Donna & Craig's Story - The Journey to Respite Carer

The journey to becoming an approved foster carer can be a challenge. Our newly approved carers Craig and Donna explain their long and winding road to life as respite carers.

Far, far away in a little town called Middlesbrough, Donna and I decided one day that this was the day to make our enquiries. We had always spoken about fostering but wanted our own children first. We thought we’d move on to fostering a bit later in life, but, as it happened, we were told we could not have any biological children of our own.

But we decided to give IVF a shot just in case and went to Cyprus – you can't look back and regret not trying! – but, sadly, this did not work for us. What it did do was bring our fostering plans forward.

Fostering, it turns out, is not a straightforward process. Understandably they need to protect children in care from any further harm, but this means a lot of questions are asked of you. Many of the local authorities we contacted first would not entertain us at point of enquiry…

‘You have a Rottweiler, an Akita and a Bichon Friese?’

‘Yes’, we’d say, ‘but they are the most loving and devoted dogs you could meet’.

‘And your criminal record as a teen…?’

‘Aah! But there’s a story behind all that’.

It felt like no one would take the time to listen to us.

Donna is a stay at home wife, which might be unusual these days, but she does have three dogs, two rabbits, nine ducks and 10,000 bees to look after, so she persisted and kept calling fostering services. That’s when she called Foster a Future, Newcastle City Council’s fostering team. She spoke to a lovely girl called Sam, who was very kind and helpful and understanding of our situation. She took the time to listen to everything that others saw as an insurmountable challenge. She was open and honest with us; everything we said would be explored in a fostering assessment, we would have lots of checks and references to complete, a social worker to tell our story to and all this did not guarantee us becoming approved at the end.

And so began our very long journey to panel. It took us 11 months to be accurate. A lot of this had to do with the pandemic and we had to explain all the stuff listed above -  you can imagine the amount of questions our social worker had. We even had to have a specialist dog assessment – the dog whisper I call him – but then we finally went to panel.

It has taken a long time to be approved and while that is not everyone’s journey – most are approved between 4 and 6 months – it was all worth it. Yesterday we got to spend a day with our first young man and now we can see the differences we can make to young person’s life.

If you think you can foster and provide respite, short term or long term care, enquire here and speak with Sam.