Son’s and Daughter’s Month at The CFT
Son’s and Daughters month has been a fantastic opportunity for us to give the birth children that make up our foster families a platform to share their incredible achievements. We hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have!
Our Andrew Turner Awards celebrates our children every year and we always encourage our families and social workers to nominate and share the achievements of the children and young people.
No achievement is ever too small.
We hope that through this whole month of posts we have shown the critical roles young people play in a home that fosters and although there can be apprehensions and a whole host of ‘what ifs’. The responsibilities they take on only serve to improve their empathy and kindness towards others. Even forming their aspirations as they grow into adulthood.
With that being said!
We’re ending our series with a conversation with Ashton – Birth child extraordinaire and her mum, CFT Foster Carer Marie. We celebrated Ashton’s Andrew Turner Award as part of our series (you can find it here).
Marie and Ashton spoke to The CFT Marketing and Media Officer, Alicia. They talk all about their experiences becoming foster carers and the amazing relationships they’ve developed over 7 years of fostering.
SO Ashton, Hi! I'm Alicia. Lovely to meet you. Firstly, It's been on my mind, what did you spend your Andrew Turner award on?
ASHTON I put into my savings. I don't really like to spend my money. Unless I really want something or really need something. I won't buy it.
MARIE Oh, she loves spending, spending mom's money
Lets get to it, Ashton. How did you feel when your parents initially came to you to consider fostering and bringing children into the home? Did you have any apprehensions?
ASHTON Well, at first, I didn't really know what it was. They had to explain like, the children would be coming and going. We always had spare rooms because of my older brothers. But then they moved out and went to college and stuff. And then they talked to me about how we were going to do fostering and what that meant.
Did you have any concerns? Did it make you feel a bit weird at all?
ASHTON Not really. No.
I guess, when it comes down to it, you've got older brothers that flee the nest. You kind of feel like something is missing, don't you? It must have been strange after they'd gone.
And how was the assessment process? Were you asked any questions?
ASHTON I'm pretty sure I was in the initial part, when you guys would do your training and stuff?
MARIE Yeah, they're came and spoke to all of our children, because we've got three older boys, they spoke to all of our children individually. And then because the older ones were off to university and weren't living at home, they then involved Ashton in some of the training sessions that we did on the skills to foster course.
That's amazing, because that's quite intensive. It's like two whole days, isn't it?
MARIE Yeah, but they did separate out for the birth children. And that gave them some time to meet all the children who were going through the same process, and just do some fun activities, but kind of get more of a background. But the social workers, the people who came around and started the assessments, they were really great at involving the children, that was something that we were hugely, hugely passionate about. This isn't just a decision that Mike and I can make alone, this is a whole family decision. And so we all have to understand, if we're not all on board, it's not going to happen.
The decision to come into fostering is so massive, the impact is so huge. I think people fear that your own children may miss out on something or they may lose something by doing something like this. Whereas, I think it's actually the opposite, isn't it? They that there's the opportunity to learn so much.
Through skills to foster, did you learn anything in particular that made you think actually, this is going to be really cool?
ASHTON I can't remember the lady who did it, but they taught us children in a different way, almost. So it was easier to understand. So it just sounded really fun, because they were talking about how you get to give children who maybe didn't come from as good of a background as us a home and like a better opportunity. And I just thought of it as an opportunity to meet new people and to like, help other people.
Yes, it's expanding your friendship group really, isn't it? That's the ideal is that you gain extra family members that you that you can stay in touch with.
How have you found working the CFT? I know that we put on lots of events for the birth children and things like that. Have you attended any of them?
MARIE It's really nice. I think lockdown obviously had an impact on everybody because we weren't able to see each other face-to-face. But we still did virtual events which were quite fun. And since lockdown ended I think everybody has taken it a lot more seriously that, these events are on and watching the kids get together. It's just like watching this big friendship group.
We had a jubilee party and for us adults, it was great, because we just turned up, we all got a cuppa and a cake. And the kids went off! And that was pretty much that, they all did their own thing, they were dancing and playing party games. Those friendship groups are formed between all the birth children. We'd taken my mom along, she'd never been to one of the events as such. She said the loveliest thing, which is something that a lot of people say, which is you can't tell they're foster children.
That's an amazing thing to hear, isn't it. You open up your life to vulnerable children and there's this misconception about the kinds of children that you're going to be taking in - they're broken, they're this, they're that. The whole point is to offer them experiences that are taken for granted. The fact that you can't tell in situations like this shows that, you know, what we're doing is working. These children are just children.
MARIE Ofsted when they did their last inspection they said exactly the same. They've met with groups of children, and they had no idea who were birth children who were foster children. They sat them down in the room and they were interviewed, and they couldn't tell either. Which is testament to everyone who comes together really.
