Natalie and Terri – TACT Foster Carers since 2018
Over the years we had many conversations about having a family, and it always seemed to come back to fostering. We just didn’t feel particularly passionate about having our own children, but we were very motivated by the idea of giving a home to children who end up in the care system, and we felt it would be especially great if we could help prevent siblings being separated.
After much research we decided to apply to foster through TACT based on the level of support it provided, its community feel and charitable status. We like that TACT’s focus is exclusively on the children and their carers. Having eventually been approved to foster, we soon had our first placement – two sisters aged 4 months and 11 years. We could not have known what a positive and profound impact they would have on us and our wider family, and all in less than a year.
They came in to our lives one night last year after a traumatic separation from their family involving the police. Understandably, the eldest girl was very emotional, and as it was already late, we helped her get ready for bed, read her a bedtime story and let her rest. She slept for almost 12 hours that night. We did everything we could to settle the baby, but it was a restless night, mostly due to shock of the whirlwind change and realising quite how big a task we had ahead of us.
In the morning we ensured we were as warm and welcoming as possible and were armed with methods of distraction. Especially with a baby in the house, it was important to establish routines, mealtimes, naps and bedtimes. We found that routine was key for all of us, it provided a sense of security and knowing what to expect every day. When a young child has no real knowledge of boundaries they thrive when there is order.
The eldest girl couldn’t understand why she couldn’t go home, and she kept reminding us she only loved her own family. We knew it was so important not to take that to heart in any way, and to be prepared with answers and genuine compassion. We liked to use responses that lightened the mood, or when necessary, state that the decision wasn’t up to us, our only job was to keep them safe and make sure they have as much fun as possible.
After some time, we began to see the positive change in their physical and mental health and development. Establishing and growing the relationships that we have with both children has been an incredible journey. We have seen certificates, medals and trophies won. It has been wonderful to see the eldest girl’s dreams turn into reality, like becoming a cheerleader or learning how to ride a horse.
Two months before a court hearing to establish whether the children would go back home or remain in care, we were approached by the children’s social worker to see whether we would consider taking the girls on a permanent basis. This was so the court could keep both children together if necessary. Although it had been less than a year since they were placed with us, we had by then established a solid bond with both girls, they were happily settled, and we knew that separating them would have devastating effects on the eldest girl, so we eagerly said yes. We had grown to love both of them and we felt confident that a bright future for the four of us was possible.
The court’s decision was that both should remain in care. We were recommended to seek a long-term looked after order for the eldest child and a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) for the baby. The court decided on the two different orders to ensure the best for the children as individuals. An SGO for the baby secures permanency and effectively granted us parental responsibility, allowing us to make the necessary and suitable choices on her behalf. The eldest child moving to a long-term order ensured stability, and support via the Local Authority, where additional services as well as opportunities are available.
And so these girls are now a part of our family forever, and they are secure in the knowledge that whatever happens in the future they will always have a room in our house that they can call their own. They feel very much settled, with our own parents now being referred to by the children as their grandparents, and our siblings as aunts and uncles. It has been a whirlwind of a year, but the outcome has been incredible.
What advice would we give to someone who is only at the beginning of their fostering journey? Firstly, it is natural to feel worried. When children first arrive, your world will turn upside down. This does eventually settle down with routines and most importantly, you start to form relationships with these young, vulnerable children. Ensure that they see you as their voice and advocate. Make them a part of your family for however long their time with you will be, they too have a right to live in a caring and nurturing home.