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Growing up in foster care 

Catherine was three years old when she was taken into foster care where she remained until it became apparent that her birth mother would not be able to sustain her long-term care and she was adopted at the age of seven.

Now 34 and working as a full-time project manager for the same authority that cared for her, Portsmouth City Council, she credits her time in foster care as a miracle and as having given her the sense of belonging that she needed at the time. Here Catherine tells us how her foster carers supported her, and the advice she’d give to people who are thinking of fostering.

Fostering gave me a sense of community

“The old saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ rang true for me and for many others that are being cared for. I had numerous placements, both emergency and longer term gaining something positive from each of them. Although I was quite young when I was fostered, I still have vivid memories of my last two foster placements and vague dream-like recollections of others.”

“My foster carers made me a part of the family, we went on family holidays and one of my foster sisters would take me to meet her friends just as she would with a birth little sister.”

“When I left my foster placement in Copnor, the school I was at planted a rose my foster family gave them to remember me by. There was a real feeling of putting down roots and becoming attached, not just to the foster family but the place too.”

“Some of my earliest memories are travelling around Portsmouth by bus and visiting the funfair at the common. Not only did I have the love and support of my foster family, but my birth family were also a part of my life. They’d come and visit me and we’d go off and explore Portsmouth. When I went on to be adopted, I still had the love and support of my both my foster and birth family as they’d come to visit me at school or I’d visit them, and this gave me continuity.”

Care Leaver Catherine Burland smiles at the camera in front of the big screen in Guildhall Square featuring her picture

Foster care gave me the tools to reach out, and support others and improve the community

“I credit my time in foster care for giving me the tools to be able to reach out, support others and help improve the local community. I’m glad to be able to now work for the same authority that supported me and the role I work in is one of supporting others. If it wasn’t for being fostered, I might not have grown up with the care and attention I needed to thrive and succeed in life.”

A calm amid the storm, a place to call home, a feeling of belonging 

“I’d say to people unsure about fostering to think about whether they are someone that could offer support to children and families and help improve lives. I once read that what social workers want from their prospective parents and foster carers is nothing short of a miracle. But that’s exactly what fostering can be, a calm amid the storm, a place to call home, and a feeling of belonging.”

“If you are kind, compassionate, have a great sense of humour, are warm and loving, have empathy and the have the skill of self-reflection, consider becoming a foster carer. Sometimes children don’t have any reference point with which to anchor themselves to and, even though I didn’t know it at the time, that’s exactly what fostering gave me. Although I went on to be adopted, I’ve maintained contact with my longest foster family because they are my family, just ones who I don’t see as much but still care very much about.”

“When you’re being moved from place to place with no idea of what’s happening next, you need somewhere safe to be able to grow and have an opportunity at a proper childhood whilst decisions to keep you safe are being made for you. Being a foster carer is a big responsibility! But it’s one of the most important roles in the community. Foster carers are pillars of the community; they should be treasured as they touch so many lives.”

cottage style house from down the path

Not ready to foster?

If you’re not quite sure about fostering, why not look into the role of Independent Visitor (IV) first?

Young people we care for can have a lot of disruption, changes in social workers, changes in foster placements and moving schools, etc. You can be a part of a child’s journey and become an anchor in their storm without living with them. It’s a voluntary role, but can be a great stepping stone into fostering and can open your eyes as to what fostering is really about.

The IV service is a befriending service where you are matched with a young person we care for in Portsmouth (and the surrounding areas) and you’ll meet them on a 1-2-1 basis once or twice a month to do fun activities.

Being an IV is a vital and valuable role that can make a positive difference to a child’s life. You can help a child in care to feel safe, supported and listened to. You’d be a part of a dedicated team of professionals, organisations, charities and peer supporters who just want to see children thrive and grow in circumstances often not expected.

More information about this vital role can be found here: Independent visitor service – Portsmouth City Council.

Ready to start your fostering journey?

More people like Catherine’s foster parents, who offered their hearts and home to a vulnerable young person, are needed in Portsmouth.

We welcome foster carers from all backgrounds, regardless of nationality, relationship status, or religious beliefs. There’s no upper age limit, and you don’t need to own a home. Prospective carers must be at least 21 years old, have a spare room, some experience with young people, and a lot of patience, resilience, and a positive outlook. We offer our foster carers fantastic allowances for the children in their care, thorough training and continuing 24/7 support, access to the award-winning Mockingbird model of care, discounts and benefits, social activities, and free membership to The Fostering Network.

There are many types of fostering and you’ll be able to find one that’s the right fit for you.  This could be a short or long-term arrangement until they’re ready to live independently or be reunited with family, support for unaccompanied children seeking asylum or children with a disability, supported lodgings to develop their independent living skills, a parent and baby placement, or respite care.

To enquire about fostering with Foster Portsmouth, or to arrange a 1:1 with one of our experienced team or existing foster carers, please contact us.

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