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Harriet and David's fostering story

Harriet and David tell how they left their public sector careers to foster, not once but twice, coming back to fostering during the pandemic. "There is nothing more rewarding than this".

January 17 2023 - 5 min read

“You know that fostering is going to change someone else’s life.”

Why one couple left their public sector jobs to support children in need.

Harriet (55) and David (59) began their fostering journey 15 years ago as local authority foster parents in the East Midlands. They took a break, returning to their careers as a pharmacist (Harriet) and a police officer (David) before finding their way back to fostering with Fostering People in 2020. After plunging back into foster care at the start of the pandemic, the couple said that ‘there is nothing more rewarding than this.’

Beginning fostering after a considerable break and in the midst of a national lockdown was quite the shock to the system for Harriet and David. Between home-schooling on occasion and trying to keep three children entertained during a pandemic, the family pulled together quickly to make the most of a challenging situation. Harriet said: “There were pros and cons to starting to foster in lockdown. School work was challenging, because our relationship with the children wasn’t very well established at this point, so they didn’t really see us as teachers. It was hard! On the other hand, it brought us close together quite quickly, and really helped us to bond. As we couldn’t spend time with friends or family, we had no choice but to get to know each other properly.”

The couple are currently supporting a sibling group of three with Fostering People who are 15, 12 and 11; 21-year-old Annie also stays with them, she is a ‘staying put’ placement from their time as LA foster carers. Annie moved in for the first time when she was eight with her two siblings. She left to live with another family after a few years, before returning to stay with Harriet and David on an ongoing basis.

“We have seen a lot of positives having Annie and our three younger children at the same time. Particularly for our 15-year-old, it has given him a degree of security because he has seen that it is possible to stay past the age of 18. It can be difficult to be out in the world on your own at 18. We say to our children that they can stay as long as they like, but we know that we are fortunate to be in a position to be able to offer that,” explained Harriet.

The Murches were inspired to foster by Harriet’s own upbringing. “There were times when I wasn’t able to live with my parents as my mum was in hospital for long periods of time, so I thought that I could empathise with children who need to live with another family. We also knew other families that fostered and found it rewarding. It’s funny, because we assumed that fostering would be the same as bringing up our own children, which is something we felt that we did well, but the two are not quite the same,” Harriet said.

After devoting years of their lives to public service, Harriet and David felt like they weren’t making a real difference until they began fostering. David said: “In our jobs it was difficult to see how we were making a difference on an individual basis. And we both felt the same. But with fostering, you know that you are really doing something that is going to change someone else’s life.”

Fostering children and young people is not without its challenges, but Harriet and David can’t stress enough that it is the most rewarding thing that they have ever done. Building trust and strong bonds is a really important part of the process, and something which Harriet and David see more and more as their time with their foster children goes on. The couple recently went away for a few days, and had another foster carer stay in their home to take care of the children. Harriet said: “We were a little bit apprehensive to be leaving them for the first time, but it’s important that we still take time for ourselves, so that we can give them our best when we are all together. We left for four days, and when we came home… Everything was perfect. They had tidied up which was just lovely. We thought we were going to come back to a mess! But the best part was that even the 15 year old gave David a hug when we got back, which is something that he wouldn’t normally do. We felt like they had missed us, and that put a smile on my face.”

David contributed to this: “I was having a conversation with the middle foster child about getting older, and what age means. And I jokingly said to him that he was going to have to look after me in my old age! He looked at me so seriously, and said that he would take care of me in my old age. That was a really beautiful moment.”

When fostering, it’s important to have a good support network around you. Harriet and David have two grown up birth daughters who live locally, but no longer at home. Their youngest daughter is an approved support person, and is able to step in and help out with looking after the children so that her parents can have a break when they need it. “Even if it’s something little like going out for dinner together,” said Harriet, “it’s great to know that there is someone there to ask for help.”

Harriet and David have had a brilliant first few years fostering with Fostering People. The couple said: “We have been very fortunate with them [Fostering People], we have had a great social worker, and she has been with us the whole way through. She did our assessment and now is our supervising social worker. That support and continuity has been amazing for us as foster parents getting back into it.”

They continued: “Since we’ve come back into fostering, and have now raised our own daughters we have much more knowledge and experience. We have learnt about why children in care exhibit certain behaviours, and have done lots of training in the ‘Therapeutic Parenting’ approach to ensure that we can deal with it safely and with the children’s’ best interest in mind. It can be really hard when the children are rude to you, or they misbehave or you don’t understand where they’re coming from. But in those times we pull together, we remind ourselves why we do this and we use our training, which helps us to head off problems,

“When asked what advice they would give to those thinking about becoming foster parents, the couple answered: “Think very carefully. Talk to other people, and prepare. Make sure to talk to someone who has actually done it, or is doing it now. And talk to someone who has done it about the impact that it has. It takes over your whole life, but it gives you so much. There is nothing as rewarding as this.”

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