“He always says how I stuck by him”

Author: TACT Fostering

Tags: Children with additional needs, Fostering siblings, Fostering Teenagers, Fostering with birth children

Rhianydd and Gary – TACT foster carers since 2006

I used to be a manager at a contact centre. Fostering was something me and Gary always discussed doing when our children were at an age to understand and accept children who would have experienced some sort of trauma.

TACT’s application process was very thought provoking. It was sometimes upsetting to learn that children in care rarely get to experience the love and nurturing I had as a child.

When we heard about our first foster child, after being approved to foster, we were excited but scared. We were so looking forward to welcoming a child into our home but worried in case they didn’t like us.

I’m not going to lie, it was tough at first and made us question if we were the right people to foster. Our first foster child was a terrified 6-year-old with extreme coping issues. He had stayed with over 18 foster families over the course of three months, before coming to us. With a lot of help and support from TACT we worked through the hard times. It has taught us to never presume we know how any child will react or how long trust will take to build. He is now 22 and, as we are in regular contact, he always says how glad he is that I stuck by him and continues to turn to us when he needs help. He is expecting his own baby this year, so we’re all excitedly buying things in preparation.

We are exceptionally fortunate to have a family who are understanding and are totally open to welcoming all children. We take time to prepare and give them as much information as we are allowed to share. Physical preparation is minimal really as we make sure the foster child’s bedroom is clean and inviting but like to take the young person shopping at the earliest opportunity to buy what they like. Also, we encourage them to display their possessions if they have any. We always try and find out their interests and buy something associated with that to show the young person how wanted they are. Food wise if we don’t know their preferences we usually opt for a McDonalds and then go food shopping together. Sometimes we come home with some weird and wonderful things, one foster child asked us for lobster!!!!!

We try and keep in contact with the young people previously in our care. We always send texts even if they don’t reply. Sometimes they want to move on and that’s fine we understand that, but we remind them we’re always here.

We are a fostering family, every child we have is treated as part of the whole family. Each child in our care has had successes in different ways. One child had a 40% school attendance which went to 98% whilst being with us. Another child successfully went home to his mother. Two children were in residential homes and came to us and stayed for years until they were ready to move on. We also gave monthly weekend care to twins, one with dyspraxia and the other with severe autism. This allowed their foster mum to have the rest she needed. And now, we are able to keep three brothers together. These are what we class as successes.

I decided to foster siblings because I just couldn’t bear the thought of them being separated from each other. We believe that siblings, where possible, should be kept together. The benefit of this is it maintains their feeling of belonging and identity. Thanks to the great support that TACT gives carers like us we can continue looking after multiple children.

It is rewarding to see them kept as a family unit, and there is no jealousy when they meet with their birth family. The challenge of having a sibling group is you are always having to do something. It can be challenging taking them to their separate activities and allowing them to be individuals whilst ensuring they feel included. Saying that, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The challenge is to make sure everyone is always adhering to safe care while consistently being available to encourage, support and listen. We are extremely fortunate that our birth children are adults and provide help if we need it. They are amazing and make sure all our foster children feel included. The grandchildren can sometimes feel a bit jealous about sharing us with foster children that have just joined the family, but we always make sure that we do things together and celebrate their successes as well as those of the foster children.

What I enjoy most about fostering is seeing children relax. When they come to us it’s like they’re carrying the world on their shoulders. Once they trust you, it’s wonderful to see them happy and enjoying new experiences.

When we started our fostering journey, we looked around and spoke to many fostering families. It was clear that TACT put the children’s needs first and we liked that. I find TACT social workers do everything possible to support carers and provide training so that each foster child has the best possible chance of succeeding.

Read more about fostering siblings.