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Becoming a foster dad and helping other families

03 June 2024

Our services are often based within their local communities, and our volunteers bring all of themselves to their roles. Here foster carer, father, football fan and former disco king Frank explains how he’s grown as an individual, and how that growth led to and informs his role as a volunteer for Family Action’s Stay and Play services.

A new challenge  

When my wife was made redundant she told me that she really wanted to foster, which was a surprise at first. She’d never mentioned it before, but she insisted it was important to her and, as I thought about it, I realised my life experiences would be advantageous if we did it.  

We’d both remarried and I’d loved raising my own two kids from my first marriage, so it felt like it was a natural progression to share the experience I’d gained now they’d grown up. I also thought that because of my own childhood I’d developed tools that I might be able to share, and that would help me relate to the kids.  

I’m from a large family and I never lived with my natural parents. As one of the elder children I was raised by my grandparents, and I only saw my parents from time to time. There was resentment from the younger children who continued to live with them and, because they were in and out of my life, I never got to develop the attachment I should. Although my grandparents were so loving, and I had a great childhood, I became a bit of a rebel in my late teens.  

This was the late 70s, so I grew a massive afro, wore white suits and spent my time playing a lot of football and getting into fights. I was a bit of a loudmouth and I think I wanted to be loved by everyone because I never got the attention I felt I should have had earlier. 

Taking a look at myself 

Not that I knew that at the time… I didn’t realise that it was affecting my relationship with my children and the people around me until I took note and went to get some counselling. At that point everybody else was always to blame in my mind; I was never wrong. 

“Counselling taught me that, although I was a brat, I wasn’t a bad person.”

Counselling taught me that, although I was a brat, I wasn’t a bad person.  

But it also taught me that I could be the best person in the world and not have everyone like me, and that I had to stop worrying about the things I couldn’t change.   

That led to me volunteering as a mentor with a mental health charity, where I’d work with people around things like confidence. It was therapeutic for me to help others and I think I’d mellowed as I’d gotten older. 

Becoming a foster dad 

After we’d signed up for fostering, we had to go on a three-day course, and they said “it’s nice that you mean to do this. But how much?”.  We ran through every worst-case scenario that can come up, and by the end of the first day 50 per cent of the applicants had dropped out. By the third day, it was 75 per cent.

Now, years down the road, I realise why; it’s alright wanting to do it, but they have to know you’ll still be engaged when young people are coming in and causing problems. My own experiences taught me that it’s not personal – It’s their way of surviving.  

Their life is normal… It’s not to us but it is to them; It can be chaos, but it’s their chaos, which is why fostering isn’t for everyone. So, we started a fostering journey that began with short term respite, has lasted for around 14 years so far and has involved probably a dozen children of all ages.  

Helping other parents 

There’s quite a few Family Action Family Hubs around me and so I went to an open day where the staff looked at all of the different opportunities that were available. Although there were groups for foster parents, I was attracted to working at Family Action’s stay and play service, as I thought I could engage with the parents. 

Because of my background I felt the first three years of children’s lives are really vital and I thought I could speak with parents; not as an authority but as somebody who can relate to what that contact achieves. Nobody starts off knowing how to parent… we don’t get books on it; if it works, we do it but if it doesn’t, we look for other options.  

The volunteer role was good for developing my confidence, and I feel a lot better in myself for it because I’m helping people.  

I’ve also completed courses regarding mental health first aid and autism awareness but, to be honest, I’ve learnt the most from the different people you meet – people with twins for example, or people from different backgrounds and cultures.  

“It’s wonderful to see all the kids running about… It makes you feel so humble”

We have a forum at stay and play where we can gather together information and ease people into playing with their children in a supportive environment. It’s wonderful to see all the kids running about… It makes you feel so humble.

There’s a joy that appears on people’s faces when you know they’re getting it, and they can talk openly as our courses and times are so flexible that people can come in and feel relaxed.  

This in an area where a lot of the industry has gone, and there’s massive unemployment and deprivation, and sometimes the hubs in which we’re based are also there to guide people and deal with what’s going on with the environment. 

It’s about bringing people together. 

Find out more about how you can support children and families.


Foster dad and volunteer