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Maria's Story

Maria was approved to foster 9 years ago, when her grandchildren were growing up. It was Maria’s family who first encouraged her to consider fostering and Maria has now looked after many children.

“I am 76 and I am still fostering. I remember wondering if I was too old to foster. I think fostering keeps you fit. Age is just a number”. 

Starting fostering

When Maria retired at age 60 she wasn’t thinking about fostering. She was waiting for her husband to retire but he sadly became unwell and passed away. Maria had always helped to raise her grandchildren, but as they grew up she felt she had an ‘empty nest’. It was Maria’s granddaughter who suggested fostering.

Although Maria initially dismissed the idea, Maria’s granddaughter applied on her behalf! “It just went from there,” Maria says. “Somewhere on this journey there was a switch from fostering being about me, to being about the children. When this switch happened I thought yes, I can do this”.

Maria felt that teenagers would be the best fit for her family as all of her grandchildren were older. 

“I felt like I had a new lease of life when I started fostering and that I had something to do. Fostering keeps me going”.

“To be honest I didn't really know what fostering was about. I had no knowledge about why children needed to be fostered”.

There are many reasons why children are fostered, and with the help of Fostering Rotherham Maria went on to discover how best to support the children in her care.

Support when fostering

It’s important to talk to your family and friends when considering fostering as they’ll be a key part of your support network as a foster carer.

Maria’s family were supportive of fostering and the children were taken in as part of the family. Maria tells us:

“My family just takes things in their stride. They have made all the children feel welcome and treat them like any other child or young person in the family. We all have Sunday dinner together and they make sure they buy Christmas presents and birthday presents”.

When Maria first spoke to her friends about fostering she remembers they were more apprehensive as they had a limited understanding of fostering. However Maria says her friends have stuck by her. “We have stayed at our friends’ house on occasion”.

Becoming a foster parent

Before becoming a foster carer Maria had an assessment with a friendly social worker to explore how a child could fit into her life.

“My Supervising Social Worker was brilliant. Anything that I asked she always got straight back to me with the answer”.

After being approved Maria soon had a home match looking after a child. This led to supporting many other children including a 13 year old boy who stayed with Maria for 5 years.

Step down foster care

When someone is an experienced foster carer they may be asked to provide care for children with more complex needs. This is known as the Stepdown Programme.

Maria says:

“I was asked if I would consider offering a step down from residential care. I had turned a few placements down due to matching alongside the other young person in placement. I was able to meet a young person first. He initially said he didn’t want to stay here because he saw a couple of high chairs in the dining room and assumed that there would be young children here”.

Maria explained she had young twin grandchildren. The child accepted Maria’s circumstances and said he would give the home match a go, and Maria has said the home match has worked out positively.

“One of the boys I look after has fitted in really well. He is enjoying the house rules. He can see his mum any time that he wants and he goes for a sleep over at his mums’ once a week”.

Support for Stepdown

Becoming a step down foster carer means navigating more challenging circumstances and the weekly allowances that a carer receives increase to reflect this responsibility. Step down foster carers are also given additional support and training to hone their skills as foster carers.

Maria tells us:

“I spend most of my money on the children. There are enhanced payments for step down from residential care and this is financially rewarding. I do treat the children to gym memberships, out for breakfast and cinema, carverys etc. We’ve had nice days out at the seaside - like you would for your own children.

“We are hoping to go abroad when one of the young people staying with me now has finished college. We have done this before with a week-long trip to Tenerife”.

Experiences of foster care

One young person in Maria’s care exhibited some volatile behaviour. Maria explains how she manages this: “I used to give the young person space and then spend time re-connecting with them”.

“Patience is essential. You have to allow for some mistakes to be made. You have to realise that young people have minds of their own. You have to be able to compromise. I am quite laid back and mellow.

“We have some basic rules at home which I expect to be followed but in terms of other rules, I work with the young person to compromise. The rules are all realistic. I always ask them to let me know if they are going to be late.”

Supporting a child as they grow can be a very rewarding experience. One of Maria’s highlights was helping a young person get settled in an apartment and being part of their transition to adulthood. Maria enjoys helping the teenagers in her care to develop independent living skills like cooking, cleaning and managing money.

Maria believes that as a carer it’s important to work in partnership with parents and family members of a looked after child. “I have always strived to maintain a good relationship with parents and relatives of looked after children – I always make a point of trying to connect with them”.

A new way of life

Fostering has become a way of life for Maria and she keeps in touch with the young people she’s supported.

Maria is eager to encourage others to try fostering.

“Make enquiries, have a go as it’s one of the best things you can do with your life. If you are thinking about fostering then give it a go. It is definitely time well spent”.


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