To mark Foster Care Fortnight Midlothian Council has highlighted two examples of how fostering is changing lives for the better.
“Feel confident and secure”
Chantele Watson is testament to fostering’s potential to transform lives. The 17-year-old former Beeslack High pupil is looking forward to starting a full-time hairdressing course at Edinburgh College. In the meantime, she spends much of her time volunteering at the local YMCA boys’ club, at a riding for the disabled group in stables at Gilmerton and also at the council’s extra care housing at Cowan Court.
Chantele, who lives in Penicuik, said: “If you are fostered with really good carers, as I am, you feel settled and that you can do more than you think you ever could. In fact, I feel now I can do anything I set my mind to.
“I used to be a lot different from now. I used to hide a lot upstairs in my room. I couldn’t sit still for five seconds because that worry that you are going to be moved never leaves you. You think, why settle, what’s the point? I’ve got over that now though because my foster carers have helped me grow up. They’ve treated me with respect and helped me become independent. When I first came here (aged 14) I didn’t even know how to get on a bus.”
Life before fostering was very different for Chantele. One of her first memories is of hiding in cupboards at the age of three or four to escape the violent rages of her mum, who had undiagnosed schizophrenia at the time.
Chantele, who now has a good relationship with her mother, said: “My mum would be hallucinating, hearing voices in her head. She would smash up the house. When the shouting had stopped, I’d come out to find glass all over the place.”
Her mum’s mental illness meant Chantele was taken into care: “I remember neighbours coming to the door and there was a social worker and the police behind them. Mum let them in. I was shouting and screaming that I didn’t want to go.”
Despite the initial trauma, Chantele was eventually fostered by a couple in Loanhead for seven years and settled in well: “That was good, I was treated well. I had routines and boundaries and we did all the normal family things like going swimming.”
Chantele would urge anyone even thinking about becoming a carer to get in touch with Midlothian Council’s Family Placement team: “It really helps children and young people to settle and feel confident and secure.”
“We feel like a proper family”
Like many couples, when John and Alex, not their real names, married six years ago they knew what they wanted the future to hold.
“All our friends were getting married about the same time and having a family and that’s exactly what we wanted too. It had always been our intention to adopt,” said Alex.
Sitting in their Midlothian lounge, Alex and John are obviously doting carers to the little boy who is helping make their lives complete. The two men are currently fostering the boy as the adoption process proceeds. They can vividly recall driving to meet him for the first time back in 2014. John said: “It was very emotional. We were excited but feeling a bit sick with nerves.” The long, nerve-wracking journey was well worth it. “Then we met this little mite of a boy,” recalls Alex.
A year or so on and this little mite of a boy is clearly thriving. An outgoing social child, he loves superheroes, street dancing and painting.
Ask the two men if fostering with a view to adopting has been what they hoped for and they agree: “It’s been everything and more. We feel like a proper family and it’s been really positive for our extended family as our parents really wanted grandchildren but obviously never thought that would be an option for us. “We’ve certainly no regrets.”