Do you know someone involved in fostering that has gone that bit extra? Gone above and beyond what was expected?

As of today, the nominations are open for the fostering excellence awards, run and hosted by the fostering network. And there is a lot of excellence in fostering. I am sure we could all think of a moment when we have seen someone do that bit extra. Spent that time thinking about what is best for the vulnerable child or young adult on the cusp of making a choice that could change the direction of their lives.

In the many years I have been involved with fostering, I can think of dozens of examples of families and invidiuals offering more than is expected. We have carers who travel the country to see the children they once looked after, having made a connection that is never broken.  It is not unusual to hear tales of how they use their personal connections to get care leavers they know, jobs, or act as guarantors on flats. They turn up with hot meals and gladly do loads of washing long after the children have become young adults and move on. They become birthing partners and godparents, surrogate grandparents.  Sources of support and advice. And then they share the pictures of these young people graduating,and raising their own families. There is the fostering family who offer up their summer home to the mother of the children they looked after. Giving her and her children a free holiday every year after she successfully turned her life around. That is just one example.

But as a carer you have to be patient. The rewards are sometimes a long time coming, because fostering is a long game.

When I was 16, my family looked after a boy the same age as me.  He had been having physical fights with his step father, not been attending school and been involved with a spell of burglaries. Actually, he had burgled every house on his mothers street in one weekend. He was resentful of our family rules, and uncomfortable with the routines including curfews and sitting to the table to eat. He was rude, taught us all some new words and failed to ever properly make a connection with any one in the house. But he stuck it out, and so did we. He didn't burgle any of our neighbours, and he lived with us for about 18 months, He reluctantly attended college and saved up for a moped. So when he moved on to his own flat, he had got an apprenticeship. "Glad to be going" he said, "Fed up with not being able to do anything." It was without a backward glance he got out of my dads car. and it was with mixed emotions we watched him walk away.

Gone. That chunk of his life we had shared. Dismissed with a shrug and a slam of a car door.

So 15 years later in a supermarket when my Dad was stopped by a man he only vaguely recognised, the biggest reward was about to come. The man was anonymous in his appearance. and holding the hand of a tiny minature version of himself.  He introduced himself and you never forget anyone that shares your home, or their story. No matter how brief. "I was happy when I lived with you, you know. I didn't forget what you did to me."

My parents had made a difference to that persons life and to the choices they made as an adult. It might have been well hidden at the time but they never stopped believing that one day he could be the best he could be. Their patience and unwavering commitment to him had paid off. They gave extra in that they didn't give up.

Do you know someone that has gone that bit extra?