Certainly when I say 'we', it's not just the social workers or, you know, the parents, it is literally a village isn't it.
MARIE It feels like that more and more, especially since the restrictions have been eased. I mean, because the kids all get to know each other at these events. I mean, they've got an event on Saturday, they've got another event on next Tuesday with the gymnastics they've got another event next Thursday.
It really is outstanding. If you took that away, not just through lockdown, but removed fostering as a whole, it would be very easy to understand how children feel isolated. With the Internet being what it is, I wouldn't want to imagine not having those kinds of activities that really bring children together. Foster Care is a great way of keeping that physical contact alive.
MARIE It also gives you that extra support network for the children, and for the carers, because we can all get together. If there was an emergency, and one of us was stuck, to be able to pick up the phone and say "Is there any chance you could just pop around for half an hour?" It means that your children know the other children, they know the other carers, and it does just become one big kind of extended family.
The Facebook group especially is such an absolute joy, those interactions are so important. And it's something that isn't communicated outside of like this little bubble that is fostering.
MARIE "So and so's jumped down the stairs and she's awful, she's got to stay off her feet for a couple of days is there anybody can have her for a few hours." These things are really important because that's the one thing that we need, to be able to rely on each other. We can't just ask anybody, I can't just ask the next door neighbour to pop in and watch the kids.
To have that sense of community it's got to help your own daughter as well. And I guess you've kind of already answered my next question about forming bonds with the children that come into your home. Has there been any particular instances where you've really formed a really nice bond with another child?
ASHTON I feel like I have a really good bond with my foster sister at the moment and probably the first foster child we had.
What did you do together? Like was there any like mutual hobbies and interests that you had?
ASHTON I was just learning to scooter and bike and stuff I was like just learning so she'd take me on like scooter rides. There was one day when we went to town together in these little matching outfits and stuff. We do the same with my current foster sister, we pretty much have like a joint XBOX account downstairs, we go to the gym and swimming together.
I guess since your brothers have left that's a really important part of your life isn't it? It's amazing that when a child does come to you, it is an exciting time.
ASHTON Yeah. I remember the night when our current foster children came, I made them these little care package. I got them some of my sweet and like a pair of fluffy socks and stuff.
MARIE And the welcome card, she gave them a special welcome card each. Ashton is just in her element because she understands what the children are feeling at that time. We've got two Labradors, well we only had one at the time, but we've got two now. So between the Labradors and Ashton, it's just a really nice welcome because she'll take them around, it's not so intimidating when Ashton does it. It's just, this is my home, and I want you to be really comfortable here. Just ask me if you need anything. That gives us grown ups time to talk about care plans and that kind of stuff. And it's just worked. Every foster placement that we've had, Ashton has given one of her Teddy's.
ASHTON Oh, yeah, taken one of my Teddy's off my bed and made sure it was on on their bed. For them to keep.
That sharing of stuff I think, like I said earlier, it can be like a massive apprehension for some families. "Oh, my child might have to share something" or, might lose something to become part of a foster family. But I mean, that must make you feel amazing Ashton that they appreciate that.
ASHTON Yeah, I'm just like, I don't mind sharing and stuff. If you want to use any of my stuff, just ask as long as it's not like something really important. Like, one of my new mascara's or something.
Well, we know about conjunctivitis though, right? Okay, good, good
I'm wondering, did your mom show you the Andrew Turner? The letter that she sent in? Your mum called you the backbone of the fostering family, and it sounds absolutely true. Like, they can go off and do the legal stuff and you get the job of breaking the ice and making them feel like they're at home. How does that make you feel, the actual backbone of the family?
ASHTON Pretty good. Yeah.
Does it make you feel proud? I think you should be exceptionally proud of yourself. When you're in the thick of it, it's hard to realise the impact that you can have on these children. And to do the job that you do is amazing. I hope you do feel proud of yourself.
MARIE She's a good role model.
And you do feel that about yourself that you're a good role model.
ASHTON I mean, sometimes.
MARIE I think the worry is she sometimes sounds just like me. I mean, sometimes I'll be sitting in the sitting room and the girls will be in there having tea. And the little one will say something that she shouldn't and it's just like listening to me. And I'm sitting there half proud. Yeah, mostly proud. So yeah, don't even need to go in and solve this.
"Ashton's got it down. I've not got to worry about a thing." You've got the policeman out back, cracking the whip, haha.
Your mum mentioned that you potentially wanted to become a foster carer yourself in the future. How did you come to that decision? What made you think yeah, I can do this myself on my own?
ASHTON So, we've been fostering since I was like, really young.
