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How being a manager prepared me to foster teens: Natalie’s story

Monday 04 January 2021
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Natalie and her husband used to run their own business. In 2013, they felt it was time for a change. Now they foster teenagers

In this interview, Natalie tells us how being a manager prepared her to become a foster carer - and help teenagers in care.

Why did you decide to foster?

My husband and I used to run a Domino’s pizza business, which could be very demanding and stressful. We managed a lot of people and worked difficult hours. We wanted a change of pace. We considered fostering as our children were older, and we had more time on our hands.

Older children tend to be harder to find homes for, so we felt we could make more of a difference by looking after teenagers. We chose Action for Children because we liked their ethos as a not-for-profit charity.

How did your job prepare you for fostering?

Our previous role helped us to relate to young people. Employing teenagers, we did a lot of training with them. I had to set boundaries and rules as part of the job. We had to be patient and have good listening skills. It was important to communicate well, show empathy, and trust in them. I think those managerial skills helped me as a foster carer.

Mum and child playing

Of course, we've also had a lot of training with Action for Children. You are caring for children who might have experienced intense trauma, so you deal with it in a different way - but you can still apply the same principles. For example, it’s important to be patient and be able to listen, whether you’re managing people or supporting a child.

What do you enjoy the most about fostering?

I like that my fostering role is on a one-to-one basis and that I have more time to invest in a young person. It’s very rewarding when you see children flourish. There’s nothing better than that.

We’ve had fantastic young people live with us over the years. I feel we’ve allowed them to be children again. They’ve been a stability for us too. My husband’s work suffered a lot in lockdown, but having the children to look after has given us focus.

We’ve had fantastic young people live with us over the years. I feel we’ve allowed them to be children again.

Natalie

What support do you receive as a foster carer?

We do lots of ongoing training with Action for Children. The training and support groups mean you get to know other foster carers and share ideas and experiences. If we’re having a difficult time, we can reach out to them.

It’s interesting to get other carers’ views and listen to how they overcome problems. There’s nothing like others’ first-hand experience, it’s invaluable. You also have your own social worker who you can contact anytime.

Who do you think should consider fostering?

It doesn’t matter what sector of work you’re in. If you’re able to help young people overcome difficulties, that’s the key. I have a friend who is a hairdresser and has been thinking about fostering since lockdown. If you want to do something different or have a career-change, it’s something to consider.

Anything else you want to share?

There are tough moments, but you learn from your experiences. There’s nothing better than seeing a young person overcome their problems. It’s lovely when they decide to embrace you.

When you see them become happier and make friends, when you see they no longer have the burdens they’ve had to live with but can let go and become children again - that’s when you know you’ve made a difference.

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