I was recently asked – as I’m often asked in interviews - how and why I began fostering, and why I continue to do so despite all the frustrations and upsets that fostering can bring.

Nobody's Son

Nobody's Son

I replied without hesitation that I had begun fostering, as many foster carers do, in response to an advertisement I’d seen in my local newspaper that said foster families were desperately needed, with a phone number to call for more information.

I made that phone call, subsequently attended the introductory evening and, after the assessment and checks, began fostering.

I said I’d continued to foster for 25 years because I felt I was making a positive difference to the lives of the young people I looked after and that I enjoyed fostering.

However, on the drive home I wondered what else I could have said. What is it that keeps so many of us fostering for so long, despite all the trials and tribulations fostering involves?  Yes, we (hopefully) make a difference and improve the quality of these young people lives, but there seemed to be something else, something more that I hadn’t succeeded in verbalizing, and I suspected it was shared by other foster carers.

I struggled for a while, trying to find the missing ingredient, and then it occurred to me in one of those ‘light-bulb’ moments that it was the vocational element of fostering that had escaped me: that component we hardly ever recognize or admit to.

The dictionary definition of a vocation is: a strong feeling for a particular career or occupation, usually regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication. A calling. I felt this summed up the vocational element of fostering perfectly.

Vocation is that precious ingredient that keeps us on track and fostering, and loving it, year after year after year. Some of us never retire. Fostering is a profession, but we tend to forget it is a vocation too and, without sounding too pious, a calling. It is a calling to care for vulnerable children who cannot live with their own families in a non-judgmental manner.

As foster carers we tend to be self-effacing and become embarrassed if anyone suggests we must be very nice people to foster or we do a good job. I know I inwardly cringe when someone praises me for fostering, and I quickly retort  that I foster because I want to and anyway I receive back – in terms of satisfaction -  far more than I put in.  

Without doubt there are many others who could join us and share in the wonderful rewards and satisfaction that is fostering. For as I said in my book Damaged “foster carers aren’t saints, we’re just ordinary people with space in our hearts and homes for one more.”

Nobody’s Son, by Cathy Glass is out today, published by Harper Element, £7.99