MARIE Coming up to the seventh year.
ASHTON Yeah. Coming up seven years, since I was like five or six. But I've always been quite good with children and taking a child development GCSE course right now. I just think it's something I always knew I wanted to do. Like, when we go to mom's CFT events. I'm more like another one of the adults helping the younger kids, if that makes sense.
MARIE She's got a great deal of empathy and a great deal of understanding. And for the record her GCSE child care assessments, since she's started a GCSE course, she's sitting at nine at times. But she's also taking it upon herself to do some of the some of the CFT foster training as well. And she does that in her own time with her homework and stuff. But she wants to be a primary school teacher as well.
ASHTON Like a part-time primary school teacher, like an assistant.
MARIE So she said it's something that she could balance. Respite Care initially, along with working in a school.
You've thought about it so much.
MARIE Yeah, yeah she has a plan.
I can tell! The Childcare and Development stuff, it forms an intellect and a knowledge base that is incredible for young people to have. If you could change anything about fostering and about the processes and what The CFT do for you, would you change anything?
MARIE Ashton doesn't like it when they leave!
ASHTON No I don't like it when they leave!
MARIE But I don't think there's anything we would change. If there was anything, we would change it, we would have brought it up. We are quite vocal as carers, as if we have any ideas if we have any, you know, thoughts or feelings as to how things can be improved.
As far as foster agencies go, I think we made the right choice. Mike and I interviewed the local authority and three other IFA's. As soon as the CFT had come out to see us, that was our decision made. We definitely had a good feeling. And we were very much right because they are 100% focused on the children.
I'm sure the CFT could get 1000s of foster families through the door, but that's not what they're about. And that's what makes it different.
You're always learning aren't you? I mean especially with what kids are interacting with and how they operate in areas like the internet, you've got to absolutely be on the ball. Having that dedication to self improvement that's really really important, you have to constantly want to push yourself.
Would you say that foster caring is like a profession? Or would you say it's just like being a parent?
MARIE The look on my face if one of them falls over and gets a scraped knee... i'll take the blood and the cleaning up any day over the fact that once I fix this up I've go to explain all of this. Ashton sees how many training sessions I attend. We've got social workers in and out of the house. We've got LAC reviews, we've got PEPs, if there's any kind of interaction needed with social workers on a day-to-day basis, if there are any accidents, incidents, you know... which is why, while she focuses on her teaching career, that the respite option is the best option. Yeah, and Ashton knows how important respite carers are.
ASHTON Instead of having respite, my mom's mom, my grandma, she's our secondary carer almost. So that if they're away at the weekend, like bringing the caravan back, she could babysit. But then I know that a lot, a lot of foster families don't have that secondary person. So that's why I think respite carers are important so that foster carers get a break.
And it's a great way of getting involved. I think there's a lot of concerns about longer term placements, you know, when do they end and is that my spare room gone forever, and all the money worries - the nitty gritty of it. To start off in respite is a great way of just poking your foot in the door and seeing if you could do something that's more longer term as it becomes more familiar to you. Building up to a longer placement as you get more experience.
MARIE And when she takes a long term placement, I can be a babysitter.
ASHTON Yeah. Oh, she's gonna be involved.
That's the beauty of a family that fosters though, isn't it? Exactly what you said before, having that community around you who can jump in at a moment's notice is like gold dust, isn't it?
Well, you mentioned Xbox, and I'm going to ask what your favourite game is, and I want to know who your favourite YouTuber is.
ASHTON Right! So I have two favourite games. Actually, three. Minecraft, Gang Beasts and Among the Sleep which my sister bought. And then probably these triplets, I can't remember their name. They film these random videos in their car and I find them quite entertaining and quite amusing.
Does mum get roped into watching that in the background does she?
MARIE NO! They've all got TVs, and Netflix and all of that in their own rooms. And then next door to this room this is what is called the adult sitting room. And next door we've got a huge…
ASHTON BIG family room and stuff with toy boxes and the XBOX.
MARIE They've got everything in there from a keyboard to a huge big corner leather sofa. It's got the x box they've got huge TV too.
You want me to come over on the next train up?
MARIE Everything they could possibly want through these double doors.
Thank you both so much for chatting with me this afternoon, I wish you both the very best and if I ask for another interview it's yes, yeah????
Ashton is a testament to the positive impact that growing up in a family that fosters can have on a young person, as they develop in their adolescence. Her attitude towards others and her will to make friends for life have shaped how she sees her future.
We have absolutely no doubts she will make the best CFT foster carer EVER, with Marie and Grandma in tow 🙂
If you’d like to share the thoughts, please get in touch here
And if you’d like a friendly, informal chat with our team about becoming a foster carer yourself get in touch here