DNA doesn’t make a family, love does

Author: TACT Communications

Tags: Fostering siblings, LGBTQ+

Gemma and Jenilee – TACT Foster Carers Since 2020
North West

Before becoming a foster carer, Gemma was a nutritionist and Jenilee still works full time in a senior role within the NHS.

We had a lot of love to give children and tried to start a family through fertility treatment.  When that didn’t work, we felt destined to give children in care the love we had to give.

We found the application to foster process very simple, and we got a lot of support from our supervising social worker (SSW) around panel and how it works. Panel is a meeting held to consider an applicant’s request to become a foster carer, and it may sound intimidating, but it was done in a calm and professional manner.

We felt we would be able to give more than one child a better chance in life, and having siblings seemed the perfect way to do so. Our first placement included three siblings, all under the age of 10, who arrived just weeks after we passed panel. And wow, when we heard about them, we experienced a mix of emotions: excited, nervous, curious; but overall, we were ready and prepared. We had been given so much training, support and advice from TACT, as well as guidance from other TACT foster carers.

We ensured we had three new beds and mattresses for them, and once we knew their ages, we went shopping for a couple of items of clothing in various sizes, including pyjamas. When we met them initially, we asked them what their favourite foods were so we could have these ready for their arrival.

The first few weeks were eye opening. I don’t think we realised the amount of contact some birth parents have and we have found this to be the most challenging part of fostering.

During their time with us they really did grow. We taught the little one, who was 3, to go to the toilet as she was not potty trained and only knew a few words. When they left us, we passed on pictures and a goodbye letter to them and have since heard how well they are doing. The little girl is chatting a lot now. She is happy and smiley, as are her siblings.

With the sibling group we have now, it happened so quickly, due to being an emergency placement. We got the call and a little boy and girl arrived around 2 hours later. We took them to the shops and let them pick some clothes, pyjamas and some of their favourite foods and snacks.

The children settled instantly and it’s like they have been here forever. Seeing the development in the children is just astonishing. We love to see their smiles, playing like they have no care in the world, exploring and using their imagination. Allowing them to develop is one of the best things of being foster carers.

Knowing we have given them a safe loving caring home with stability and routine is what we strive to do and seeing that what we do makes them happy is priceless.

When we think of our greatest fostering successes there are so many. What we would consider simple and routine development is in fact hard for a lot of children in foster care. So, seeing our foster children go from being unable to read to just writing their name, or hitting all the targets and milestones associated with their age is just amazing.

Watching them swimming, being part of a team, or participating in nice friendship groups where they show manners and politeness, are all huge successes. Both children learning how to snowboard with no fear and just taking it in their stride was magical. Seeing them be happy, content, and thriving is the best success of all.

We have just started fostering a newborn baby. We spoke about fostering another child for a good year with the children before we went ahead. We include them in the care of the baby all the time, such as helping with feeding and picking out baby clothes. The children have taken the little fella on in their stride and adore him. They love to show him off to their friends and call him foster brother.

Gemma and I both go to the gym every day and the children have embraced this. They come to the gym, come running with us and have recently come to support me doing the London marathon and support Gemma at her cross fit workouts and spin instructor sessions.

Because I am passionate about football and a club season ticket holder, the little fella has jumped on board. He loves to come to the games and both kids are often found singing the songs.

The support, training and advice we get from TACT is second to none and there are no words to describe the level of support we get for our SSW and the TACT team. My wife and I are a same sex couple and have felt that we have always been treated with the same respect as other foster carers. We have friends who foster through other agencies, and they always comment on how lucky we are because of how supported we feel.

People outside fostering will say, “oh they can’t have kids so have to foster”. There are other ways to have children and we feel fostering chose us, not that we had to foster. We feel destined to give these children and others a life any child should have.

DNA doesn’t make a family, love does. The love, support, advice, routine, quality of life we give the children is what it’s all about.