Nicky & Darren – TACT Foster Carers since 2006
My favourite thing about fostering is seeing the progress the children make, watching them grow up and blossom into independent adults. And with TACT we could not have chosen a better agency to help us with our fostering journey.
It was so rewarding when one of our long-term foster children successfully moved into independence, got a good job, then a promotion, and move to a different country with work. He is still a part of our family and comes home to spend Christmas with us. One of my most special moments was when he said to me, “you are just the best, I couldn’t ask for a better mum,” which made me feel so proud of the journey we’d been on with him.
We remain close to all the young people we have fostered and they were a big part of our daughter’s wedding, which was beautiful to see.
Two siblings who we most recently cared for, were originally placed with separate foster carers for a variety of reasons. The boy came to us first, while his sister was placed elsewhere. Then the sister came to us on an emergency temporary respite placement and never left. Their relationship with each other really blossomed once they were living together and the girl told us she felt like she belonged here with us. We could see the benefits of them being together, so when after four months it was suggested she move on we fought for her to stay with us.
Being together has meant they’ve been able to support each other through life story work, jogging each other’s memories when things are forgotten about, and encouraging each other to try new things and new ideas. Living together also allowed them to keep a sense of who they are, and they can visit birth family together, share memories and always rely on each other for support.
When our foster son reached 17 he really wanted to live independently, so we discussed the options and came to the conclusion that it would be best for him to live in a supported accommodation placement. This means he has a large degree of freedom but still has the support of a family he is lodging with, which will prepare him for full independence when he turns 18. We fully supported him throughout the move and now we continue our happy relationship with him and look forward to him “coming home” for Christmas.
The lockdown has been a bit of a challenge, as it has been with everyone. Although the siblings regularly talk to each other on Zoom or the phone, the girl misses seeing her brother, as well as her friends and birth family. She was really excited about sitting her GCSE exams and getting into her chosen sixth form college, and naturally she is disappointed that her plans have been deferred because of coronavirus. She is very dedicated to her studies and has seen the lockdown as an opportunity to prepare for her exams as much as she can. We have done our best to maintain our usual routine and it has started to feel like some kind of “normal”.
My advice to other foster carers would be don’t beat yourself up about anything and just go with the flow. If they are struggling to engage with school work, then trying other things like cooking, gardening or art are all really beneficial. Good mental health should be the number one priority, for them and you. Lockdown is an opportunity to bring us all closer together, we are able to talk more and see more of each other’s strengths and weaknesses which would otherwise be hidden by (the old) daily life such as school and work.
Fostering has given all our family a better understanding of issues people face in society, that each of us are individuals and we all deal with life’s curve-balls in our own way. My advice for anyone thinking about fostering is simply go for it, as long as you are always prepared to put the young people first.
I know there is a shortage of carers for siblings and I think potential foster carers should be open to the idea if they’re able, as it’s so beneficial to the children for them to be together. As carers that have always cared for single placements before we took in these two siblings, it has been an experience that has made us realise we want to carry on with sibling groups in the future. The experience comes with highs and lows, but you get over the lows and embrace the highs. Our two have given us a lot of laughs, tears and frustration over the last few years but we wouldn’t change it for the world, and although one of them now lives elsewhere, they will both always be a part of our family.