Sandra – TACT Foster Carer Since 2004
Sandra was 16 when she started looking after her six-week-old nephew. In the rich tradition of kinship care prevalent amongst communities of colour, she and her family brought him up. In the same vein, Sandra spent a large part of her life in childcare roles, before becoming a TACT foster carer in 2004. Amongst them was the Assistant Social Worker role where she first heard about foster carers and TACT.
When I was told about my first foster child, I was extremely excited! He was ten when he arrived, and I focused on creating a routine as soon as possible to help him to settle. I made sure his room was welcoming, comfortable and age appropriate. The first things I taught him, were self-care and how to look after his bedroom. It is important to start small.
Building day to day habits are an important part of children feeling secure. Some children arrive having never brushed their teeth and others have but not consistently, so I build up those good habits. I get them registered with GP, the dentist, contact their school and introduce myself or, if they are starting a new school, meet the teachers first. Gradually I help build their life skills so that when they leave you, they’re equipped to look after themselves.
Those first few weeks were about getting to know each other and my family. My three birth children were eight, six and three at the time. I prepared them by explaining everything to them. I told them that welcoming a foster child into our home was about being kind and having an open heart. Fostering has had a positive influence on my children. My eldest daughter is now a Child Protection Manager, my second daughter is an Early Years Practitioner and my son, is the creative one, he loves music and fashion.
Sandra’s second daughter, says, ‘Being part of a fostering household opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone has a good home, so where we have a good home we should open them to young people in less fortunate positions.
‘My advice is to be open and honest as much as possible with your own children. When putting boundaries in place help your children understand that these children aren’t being treated differently for any other reason than their need for different things, that they may be acting out for different reasons and haven’t had that opportunity to learn boundaries in the same way’.
Seeing the young people come out the other side, the change happening in that young person and when they turn around and say ‘thank you’ makes fostering worthwhile. Our first foster child left after 11 years with us, aged twenty-one, but he is still very much part of our family. And he now works for TACT Connect, giving back to the care experienced community.
Having grown up in a culture where family and relatives are there for each other, there are definite similarities in how TACT always strive to do their best; they listen, learn, and have a commitment to growth. Along with other foster carers and TACT networks, people are there for you. We grow together and all for the betterment of the children and young people in our care.