Nicola, TACT Foster Carer since 2020
London and South East
I had friends that fostered, and I always thought that’s definitely something I could see in my future, but in the meantime I was happy to continue with my successful career as a retail customer service manager. Then my life and future changed suddenly and dramatically when my husband had a stroke. It meant that I needed to become his carer and I realised that I needed to take time out of my career to re-evaluate my life and rethink what I would do for a living. It was then that I decided I would finally pursue fostering.
To be honest, I feared that no fostering agency would want me, given my family’s challenging circumstances. I have a teenage son with Asperger’s and my husband has communication difficulties due to the stroke. He has been left with Aphasia, which means that he doesn’t always come out with the right words and we have to come up with different ways to communicate. Fortunately fostering charity TACT could see my potential as a foster carer and welcomed my application. After an intensive eight-month assessment process I was approved to foster in 2020.
Our first and current foster child – a teenage girl, moved in with us right in the middle of the first Covid lockdown, which was probably a good thing as there weren’t any distractions, allowing her to settle more quickly. She was in pretty poor shape mentally and physically due to the trauma she had experienced before going into care, so I just let her rest and try to get better. We have a family dog that she bonded with straight away, and in the beginning she would take him out for long walks. Giving her some space to gather her thoughts and feelings.
At first it was a rather alien situation for all of us, trying to get to know each other, and naturally the family dynamics had to shift a bit to accommodate the new family set up. There was also a lot to organise in the first few months such as registering her with doctors, opticians and dentist.
Two years on and we are now an established family unit. Although I am the main foster carer, my husband Colin has become my wingman, and is a great support to me in this role. To begin with there was very little interaction between my husband and foster daughter due to her distrust of men. He is very chilled and laid back to a certain extent, and with time and patience, she gradually started to trust him and now they have a great relationship.
It has at some points been difficult juggling my roles as a foster mum and birth parent. In the beginning there had to be a lot of adjustment between my son and foster daughter but now it’s like she has always been here. They are at a stage now where they get on just like a brother and sister and my son is quite protective over her.
There is no doubt that fostering, while challenging, is also extremely rewarding. I love watching the way that our foster daughter has developed and grown in confidence. I am very proud that she is about to complete her college course with a great attendance record. She has secured herself an apprenticeship working with nursery age children and also started driving lessons. Sometimes I have to remind myself and reflect back to when she first arrived and compare the change.
I think my main fostering challenge would be to always remember that children in care have suffered trauma and have missed out on basic needs from a young age. A lot of their behaviour is out of their control and therefore may need dealing with from a different angle. Fortunately, I have very good support from TACT, I know that if I need to get in contact at any time the support is there. I’m never afraid to shout for help.
I am so pleased I decided to take up fostering and I am proud that in the face of adversity my family has provided a loving, nurturing home for a young person. We have completely turned around her life as a result. I am hoping that once my young lady eventually moves on to independent living she will want to stay in contact with us as we now consider her a member of our family.
Read more about fostering teenagers.