxiety about spending a night at his best friend’s house. I sought to reassure him. He had known his friend Dan all his life. Dan’s Dad was my best friend. Dan’s Mum was my wife’s best friend. And yes, Dan’s sister was my son’s sister’s best friend. My son knew what he would be having for tea, he knew where the toilet was, he was taking his own duvet and pillow, his own bag of power rangers and a bag of sweets. He knew what he’d be watching on TV, and he knew his Dad would be picking him up in the morning.
And yet, still he was nervous.
I began to wonder. What would it be like for a five year old, or younger, to be taken to a stranger’s house and left there, perhaps forever?
My wife rang the Council and registered our interest to become foster carers.
Six months later, we were approved to foster children on a short term basis. 8 years on and we have fostered 6 separate children. Is it difficult? Yes. But the rewards outweigh the problems, and its value is unquantifiable. I’ve never run a marathon, climbed Kilimanjaro or run a FTSE company, However, I have convinced a kid that 3.00am is a bad time to play tennis, and that not every adult is dangerous. It’s not as glamorous, but I get to spend a lot of time on the swings at the park. Clearly, I am the real winner, and so are the kids who we look after.
Fostering isn’t for every one, but if you’d like to find out more, please contact liverpool fostering at fostering.liverpool.gov.uk, or on 0151 515 000.