David and Tracey Willard from Mynyddcerrig have been providing respite foster care since 2015, here is their story.
After years of careful planning, Tracey and me retired and moved to Wales in 2015 with a view to relaxing to a life of gardening, DIY and travel. However, after a few months, we both felt that perhaps we should look for something meaningful to do with our spare time, and as we were both involved in care before retirement we started thinking about how we could use this experience to support others.
It was on a journey home from Carmarthen that we saw an advertisement by Carmarthenshire Council for people who were interested in supporting children by becoming foster carers. It was then that we began to think that perhaps this was the opportunity we were looking for, and therefore contacted the fostering team and after a brief chat we were invited to an information evening.
Following the information evening, we attended a three day induction program on becoming a foster carer, and even though we were keen to move forward to become foster carers, we still had reservations about whether this was the right move for us.
However, on day three of this program we both felt that we could balance the responsibilities of being a foster carer with the responsibilities we had to our family and personal goals, by becoming respite carers.
What really impressed us was the support available, the structure of the team at Carmarthenshire Council and the enormous training available to you, once you were approved.
Following a few months of interviews and references, we were ready to go to panel for approval and once we had gone through this process, we were registered to provide respite care.
As with all new situations, it’s not until you are put in the position where you have to put these new skills into practice do you begin to doubt your abilities, however, we had a great mentor we could contact for help as well as our supervising social worker and the added support of the out of hours team.
So, we then had our first placement, a mother and new born baby. We felt like new starters at any job, nervous, lacking confidence and wondering why we put ourselves through this stress, but you know what, it was ok. The mum and baby were lovely and all our nerves and worries disappeared and we began to enjoy ourselves. Yes, it was formal, but we both had interpersonal skills, a grasp of a common language and all wanted the best outcome.
And so our journey had begun, but it wasn’t all about caring for others, we became aware of our own shortfalls and so we started attending the extensive training we now had access too, and like I have always found, the more you get to know, the less you realised you knew. The training itself was excellent, but it also brought us into contact with other foster carers and that proved as important as the training, they shared their own experiences and gave me and Tracey valuable advice which we benefited from enormously.
Three years on, we have had the pleasure of caring for children of all age groups, backgrounds and more recently children with complex medical needs, in addition to having met many likeminded individuals who genuinely care about the welfare of children. We often reflect on our fostering journey and the people we have come into contact with and we never cease to be amazed how much pleasure and personal satisfaction we get from being foster carers