Shannon Clark

Let’s start at the beginning: why did you want to foster?

I initially wanted to foster as I always saw myself having a family but was told by doctors that I had a less than 1% chance of a child of my own. As I started my assessment and Skills to Foster training, I found out miraculously that I was pregnant with my first child. What was even more miraculous was that I then went on to have a second child also! I never forgot about fostering though and when my youngest started school it seemed the time was right to look into it again. It just worked for the whole family; it meant I could earn an income whilst being at home and raising a family whilst doing a job that I loved. 11 years later I’m still doing it and loving it!

That’s great that you’re still helping children and young people alongside bringing up a family of your own. It must be quite full on- what do people say when they find out you’re a foster parent?

When people find out I’m a foster parent most people say, ‘Oh I couldn’t do it I’d get too attached- don’t you get attached?!’  I reply yes! Of course, we get attached, that’s the point! You have to get attached to the children in your care otherwise you wouldn’t be doing your job properly. These children and young people sometimes haven’t been brought up in a loving and nurturing environment and it is our role, as foster parents, to provide the love and support that they’ve been denied. The role of a foster parent isn’t that different from being a ‘normal’ parent so there’s no way you couldn’t become attached.

That must be hard then if the child or young person in your care moves on. How do you cope with that?

Of course, it is. When a child or young person moves on, for whatever reason, it’s heartbreaking because they really do become one of the family and it’s never easy to see them go. However, when I started out as a foster parent, I received an excellent piece of advice that still really helps now. I was told to look at your foster parenting journey as a ladder. Each rung provides the child in your care with the skills they need to thrive. When a child or young person comes into your home you may be the first rung in the ladder, the last rung or somewhere in between. You may have even been all the rungs. But at whatever stage you came into that child or young person’s life you know you have made a positive difference.

What would you say to anyone considering fostering? Any advice?

I think the biggest thing is to be open. I’ve been doing this for eleven years and still every day is a school day- no two are the same! Each child has different personalities and needs so it’s important to remember that being a foster parent is a role that you constantly need to learn and adapt through. So I would say be open to change, to learning and to the resources out there that can help. And enjoy it!

You talk about the learning and resources- what kinds of things help you as a foster parent?

All fostering services are slightly different and offer different packages so you do need to do your research to find out what will work best for you. I’m with a therapeutic agency who offer constant support from social workers who have a protected case load of 7. They also operate an out of hours on call service 24/7 365 days a year. The company also has direct access to their clinical partners and their therapeutic specialists who offer a huge range of therapies and assessments. There’s constant training and support and I know that if ever I need them, however I may contact them, they’ll be there straight away.

What would you say is your biggest achievement as a foster parent?

Wow that is such a hard question! I think every child I have cared for has been an achievement. I know that sounds a bit cheesy and a bit cliché but it’s true! The children and young people that I have fostered over the years, some of them have been so fragile and to see them to progress and evolve and grow is such an achievement. It’s what we do it for. To go back to the ladder analogy I used earlier, to be a part of a child’s story, at whatever point, for however long, but to know you made a positive difference, that’s the ultimate achievement.

Evolve Therapeutic Fostering.