Harry and Evie
Harry and Evie came into care when they were 5 and 4.
The school had been concerned that Harry and Evie were frequently late or did not attend. When they did attend they were generally unkempt, looking tired and very hungry, in clothes which were dirty and too small. Few children would want to play with them because of how they looked.
The home was very dirty and unkempt. There were no sheets on the mattresses, cat faeces in most rooms, dirty crockery and rubbish lying around everywhere, broken furniture and very few toys for the children. There was little food in the house and they sometimes wandered down on their own to see their granny who lives 3 streets away just for something to eat!
Harry and Evie's mum was very depressed, often lying in bed for much of the day. She and her partner were alcohol dependent and prioritised funding these habits rather than buying food. Harry and Evie's parents received help from different professionals but were unable to work through their own needs in order to provide the parenting needed to ensure Harry and Evie were kept safe and cared for properly.
Harry and Evie were placed with foster carer, Beth initially on a short term basis.
"When Harry and Evie first came to live with me I realised that they were not at all used to many of the basic things that most children take for granted. I very quickly found out that food was a big issue for Harry and Evie. I made a selection of sandwiches for them for when they arrived. Within a few minutes they had all gone but noticed that Harry had put one in his pocket.
We then went shopping so the children could choose their favourite cereals and drinks. I noticed them hiding tins of beans into their coat pockets and when they realised I had seen them they ran out the shop door. It was likely that they were worried about when they would next get fed and so were storing food. I knew it was going to take a while for them both to trust that I would always provide them with breakfast, lunch and dinner so I would leave a snack bowl full of healthy treats that they could help themselves to at any time. At the beginning I found apples from the bowl under the children's beds but gradually they took less and less.
I brought them new clothes and shoes. The first night Evie slept with her new shiny shoes on her pillow as she couldn't believe they were for her and I suspect she was worried I would take them away again. Harry beamed the next morning going to school with his new uniform and I swear he looked a foot taller as he walked in with his head held so high!
They have missed out on so much and had hardly ever been taken anywhere. It would have been easy to do too much but I knew we had to introduce things gradually otherwise they would have been overwhelmed. I therefore started by walking them to the local park. They were so excited but had no real idea of how to play with the other children or take turns, so they were pushing them out of the way to have another go on the slide. Home time was a bit of a nightmare as they just didn't want it to end, I didn't know that small could scream so loudly! You just have to be firm but understanding and not take things personally, or worry about what your friends or neighbours may say!
Both of them were so far behind with their development as they had no-one helping or teaching them. Harry wasn't able to count to 10 and Evie didn't know her colours. I made sure that i spent time with each of them every day, playing with different games and toys, reading to them and helping them learn by talking to them constantly about everything that was going on. Over time they were able to concentrate for longer periods of time, able to play on their own for at least a few minutes, and I soon realised that they were both very bright. They started to love school, not just because they were beginning to make friends but also as they loved learning.
They would still see their mum and this was difficult for them at the beginning, and for me. They were confused as to why they were living with me, and it took time for them to understand why they couldn't go back. We have had lots of help from social workers and therapists over the years and now they realise that it wasn't them, and whilst their mum loves them she just wasn't able to cope.
Twelve years on they are still living with me. Once we knew that they were not going to be able to return home to their parents we were offered to care for them on a permanent basis. Harry is waiting to join the Army and Evie is planning to go to University to study Psychology. Things haven't always been easy, and they still can have their moments, but each day there was something that would happen to remind me why i do this. They are both such wonderful young adults and I am so proud of who they are and that they are, and always will be, part of my family".
Ryan and Gavin
Ryan was first placed in care when he was 10 due to his mother's mental health problems and domestic violence. Ryan struggled to settle into a foster family. He was frightened and confused due to the neglect and aggression he experienced at home and through coming into care. He tended to express this through anger. He expected adults around him to let him down and to be angry with him, or frightened by him so he tested them through pushing the boundaries. He moved foster homes several times due to very challenging behaviour.
When he was 13 Ryan was placed with MTFC foster carer Gavin. The Zipwire MTFC programme is a specalised fostering scheme to help children and young people in care with the most complex needs, often as an alternative to residential care. It uses a very structured points system where the young person must earn enough points each day to have privileges.
"The first day Ryan came to us he laughed as he deliberately poured a whole bottle of brown sauce over our new cream carpet.
When he did that the MTFC training we had been on, kicked in. I didn't go into telling off mode but took a deep breath and calmly said "I will get the carpet cleaning stuff and you can help me clean it up". Ryan was flabbergasted, as he was expecting a lot of anger and shouting from me and taken off guard he did help! Later, in the evening I did his points, he lost a lot of points for the mess on the carpet. As a consequence of not having earned enough points, the next day Ryan was demoted to level 1 and lost all of his privileges for that day, including TV, this meant he couldn't watch his favourite programme Eastenders. Ryan got the message that I would not accept the behaviour and there would be a consequence but that I wouldn't blow my top and reject him.
Ryan was placed with me on the Zipwire MTFC programme because he found it difficult to live in a family. He had lived with his mother who had poor mental health and frequently was unable to care for, or respond appropriately to Ryan. The consequence of his neglect was that he missed out on learning many of the social skills that are needed to interact successfully with other people. Zipwire MTFC has a team of professionals who work with the child and foster carer. The Individual Therapist and Skills Coach work with the children to build on the child's strengths, teaching, modelling, and practicing social skills, such as taking turns. The foster carer is essential in the process, we are the eyes and ears of the programme and we notice and reward (with points) all the positive behaviours. There is a weekly foster carer meeting and we get the opportunity to talk about how the child in our home is progressing and the difficulties we might be experiencing. The meeting is full of laughter and great fun but at the same time there is help with dealing with the stressful times including helpful hints and ideas from the other carers. We know our input is valued as the team base the areas they are working on with the child on our observations."
The MTFC placement lasts for a year and yes it was hard when Ryan moved on but he had made great progress and the end of the placement was planned, a first for Ryan who had previously always moved in a crisis. At the end of an MTFC placement all the team and other professionals involved get together with all the MTFC carers and other children and we have a bit of a party. "At his party, Ryan made a speech thanking everyone, I don't know who was more nervous, him or me! I was so proud and there was a tear in my eye but i knew how hard Ryan worked during the year and that now he was going to another placement and I was confident he had the skills to make a success of it.
Ryan sends me an occasional text to update me on his progress, he went to college to train in catering and is now working in a kitchen and yes sometimes he squeezes a sauce bottle but these days it is onto a plate!"
By becoming a carer for Suffolk County Council you could make a positive difference to the lives of local children and their family.
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If you would like to speak to a member of our team about fostering siblings, please call us on 0800 328 2148.