Cath & Kenny – TACT Foster Carers Since 2011
From the age of 12 and 10, sisters Ellie and Niamh had to learn to share their mum and dad with other children. Why? Because Mum Cath and Dad Kenny are foster carers. Now 21 and 19 respectively, Ellie and Niamh feel very lucky that they grew up as part of a foster family.
Ellie said: “We both feel that the best thing about our family fostering is being able to have different children as part of our lives, even if just for a short time. We have loved watching them grow up and the difference (however small) we have seen with each of them.”
The decision to foster was not taken lightly by Cath and Kenny. They made sure that the whole family understood the challenges that lay ahead and were united in making it work.
Cath said: “We did have some initial reservations about fostering while having birth children of our own living at home, however we were always honest with Ellie and Niamh and discussed any concerns they had openly.”
The family’s first foster placement was two young girls age 3 and 18 months old, and right from the start Ellie and Niamh showed that they were going to play a significant role in making all of the children feel welcome and part of the family.
Niamh said: “We were extremely nervous but also very excited. We were worried that they maybe wouldn’t like us, but we also understood how difficult it was for them coming to live in a strange environment. So, we tried our best to make them feel welcome. We spent a lot of time playing and spending time with them, but we also tried to understand how they must have been feeling. This is something we have done with all the children.”
Recognising that Ellie and Niamh are as much part of the fostering team as their parents, TACT has always been available to help them and provide support to them if needed. And they have always been invited to attend all the TACT summer and Christmas activities along with the foster children.
Cath said: “The staff at TACT have been very knowledgeable and always willing to help, and our children have always been made aware that this support is available to them as well. They’re aware they can talk openly with our social worker if ever they have concerns.”
Some of the children fostered by Cath and Kenny have had complex physical, psychological and behavioural needs. Two of their previous placements were brothers aged two and four who were both on the autistic spectrum. Their current placement arrived unable to speak and displayed significant behavioural issues. However, through the support of the family he has made huge steps forward and is now thriving. Cath and Kenny couldn’t be prouder.
Kenny said: “Watching the progress of the child who is currently in placement with us has been our favourite thing about being foster carers. He first came to us unable to speak and with lots of medical needs, as well as not sleeping properly and displaying extremely challenging behaviour. However, we’ve loved watching him develop into a confident and capable individual who now excels at school and in various sporting activities. He is a loving, well-mannered and caring young man.”
Fostering did not just help the children in care develop. Cath and Kenny’s daughters also grew from the experience. Sharing their home with children with complex needs helped Ellie and Niamh to become more considerate and sensitive to the different situations that children face.
Ellie said: “We both feel that fostering has made us more able to empathise with other people and have a greater understanding of how we can support them. We feel more confident speaking to professionals as well as people in the community as over the years we have had many different individuals visit us in our home.”
As well as helping them to become more empathetic, fostering has helped them to better appreciate the loving and stable home that they had, and that, unfortunately, far too many children are in desperate need of.
Niamh said: “Our favourite memories are from our many family holidays. All of the children hadn’t had the opportunity to go on holiday, so everything was a new experience for them, including making sandcastles on the beach and swimming in the sea. We loved seeing how excited they were and it made us appreciate more that not everyone has the same opportunities and experiences.”
For Cath and Kenny, fostering has been an incredible experience. Not only have they provided love and support to vulnerable children and helped them to achieve their potential, but in doing so they have made their family stronger and demonstrated to their daughters the importance of being caring and understanding to others.
Cath said: “Overall, fostering has brought our family closer together and given our children a better understanding of the issues that some people unfortunately face. As a family, we feel it is the single most rewarding thing we have ever done.”