Children and young people living in residential care are looking for a foster home offering a loving, stable, family environment. These children will have experienced a lot of difficulties such as severe neglect and abuse, experienced multiple moves and will be coming from a residential setting. This transition between residential and returning to a family setting can be extremely difficult and young people need someone who can understand and sympathise with them.
Step down fostering requires patience, understanding, and the ability to allow the young children the express there emotions without being judged.
Lisa and Stuart's story
Lisa and Stuart Shoosmith have been fostering for nearly three years. They’re what’s known as ‘Step Down’ carers, though they have offered respite and short term placements too.
Step down foster care gives children living in residential care the opportunity to experience family life in a loving, stable environment.
Lisa, 43, and Stuart, 49 from Atherton, have both worked in a residential home for a number of years; between them they have 32 years experience. It’s no wonder then that they decided to foster, despite being parents to eight-year-old twins. Their skills and expertise's have helped them to understand the needs of the children they look after.
Three years ago they met fifteen-year-old Simon. Since living with the Shoosmith’s he’s progressed well and has big ambitions to change the world one day. Failing that he wants to become a chef. According to the Shoosmiths he’s like any other teenage boy, but what people might not realise is the circumstances in which he came to live with them.
Simon went to live with Lisa and Stuart after a short stint in a residential home. Before that he was living with his grandparents who sadly died within months of each other. He didn’t have any other family members to turn to. Lisa and Stuart agreed to take him in.
Lisa said: “We’ve talked about fostering for a long time, before we had children of our own. When you work in a residential home you meet a lot of children who are from similar circumstances. Some of them thrive in this environment, whereas others need the stability and love of a family.
“When Simon first came to live with us he wasn’t very sociable and would often skip school. Looking at him today you wouldn’t think he was the same person. The change in his behaviour is remarkable and I’d like to think we’ve played a part in that.
“The twins love him and look up to him as a big brother. As a family we’re very honest and open with each other and we encourage the kids to tell us if there’s any problems. We always consult with the twins before introducing somebody new into the household – it has to be a joint decision.”
Before Simon moved in with the family there was a four week period where they all got to know each other better to make sure they were all happy to go ahead.
Lisa says: “It’s the best thing we’ve ever done. We feel proud of what we’ve achieved and feel like we’ve made a difference to someone’s life – that’s a lovely feeling. Luckily out backgrounds have helped us to understand the needs of the children so it’s important that prospective foster carers are realistic in their expectations and think about the challenges they might face. We will definitely continue fostering.”