Capstone Foster Care News

tall-ships-1My name is Alison, I am a supervising social worker in Capstone North. I wanted to introduce foster carers and young people to the Tall Ships Youth Trust. This charitable organisation is close to my heart and as a volunteer I have undertaken 13 voyages to date, on board the Stavros S Niarchos, a 200ft Brig. 

In 2006 I organised a voyage for three looked after young people whom I worked with, two young men and a young woman. They had never sailed before and the voyage gave them invaluable experience, both socially and educationally. We sailed from Lisbon to Cadiz then onto Gibraltar, a total distance of 423 nautical miles. To add to the excitement, whilst in Cadiz the young people were involved in an on shore Tall Ships parade involving ships crews from all over Europe. 

The three young people became part of the voyage crew, which consisted of 44 young people, aged between 16 and 25 years old. I supported the young woman to overcome her fear of heights and climb to the royals, at 120 feet. A major achievement and no doubt a memory she will treasure throughout her life. I recently met her by chance in a train station (now in her 30’s)  she turned to her boyfriend and said, “this is the lady who took me on that big ship”. In my volunteer role as youth mentor, I have felt privileged to work alongside young people from many different backgrounds 

A note from my tall ship diary: “ This has been a fantastic voyage. The spectacular night sky with stars so bright and vibrant, along with beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Not to mention the sight of dolphins, playfully crossing the ships bow. This truly is nature at its best”

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I’ve lost count of how many parents I’ve heard talking about how quickly kids grow up, and how you should appreciate every minute you have with them. As a teacher, I’ve always felt the same, and I’ve always been more than a little sad every time the kids I work with ‘graduate’ into a different class, school, or life adventure. For some reason though, I never really saw it coming with fostering.

I think maybe this is because when you have a placement, you have no idea how long it will last. The child may ultimately be reunited in the family home with their parents. The placement might just be a trial for all parties. The whole thing may just break down and be called to a halt for one of a hundred reasons or factors. With all of this in mind, you focus very much on the short term, at least until things begin to settle and pictures begin to form.

You also have to realise with a foster child, that just because that child has joined your family and you’re no doubt doing everything you can to integrate them into your life and home, that child may not respond in the way you may hope or expect. They certainly don’t owe you any kind of unconditional love, that’s for sure. As a result of all of this, you really don’t think about enjoying every minute – you think very much in the here and now, and you are always just a little bit on edge in preparation for something to happen that you just can’t control. It’s natural to assume though, that the longer you have that placement, the harder it’s going to be for you when it ends.

With The Boy, after just 10 months of living with us, the plan from day one had always been to work hard to ensure he had the option of going on to start at university after he’d finished his college studies. On the day he left to start that adventure, my heart broke.

I’ve since been ‘reminded’ by someone whose opinion I neither asked nor cared for, that “it’s not the same” as when other parents cry on university moving out/in day, because “he’s never been your baby”. Well I can’t argue with the biological facts of the latter half of that statement, but I still cried my eyes out when I got back in my car after spending the afternoon on campus moving him into his Halls.

Why did I cry? Was it that he was being taken away from me? No – he’s his own person and has made a logical choice to go and start a life at university. Was it that I was going to have to make the transition from spending every hour with him to not seeing him at all? No – whilst he lived with us he had a better social life and active calendar than I did and was rarely at home anyway!

Instead, the answer to why I cried was because I was caught up in a moment of transition and realisation. I’d played some part in helping this amazing lad build the structures he needed to go off to enjoy a life he’d deserved from day one; a life with a chance to succeed, a life of trying out new things, and a life of knowing that wherever and whatever he moves on to, there would always be someone back home who loves him and supports him. My role was complete.

The Boy would now need me less and less each day, after I’d tried to do in one year what someone should have been able to do for him for the previous 17. I’d done a good thing, I think, and while I was of course happy and proud, I felt an emptiness.

And so, going back to that most helpful and supportive of comments about it not being “the same”… I’d agree – it’s not the same, because in some ways, it’s so much worse.

Ride for RowcroftSteve and I signed up to do the Ride for Rowcroft 24k cycle ride on the 1st October to support Rowcroft and all the wonderful work they do. Steve’s Dad was looked after in Rowcroft in his final days and they could not have been more caring, supportive and compassionate – it was the best place we could have wished for him to be cared for in his final few days (and it seemed that this event was meant for us as it’s Steve’s birthday on the day!).

It was raining hard on the Saturday morning and we groaned and wondered whose silly idea it was to get up at 6.30am on a stormy, wet October morning to do a cycle ride!  But we put extra layers and coats on to keep dry and warm and off we went.  When we arrived at the venue the storm clouds started rolling away and the sun came out.  Hooray!  We set off splashing our way through puddles in Kingsteignton, then Chudleigh Knighton and into Bovey Tracey for a quick pit stop.  Then Teigngrace and the last section of cycle path taking us back to Newton Abbot.  With tired legs but glad hearts and the promise of a bacon bap we rounded the corner to the home straight and made one last effort to get to the finish.  We finished in 1hr 16 mins and had a well-deserved coffee and bacon butty.  Thanks so much to everyone who sponsored us; Rowcroft are hoping the event will raise about £20,000 which will go some way to making a chink in their nearly £600,000 shortfall.

To sponsor us please go to:

Helen & Stephen

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