Faces of Foster Care Yvonne

Faces of Foster Care – Yvonne’s Story

Yvonne shares her story with us as she has been a foster parent for 30 years and has cared for over 80 children in that time from very short term to over 14 years. She is a birth mum to 3 daughters and has 5 grandchildren. She has an adopted 19-year-old who has autism and learning disabilities she fostered her when she was 10 months old and adopted her when she was 6, they have 2 foster daughters who have been in their care for over ten and a half years.

She is also cares for daughter Ellie* who is 11 under a Special Guardianship Order.  Yvonne fostered her from birth to 15 months, then alongside her husband Barry took on a voluntary grandparent role where Ellie would stay for weekends, holidays, Christmas and New Year right through to just before her 5th birthday when she was placed back with Yvonne and Barry and last year was granted the SGO (Special Guardianship Order).

Yvonne faces of foster care

An SGO is an order made by the Family Court that places a child or young person to live with someone other than their parents on a long-term basis. The adults with whom a child is placed will become the child’s Special Guardian. They are usually, but not always (as in Ellie’s case) awarded to family members. The order gives parental responsibility to the guardian(s) for the child in their care, but unlike adoption, the basic legal link between the child and their birth parents is preserved. SGOs provide children with a secure family placement where the court determines that this is not possible with their birth parents. Although there is no blood relation between Ellie and her carers the order was granted because of Yvonne and Barry being the only constant in her life so a firm and bonded relationship had been made.

I wanted to know how Yvonne originally thought of fostering and how her journey started, she said: “I saw a newspaper article in our local area asking for foster carers when I was 20 and along with my then husband went along to the meeting. I was a mum of one and because of my age I felt like I wasn’t taken seriously as a prospective foster carer.

“Not long after that I found myself expecting my second baby, but my interest was stirred up for fostering.  When I was separated from my husband at 26 and was a mum to 3 daughters it got me thinking again about who would I trust enough to look after my children should something happen to me?

“Eventually I remarried and bought an off licence and absolutely hated the long hours and being away from my family.  Fostering came back to the forefront of my mind.  We decided to complete the pre-approval foster course, twice (just to be certain).  We sold the shop and by this time I was 33 and my fostering journey began.

Our first foster child Donna soon arrived straight after panel. She was a 13-year-old girl, and I did wonder what I had let myself in for.  I was scared and Donna was scared, the police made a regular appearance and I was always out looking for her.  We muddled along and I learnt so much from Donna and we are still in touch.  I have watched her grow into an amazing woman and she is now a mum herself to 5 beautiful daughters”.  Donna nominated Yvonne and Barry for a regional fostering award 14 years ago, which they won.

Yvonne and Barry have a wonderful, unique relationship today.  They are still married but 3 and a half years ago Barry moved out of the family home.  He retired from his job when they adopted their daughter so he could spend more time with the family and now he spends birthdays, Christmas, and holidays together.  They’ve travelled everywhere with the children and have been to America, Spain, France, Africa and Lapland.

They bought a narrow boat that the family spent a lot of time on plus Barry teaches the children to be Helmsman.  Their youngest daughter has passed her Helmsman certification and can happily drive a 60 foot narrowboat through the locks on canals on her own she is 11. Yvonne and Barry still work together and share everything and are a true support to each other and their children. Barry has 2 of the girls most weekends and the arrangement works very well and they’ve managed to create an extremely happy home environment for their family.

Yvonne feels that the best attribute a foster carer can have is to be “flexible” as you never know what’s round the corner. She said: “Reach out to others if you need to and always expect the unexpected. It’s always good to have a fabulous network of support if you can. I have my family and friends to support me and a brilliant group of foster carers who are not only my friends but no matter what time of day I can always call upon one of them if I need to, these are the people who understand me and my needs as a foster carer.

“You need to have a good sense of humour and a thick skin and try not to take things personally and be patient. Don’t be afraid to say no and be able to challenge people in a nice way.  You have to be a caring person and it’s the most rewarding job in the world.”

donna phone message
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For further information on the different kinds of fostering and SGOs please call us on 0121 758 5013 or email enquiries@fostertalk.org

If you would like to share your story then please email us at marketing@fostertalk.org

This article was first published in the FosterTalk magazine.  If you want to hear our stories before anyone else then join us here

*Please note – child’s name has been changed to preserve anonymity within this blog

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