Mark and Linda – TACT Foster carers since 2017
After our youngest son and his fiancé moved out of our family home, we suddenly found ourselves in a big empty house. With the combination of our experience of raising two sons and Linda’s role in the nursing profession working with underprivileged children and their parents, we felt ready and qualified to look into fostering. Our friends were already fostering with TACT and highly recommended the charity, so we didn’t have to look any further.
Two weeks after we were approved as foster carers in April 2017, we welcomed our first foster child. It was quite a day, as it coincided with me starting a new work position, meaning I had to be working away from home for a few days, and then returning home to a nine-year-old! Two weeks later, he was joined by his little sister who had been living with different foster carers until then.
In her work Linda had witnessed several sibling groups being separated and placed into different homes and knew of the negative effect this might have on children. I am a firm believer that siblings should be together, when possible, to have their family with them, to help with their identity and security, to make sure they are not worrying about each other, and to help them feel safe.
We wanted our foster son and his sister to benefit from continuing to sharing their lives together, so we decided to offer a loving home to both of them. After seven months their parent’s circumstances changed, and the children were able to go back to their family home. This was a positive outcome, and fortunately we continue to receive updates on them, so we know that they’re doing well.
For the last three years we have been caring for three siblings. They had come from a chaotic home life and so they presented some challenging behaviour, especially from one of them. It was difficult at first, but we stuck by this confused little boy and his behaviour gradually changed. He is like a new person now, and a lot of that has been down to providing him with structure and realistic boundaries. We gave him a place where he feels safe and we have managed to build trust with him and his siblings. Once you have their trust you can start to motivate and encourage them, which we certainly do regarding working hard in school and pursuing their personal dreams.
Watching these children develop has been amazing. We have witnessed so many positive changes from learning good manners, becoming confident enough to eat their lunch with other children in a dining room, finding friends and becoming a part of the community. They are now healthy and happy children, which has brought them even closer together as a sibling group.
One of the siblings lives with another foster family now. We make sure we see him very regularly and his relationship with his siblings is kept strong. Sometimes siblings can’t always be placed together, but when this happens, we as carers must make sure that their family bond is kept and the children know it is important to us as well as them.
We have so many proud foster parent moments. The oldest child was a year behind school peers academically, but three years later, with support, encouragement and coaching the child is taking National 5 courses, with positive feedback from the school about commitment, attitude, and behaviour. The youngest has become so much more confident and enjoying participating in school activities.
Fostering has positively changed the lives of all of my family, our birth sons have been very involved and they call them their little siblings. We have young grandchildren now, and the foster children have an amazing bond with them. They have seen them grow from newborns and they treat them like their siblings. The baby reacts with giggles and loves being held by them, he puts his hands up so they’ll pick him up.
Fostering siblings can sometimes be challenging, but it is incredibly rewarding. You need to be fully committed, have lots of patience, and a sense of humour helps too. If you have enough room in your house and your heart, go for it and start the application process. There is a lot to learn from the process that will help you make the decision – not only from the professionals but also from experienced foster carers. You are never alone in this. We know that excellent support is always there from TACT whenever we need it.