Michelle's fostering story as a RMBC foster carer
Christmas can feel very different without children around to share the magic. Michelle (54) and her husband Paul (64) have been foster carers for 10 years. Each year they keep the joy of Christmas alive through their work with Fostering Rotherham’s Mockingbird Hub.
The Hub has become a central part of many of Rotherham’s foster families’ lives, providing support and guidance. Michelle explains: “The way Mockingbird works is you have a Hub Leader and then you have up to 10 constellations. The idea is that we support each other."
“All the carers have become good friends … it’s a very relaxed, fun atmosphere when we’re all together.”
The rewards of a supportive fostering community
Michelle was initially keen to be involved in the Mockingbird programme because she recognised the value of the support they provide to foster carers. She has found that leading the Hub has led to great relationships with the other families in the constellation, because “all the carers have become good friends … it’s a very relaxed, fun atmosphere when we’re all together.”
The Hub provides an important sense of stability for the children in the constellation: “We become an extended family for the children, so it feels very natural. They don’t have to go to strangers so much, because usually someone in the Hub will take over - a bit like aunties and uncles would. It does tend to very much feel like an extended family.” Michelle explains, adding, “I mean me and Paul feel like we've got 16 grandkids, y’know. It’s a lovely feeling.”
As part of Fostering Rotherham’s support offer, foster carers are entitled to regular respite breaks. Michelle and Paul are able to provide planned and emergency sleepovers and short breaks through the Hub so that the children stay with people they are comfortable with. “I can’t imagine having to go and live in someone else’s house,” Michelle says, It can be a daunting prospect for many children entering foster care, so to have somebody with Michelle’s empathy is extremely valuable.
“Me and Paul feel like we've got 16 grandkids, y’know. It’s a lovely feeling.”
Changing lives for Rotherham’s looked after children
The couple have made an enormous impact on the lives of so many children in Rotherham. Michelle remembers the incredible progress made by a boy who had previously struggled to make friends. He started chatting to other children at the Mockingbird Hub and his school was amazed by the improvement in his confidence. The reason, in the boy’s own words, was that, “I now have friends where I had none.”
Michelle praises the way that children are able to build relationships naturally at the Hub. Because of this she has been able to transform the relationship of two siblings who both attend the Hub. Michelle explains, “we’ve got two sisters that’s placed separately, but they’re both within our Hub and it’s been absolutely amazing - for the first time ever - for them kids to be able to have a sleepover together here.” Michelle is overjoyed that “because of the activities they've done together them two sisters are now really close. They text each other all the time, they’re chatting to each other all the time. It’s been amazing. And that’s probably one of my proudest things.”
Christmases to Remember
At Christmas the couple go all out to provide an experience to remember for the foster families in their constellation. Their former supervising social worker, Kelly, says that the couple “make Christmas an especially magical time for foster families, and the children who live with them!”
Last year, because of the restrictions on gathering together, Michelle’s theme was ‘Celebrating Together While Apart’. Kelly, remembers that, “they created their very own Santa’s Grotto in their back garden. It was beautifully decorated, with a Father Christmas and elf to hand out gifts. There were gifts for the children and for the foster carers! Everyone had an appointment to meet Father Christmas (at a social distance of course!) and the photographs were proof that the children of all ages had a thoroughly lovely time. The hub carers definitely go the extra mile to make important celebrations extra special.’
While her efforts last year made wonderful memories for the Hub’s families, Michelle is happy that this year everyone can be together again. Michelle runs a popular youth club for looked after children and plans to hold this year’s Christmas celebrations there, with a Christmas grotto and Santa in attendance to hand out Christmas Eve boxes.
“Every child … should grow up having unconditional love from an adult. I think that’s what fostering is about - it’s about what’s right and what you can do right for that child.”
Thinking of following in Michelle’s footsteps?
Michelle encourages anyone considering fostering to find out more, insisting that, “Everybody - every child - should grow up having unconditional love from an adult. I think that’s what fostering is about - it’s about what’s right and what you can do right for that child.”
Find out more about fostering with us by booking a call back with one of our fostering advisers.