Room for one more in a busy family
Families come in all shapes and sizes including one large family which welcomes other children into their home and gets a huge amount of joy from doing so.
Jo Wheeler is a mother to four children and is also a foster carer for Dorset Council who is keen to encourage others to think about fostering. She says her story starts in childhood:
“Kids were always in and out of our house and at Christmas we always had lots of people round, so I grew up in a busy house that was thoughtful and caring. I wanted to replicate that for my own family and I always said we could foster or adopt if we didn’t have our own children. However, we had four children so we were busy for a while.
“But then we moved house four years ago and during lockdown I remember very clearly I was sitting in the garden and I saw an advert for fostering on my phone. It was like that lightbulb moment and I decided there and then that it was time to welcome another child into our home. We have the space and I thought the rest of the family would want to share what we have.
“My husband and I talked it through and then we spoke to children as I’m not sure they had come across foster families before. Once they realised what it was all about, they thought it’d be great.
“A year and half in and we have had eight children through the door, with the last six months devoted to respite or day care. We have had ups and downs along the way, but then I think that is normal for any family.
“People sometimes ask me what do we get out of it and I’d say it is the little things such as getting a note from school to say your child has done well at a subject they have been struggling with. Or them coming home from school with a big smile on their face and asking if they can cook pancakes. All those things that show a child is really settled and at home with you.
“Our children enjoy meeting new people and helping people in a position different to their own. They do like to share what we have and sharing our home with other children makes them see how important it is to help other people.
“Of course there have been challenges along the way, but I can’t fault the support from the fostering team. Whenever I’ve emailed or phoned they’d get back to me quickly and talk things through with me. The training to become a foster carer was amazing and being able to talk to other foster carers has also really helped.
“I’m quite a calm person and I have a good sense of humour which helps as a foster carer, but everyone is different and each person will bring different skills with them. It does really help to be organised, really organised, and be able to keep good records such as filling out diaries. There are also lots of meetings but I enjoy them so it’s not a problem.
“If anyone is thinking about fostering I’d say don’t hesitate to investigate it, don’t be put off making that initial phone call. Just be open with things that you’re worried about as they probably won’t stop you being a foster carer. Just pick up the phone and make that enquiry.
“Every circumstance is different from one person to another but the process is so thorough that if you have the slightest inkling that this might be what you want to do then give it a go.”
Foster with Dorset Council
Our fostering service puts the children who need loving, local foster homes at the heart of everything we do. The key focus is on keeping local children close to their schools, friends and birth families.
Our foster carers transform the lives of children and young people by opening their hearts and homes to those who need it the most. At present, demand for foster carers in Dorset is high – especially for teenagers and sibling groups.
If you’d like to find out more in-person, the fostering team hold regular fostering drop-in events across Dorset.