Our journey with Reece
It was a day we would never forget, driving home from Nottingham after being approved as foster carers at our Panel meeting. We were on cloud nine, excited to get home to that chilled bottle of champagne in the fridge to celebrate our new vocation. A call came through from Fostering People as were we about 20 miles from home asking if we would take an emergency 72 hour placement for 3 brothers who were currently at the Police station. 2 hours of panic ensued!
By the time the boys arrived on our doorstep we were outwardly calm but full of trepidation. I was shopping in Asda for underpants, pyjamas, toothbrushes and pizza while Simone and our 2 dogs greeted them and welcomed them to our home. They were aged 10, 12 & 14 and I arrived home to them sitting like bewildered, small, timid children on our huge couch; quiet, wide eyed and distrusting; wondering what on earth had just happened to them.
Fast forward. Numerous decisions, social work visits, meetings, a Court hearing, an attempted abduction and finally the agreement that they would stay with us long term.
The oldest is Reece, it was particularly difficult for him coming into care at 14 years old. He had a distrust of police and social workers and, to his knowledge, had never met foster carers before or knew what we did. He felt responsible for his younger brothers and worried for his sisters (placed separately). He had lived at many different addresses throughout his life in different parts of the country which resulted a potted, sporadic and muddled education. He found it difficult to relinquish “control” over his brothers, to have the freedom and choices of a “normal” 14 year old and getting to grips with GCSEs was an arduous task. However, he came to realise we would take good care of his brothers, that we would support them with school, deal with them when they misbehaved, make sure they ate and had what they needed. This, in turn allowed him to learn his own responsibilities around being a teenager, making friendships, having relationships, going out with friends, being safe, staying in touch, knowing we cared enough to be upset and angry when he didn’t come in on time.
Fast forward again. Reece didn’t do very well in his exams, he tried college for a year and excelled in graphic design achieving grades he had never before imagined he could attain. We were so proud of his achievements and he was pleased with himself and the progress he had made. However, his Achilles heel remained – maths and english. He was sorely disappointed not to gain either after an additional year of studying. Yet, as one door slammed in his face another opportunity arose! Through friends of contacts we came to learn about a chap looking to take on an apprentice. Reece met his potential employer and agreed to undertake a few weeks of work placement so they could both decide if this was the right thing for them. Needless to say they both got on, Reece is a quick learner if you show him how to do something (not from a book) he can pick it up in a flash. He arrives at work on time, he listens, he learns, he enjoys the practical learning on the job, he enjoys the structure it gives to his life (apart from the early mornings) and he especially enjoys getting paid every week and the freedom to buy designer clothes and eat out at posh restaurants with his girlfriend.
He has now been in the job almost a year and would probably never have dreamed of this type of work if the opportunity had not presented itself. His employer is impressed with the speed of his learning and his commitment to the job. Reece has learned so much through this process and not just the skills to perform in his job. He has learned how to get about on the buses and travel more independently throughout the North East, social interactions with customers and his work mates have massively enhanced his self confidence and he uses tools with a new found self-reliance and tenacity. He treasures his relationship with his brothers and is spellbound by his wonderful, loving, respectful relationship with his girlfriend.
So what now? Reece has just turned 18 and wants to “Stay Put” so we’re working out the practicalities of what that means for all of us. I guess our pack-up sandwiches and hospitality are just too good to pass up! He recently passed his Theory Driving Test and is nearly ready for the Practical Test. His driving instructor is yet another adult who has been impressed by the speed of his learning. He ‘found’ his 18th birthday present following a series of treasure hunt clues in and around our home. After finding a set of keys he was eventually led to his new car (not brand new!) with a big bow on the top. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so amazed and excited. After a 3 day surprise trip away with his girlfriend he’s now back at work and we’ve got the pleasure of taking him out driving almost every night. He even wants to come to Asda if he can drive us there!
Safe to say, that those sad, quiet, dazed boys that we met 4 years ago have been replaced by confident, challenging (at times), handsome, caring, respectful young men. Reece is a shining example to his brothers. We’re so proud of the young man he has become, we’re proud to have had a role in his life, to have given him “forever” memories, to have maintained our belief in him and enabled him to believe in himself, to have shaped some of his thinking and to him for accepting and loving us as his second family.