My name is Maxine and I am in foster care. I first met my foster parents whilst I was in a children's home. I remember feeling very scared of letting them down, in that I might not be what they expected me to be. When the day came to meet them, I was very nervous but excited at the same time.
I had been told my foster mother was a Councillor and that my foster father was a Solicitor, so I thought they would be very upper class and snobby. I knew they had two children of their own, a girl and a boy. I remember that in the last half hour before they were due to arrive, my social worker had to take me for a walk to calm my nerves. I smoked, and I was very worried about how my foster parents would feel about this. At the time they arrived, I was on the street smoking a cigarette. I was worried in case they thought I might be a trouble-maker.
My foster parents arrived with their two children and my first impression of them as a family was not what I had expected. I had imagined the mother to be a sort of schoolmistress figure and the father to be like a strict headmaster. I found it difficult to find something to talk about, so instead I found myself pouring the tea. Their two children were obviously used to meeting new foster sisters and they just went off and played. It was agreed that I would visit them at their home two days later.
My foster parents came to pick me up on the Saturday morning and brought me back to their house. My first impression of their house was how different it was to that of my own parents. My parents' home is immaculate and this had much more of a lived-in look. I found it strange at first because I was not used to being allowed to get out books, toys, games – or leave my clothes on the floor. For a long time, I kept trying to tidy everything up because I thought this was what my foster parents would want. I soon learnt to become a normal teenager.
I remember how long it took for me to settle. For example, should I wait until my foster parents told me to get up? Would they think bad of me if I had a lie-in at the weekends? Was I allowed to use the bathroom without asking, and what did I do if I was hungry between meals?
I was very worried about how my foster parents would react if I came in late, or didn’t come in at all – or if I did come in, but I was drunk. I realised, when all of these things did happen, that my foster parents didn’t think any less of me and still supported me. I was very worried that they would hit me or be abusive towards me, mainly because of the stories that I had heard whilst I was in care. Once I discovered this wasn’t true, I started to take things more at ease, and tried to get on with my life again.
I learnt something very valuable during this time. As stupid as it may seem, I learnt to STAY IN – yes, and I wanted to. My foster parents did not give me grief or aggravation of any kind. They left me to read my books, watch TV, play games or whatever I wanted to do. This was a new experience for me because I was used to going out, getting high on soft drugs, drinking alcohol and not coming home at night. I also stopped absconding because I learnt that I could feel just as safe at home as I did with my friends.
As I write this, I have lived with my foster parents for seven months and am planning on staying here for a lot longer yet. My foster parents are not what I thought they would be and have actually turned out to be very down-to-earth and responsible. This, in turn, has made me behave in a much more responsible way. I have had my problems throughout this placement, but I have learnt from my mistakes. I no longer take any form of drugs, although occasionally I have touched alcohol. My life has certainly changed for the better since I came here and I can see that I have a future waiting for me.
To anyone who is thinking of turning down being fostered, I would advise them not to do it. There is a lot you can get out of it. I know it is scary at first, but trust me – if the placement is right for you, this fear will soon go. If you don’t feel right with the choice of foster parents, don’t be scared to speak up and say so. Other foster parents can be found.
This feature from Who Cares? the UK magazine for young people in care