Alec and Kenny foster teenagers
This LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week Alec and Kenny tell us why they're #proudtofoster
Alec and Kenny were inspired to become foster carers through Kenny’s work with children with behavioural issues, knowing that many of the children he worked with came from difficult backgrounds and now foster Matthew, a 16 year old with severe learning disabilities.
‘After talking about fostering on many occasion we were in our local pub one Friday evening after a stressful week at work and decided to just stop talking about the idea and make the enquiry. We got a call on the Monday and two days later met with a social worker for an initial chat, which went really well. Following this we started on a Skills To Foster training course, which took place over 6 weeks, one evening a week. The course really helps you to explore the world of fostering and enables you to discover if fostering is right for you.
At the end of the training course we decided to apply to be respite weekend foster carers. This is a really good route if you’re not sure and it gives you the opportunity to ease in, to learn how to deal with issues.’
Initially they provided respite foster care to three different children which worked out at around one weekend on and one weekend off. When one of the children’s main foster placement broke down they were asked if they could take him on a temporary basis. No other placement was found for him and Alec and Kenny agreed to take him full time so he wouldn’t face the upheaval of moving out of the authority’s area and because they felt they were very compatible with him.
‘It’s made our relationship stronger and moving from respite to long term sounds more overwhelming than it is. The support we’ve had from our authority is unreal. They know us inside out and are always on hand. Fostering can be complex – you’re expected to treat the child as yours but they’re not. Our family supervisor gives us the same reassurance you might get from your boss and employer – that you’re doing things right.’
Alec was a Welfare to Work Manager before giving up his job to care for Matthew full time three years ago.
‘Lots of people think that it will be fantastic not working a standard day to day job, but you actually really miss the routine. Our family, our relationship were all fine but losing the routine that mainstream employment provides was the biggest transition I had to deal with. Not going out to work can be much more difficult then people think. The key is to be aware of this and then you’re ready to deal with it and you can establish new activities like going to the gym, attending fostering support groups and enjoying your family placement supervision.’
‘People ask if you still get time with your partner but we have the evenings after Matthew’s in bed and because I’ve been able to do all the household jobs in the day this is quality time.'
‘Because Matthew has severe learning disabilities we’ve helped him make small steps and the main thing has been that his confidence has grown massively. He’s secure knowing this is a long term placement and you can see it in him. He’s no worries about the future and feels solid and safe, and knows that this is his home.
He wants to get his driving licence but because of his disability won’t be able to do this so we’ve taken him go-karting to show him what he can achieve rather than focus on what he can’t. He’s a good driver and he’s been able to put his passion for driving into this instead.
He’d also like to work so we’ve given him responsibilities around the house and he helps with preparing dinner which he really enjoys as catering could be a realistic job goal for him’
'Our relationship has never been stronger and our quality of life has improved beyond our expectations, all while we get to give our wonderful foster son an amazing childhood, and to help him to realise his dreams.'
‘I’d tell people who were considering fostering to not be afraid to make an initial enquiry. We didn’t have any childcare experience and I’d no work experience with children either so you shouldn’t let that put you off. You’re not tied in and the process of making an enquiry will help you learn more about fostering and make the right decision for you. If I’d known what I know now I’d have made an enquiry sooner.’