Beth and Steve – TACT foster carers since 2022
Prior to becoming a foster carer for TACT, I worked for a local authority as a supervising social worker in the fostering team. My husband is still a member of the armed forces.
I was acutely aware of the lack of suitable foster families for children and young people, as well as the pressure on the fostering service. More and more young people are entering the care system; however, the number of foster carers is not increasing at the same rate, leaving children experiencing uncertainty and unable to benefit from being part of a caring foster family. Hearing in the local and national news that Airbnb’s were being used to house children was so upsetting. Fostering was something I wanted to do since 2011 and by 2021, with two children of our own, siblings adopted at ages 3 and 4, my husband and I felt it was the right time to fully commit to fostering.
The application process with TACT was very straightforward. I sent an initial enquiry via email and was contacted soon afterwards by an enquiry officer who went through the process. We then had a virtual meeting to complete the viability assessment, followed by the very informative and insightful ‘Skills to Foster’ training. We decided to pause the process as our children wanted more time to consider the impact of fostering on our daily family life. TACT was very supportive, and after a 6-month period I contacted them again. Following a brief review, the application process resumed.
Throughout our application journey we had a very experienced, friendly and professional assessor who we were able to build a rapport with and seemed to understand us and our family quickly. Panel felt so supportive and wanted to get the best out of us, fielding questions that all felt appropriate.
Prior to us accepting our first foster child we received profiles of children needing care. I felt it was important to consider what the needs of the children were and if we were the best people to meet them. There was no pressure from TACT to accept the first profiles sent and we felt confident that the family finders understood our situation and what we could offer. Having our own children, I also wanted to ensure a suitable age gap between the children. There are feelings of guilt when you reject a profile, however giving a foster child the greatest chance of success and stability is more important.
When we read the profile of our two first foster children, we knew that it would be a good match. I feel very strongly that siblings should remain together, they have experienced enough change without then losing their sibling. They are a support and comfort to one another, and I felt it would be less daunting for them to be placed together. I am also aware of the lack of foster placements for siblings and therefore felt it was very important to offer them our home.
We were very excited and a little panicked as we were on holiday and returning 3 days before the placement was due to commence. However, the panic and excitement ensured that we worked super quick to get everything ready.
The two children moved in with us last autumn. In all honestly that first week we felt like ‘what have we done?’. I felt totally out of my depth, managing sleepless nights, a sibling group who displayed a high level of needs and I felt overwhelmed. It was challenging both physically and emotionally. However, we soon experienced such positive rewards and everyone in the household jelled with each other.
In preparation for their arrival, we had age-appropriate toys and clothing available and plenty of food. We were also aware not to overwhelm the children, so planned very low-key activities for the first few weeks, such as visiting the local parks. We spent lots of time with the children, playing and interacting with them.
Witnessing the change in the children, seeing their personalities develop and their confidence and trust in adults grow, is what I enjoy most about fostering. We have a good routine, which the children have responded well to. After bath is story and bed. Seeing their smiling faces as we share good nights is so rewarding. Fostering really brings you the highest of highs.
I am most proud of supporting a child with food issues, that is overeating, preoccupation with food and constant worry about food. He is now able to sit and share a meal, express his preferences, or even leave food. This is all evidence of the child trusting that there is food in the house, he will be fed and no longer has a fear of being hungry. We can even comfortably go on picnics now.
It’s great to see the children being confident, knowing how to play and not just use a device like a smart phone or tablet. They are both developing their hide and seek skills. We managed a short break holiday which was a great success. We had to share as much information as possible with the children prior to leaving and they managed a new environment well.
From my experience, keeping siblings together allows the children to retain a sense of self and their identity. We make sure both siblings are present when we do things with our birth children: swimming, riding their bikes, den building in the woods. It means they experience the same things and level of care and hopefully it strengthens their feelings of belonging. For us it means that all four children have each other and are able to develop their relationship. The joys that the children bring, and their positive development is satisfying.
Caring for an additional two children has been all consuming. One adult must be with the children so a dash to the shop can mean taking all four. It has made us better prepared and planners. My own children enjoy how busy the house is, the different toys and how it allows them to play and be younger than their years. At times they say that having younger children is annoying; however, these are only natural feelings and most of the time the house is filled with laughter and the sounds of four children tearing around.
We foster for TACT because it is a non-profit organisation and I felt that this was very important. As a forces family we move around the country, so with TACT being a national fostering agency it means that, when we move, we hopefully can continue to foster through TACT.
I have been so impressed with the support we have received from TACT. We have been given so much material in the form of therapeutic parenting and children’s books. TACT supported us with purchasing some items we needed to care for the younger child. We are grateful for receiving financial support to aid with the school commute. The training offered is easy to access and of a high standard ensuring that, as a foster carer, I remain up to date and professional. I feel that TACT is very child focused but also supports foster carers. The events we attended have also been excellent and we feel all our efforts are appreciated.
Read more about fostering siblings.