Samantha – TACT foster carer since 2013
Samantha, along with her husband Stephen, was inspired to foster after growing up in care herself. They began fostering when their birth daughter Sophie was three years old.
Sophie: “I was very young when we first started fostering, because of this it’s really all I’ve ever known. Being so young at the time, my memory of those early days is fuzzy. However I do remember being extremely excited at having new children around the house to play with, as my siblings are all significantly older than me.”
Samantha: “As her older siblings lived far away and are a lot older, she was like an only child and so she really enjoyed having others to play with. When she was young, she did find it hard when children moved on, at least until the next knock on the door. She completely shared her home, parents and her whole world with whoever came into our family.”
Samantha and Sophie both believe that Sophie’s presence helped her foster siblings to settle into the family, as they had someone closer to their age to relate to.
Samantha: “We always let Sophie show new children around the house, especially the biscuits cupboard! It’s not so scary coming into a new home when you’re being welcomed by another child. We’ve always shared meal times and we always talk about our day, it’s our normal family life. She helped them to understand the boundaries and unconditional love of our family.”
Sophie: “I truly believe that having a child in the family helps new children to settle. I was definitely an ice breaker for each child as children naturally gravitate towards other children. It helped them see that I was loved equally to them and that they were a part of a family, whether they were biologically related or not.”
Every child that entered their home was welcomed as part of the family. Like any family relationship, Sophie experienced all the ups and downs of life with the children they fostered.
Samantha: “Sophie mostly got on with all the children we have cared for. Like any family, there are sibling rivalries, she has loved, argued, rolled around the floor with tears of laughter, and she’s shared significant moments and life experiences of her own as well as theirs. She’s amazing! I’m one very proud Mum.”
Sophie said: “Building a relationship with people who have been through horrible situations that no child should go through can be tough. Especially for those children and young people. But this is where we show that in our family there is unconditional love. No matter what happens, how you act, how you feel, you are always loved no matter how long or short you stay with us. When you’ve built that trust and understanding, these are bonds which cannot be broken.”
In 2018, the family began caring for a sibling group of three who remain with them today. Now that she is older, Sophie has taken on the role of big sister and has formed a special bond with all of them.
Sophie: “The only thing which sets us apart is our DNA. In every other sense we are siblings. I’m their big sister, protector, taxi driver, advice giver, Lego builder, Xbox player (not that I’m very good) and I don’t think I could love them anymore than I do now.”
Samantha: “She’s a great role model to them with her work ethic, morals and her love for life. She’s their big sis, from spoiling them one minute to telling them off the next, helping with homework, just family life. You know you’ve done well when the others look up to her and want to be like her.”
Sophie believes that growing up in a fostering household has made her a more patient and caring person.
Sophie: “It has had a huge impact on the person I am today. I am so used to sharing (as a birth child in a foster family, you share your entire world) that it’s second nature to me now, making me more understanding and empathetic to people. It helps me every day in my job as a customer service advisor. I’m more patient with customers and more understanding of their needs and what I can help them with. I wouldn’t be the person I am now if my parents didn’t decide to foster.”
Sophie pays tribute to her parents, who do everything they can to ensure that all the children they care for reach their full potential.
Sophie: “My parents are the most selfless individuals I have ever met. They put the needs of every child in their care above anything else, they are the most supportive people in the world. Any dream or passion any child in their care has, they support it 100% and encourage us to push ourselves to the maximum we are capable of.”
Samantha strongly believes that fostering is a life-changing experience, for everyone involved. She urges people not to think that having children of their own is a barrier and says that their lives will be enriched by the experience.
Samantha: “Your life is never the same once you become a foster carer, it’s a way of life. Your children grow to be well rounded and caring. This will be life-changing, not only for the children you foster, but also for the whole fostering family. Don’t just talk about it, do it and enjoy the ride!”