Foster Care Fortnight: An Employer can make all the difference

The role that employers play in supporting foster carers is often overlooked. David Haydock, AirTanker Services Finance Director, argues that businesses can make all the difference with a positive, flexible mind-set.

Juggling work commitments while meeting the heavy demands of fostering is one of the many challenges facing foster carers. The attitude of employers is crucial – presenting either a barrier to overcome or a supportive and encouraging work environment.

David Haydock sees the situation from both perspectives, as a foster carer himself and as part of the leadership team at AirTanker.

“From my own experience and the stories of other carers I’ve met, people aren’t looking for special treatment from their employer. It’s not about extra time off, but rather having flexibility and an understanding workplace.

“There can be short notice meetings or assessments to attend, for example. It’s important to know that your employer believes in what you are doing, sees it as a positive and supports you wherever possible.

“There are several foster carers here at AirTanker and supporting their commitment is an extension of our corporate and social responsibility. We aspire to be a good corporate citizen and being a supportive employer is another way of expressing that.”

An effective support network outside work is also important, says David: “I joined a male foster carers support group and despite my initial reservations it turned out to be a hugely beneficial experience.

“You get to meet carers with many years’ experience. They know what it’s like to be up in the middle of the night with a disturbed child. For me, it was a mine of helpful information and guidance. My message to people considering fostering is: you won’t be alone.”
 

David’s fostering journey

David and his wife Jacqui became foster carers in 2016 after successfully completing a nine-month application process. Here he talks about the experience:

“We’d been thinking about fostering for several years and when my wife took severance from her job at Rolls-Royce, that was the trigger. Applying to become a foster carer takes time – it is a rigorous process, it tests your determination and it can be a little intrusive, but for the right reasons.

“Some people aren’t aware that you can specify the type of fostering you are prepared to do, including the age range and sex of the child, short notice care or longer term arrangements, as well whether you can provide emergency support.

“Even before our application was complete, the phone began to ring. There is such a desperate shortage of foster carers nationwide.

“The first child we cared for was a five-year-old girl who lived with us for six months. I have to say it was like a whirlwind at first, but we overcame the challenges.

“After a while we went on the emergency list and we had three teenage boys come to stay with us, one of whom was a refugee. This was particularly challenging because of the differences in culture, language and religion. I’m delighted to say that he is now settled in school and has been back to see us. Right now, we are caring for an eight-year-old boy who has been with us for three months.

“One of the most important things we did was to discuss everything as a family. Our daughter Emily who is now 15, was involved in the decision-making at every stage. It’s a big change, of course, but overall she has found it to be a positive experience – in fact, it has influenced her career aspirations because she would like to train as a child psychologist.”

You can find more information about Foster Caring at: https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/

15 May 2017