Helen and John – TACT Foster Carers since 2018
Fostering has always been a part of my life as my mother fostered when I was a young girl. My husband John and I had been thinking about fostering ourselves for years as we believed we had managed to give all our children a good life. Between us we have seven children, three of them together and four from our previous marriages. We are therefore used to bringing up other people’s children and we have coped really well over the years. Five of our children are already adults, three of them moved on to independent living over the last year and even though the others still live with us,the house started to feel like an empty nest. We suddenly had two spare bedrooms, and we felt ready to offer them to children in care who desperately needed looking after. Our older children were understanding and encouraging, and the younger ones were just excited to have new friends to play with.
I went online to research several fostering agencies and TACT really stood out to me. I loved the fact that they are a charity and I enjoyed reading articles written by other foster carers. The application process was thorough – it can be difficult as you have to open yourself up completely, but it is also positive as it totally prepares you for the reality of fostering children. Nevertheless, the whole process was worthwhile when we found out we were about to have our first placement.
Our first placement was very short, but lovely and successful. A 15-year-old girl came to us for eight days for respite because she was causing her long-term foster carers issues. She used to leave the house to hang out with her friends and stayed out all night. However, as we live in a different city where she didn’t know anyone, she wasn’t tempted to leave the house at night and she settled in with us really nicely. As it was the summer holidays, we kept her entertained by taking her swimming, bowling and shopping which she enjoyed very much. She had such a great time that after a week, she confessed she doesn’t want to go back to her long-term carers which wasn’t our intention at all. We started to talk to her about her foster carers and she came to realise how many positive things they had done for her. Eventually, when they came to pick her up, she ran out, hugged them and promised she is going to try harder to make things work.
As our eleven-year-old birth daughter has special needs, we feel equipped to help other children with special needs and we currently care for a little seven-year-old boy with learning difficulties. He is a very lively boy and having had three boys of my own close in age, I don’t see much difference. He has only been with us for a few weeks, but he has settled in really well and the fact that we have children close to his age definitely made it easier. He is not great with names, so he just refers to them as big sister and little sister. He even started calling us mum and dad, which is lovely, but we discouraged it because he does see his birth parents regularly. Now he just calls us “you, guys” which makes us laugh. This is his third placement in two months, but we hope he will stay with us for a long time.
Fostering can be hard work, but when our foster son has a good day and he is happy, it gives us a warm feeling which makes everything worthwhile. There are so many children out there who need a bit of care and it feels wonderful to be able to help at least some of them. However, the world needs much more foster carers so if you can, do get in touch with TACT. They have given us brilliant support and no matter what happens, we never feel like we are on our own.
Due to consultations with their care-experienced young people, TACT have now changed the term ‘Respite Fostering’ to ‘Short Break Fostering’. Read their article Respite Foster Care: A Change Of Language.
Find out more about Short Break Fostering.