“We wouldn’t change our experience of fostering siblings for the world”

Author: TACT

Tags: Autism, Fostering siblings, Long term fostering

Nicky and Darren – TACT Foster Carers since 2006
East Midlands

We originally wanted to be foster carers because we wanted to provide vulnerable children who’d had a difficult start a happy, safe home environment. Once we decided to take the first step and begin our fostering journey, we came across TACT and immediately liked their ethos and values – it was important to us that they were a charity and not a profit-making business. A TACT social worker came out to visit us, whose passion about TACT as an organisation and the work they do really shone through. This helped us decide to foster with TACT and just like that our fostering journey began.

In the 12 years we’ve been fostering with TACT, the support has been brilliant, and the training that has provided has also been of great benefit to us as foster carers. The training is pitched at a level for all learners to make it accessible for all and is always relevant. The most recent children that we’ve cared for have ASD (autism spectrum disorder) alongside having experienced trauma in the past, so as a result I’ve been able to attend Autism training, Behaviour with Attachment in Mind training and I also went to London to complete Life Story work at the Coram centre. All of these courses have helped me to understand the young people better, and hopefully will help them to understand themselves. In addition to this, we’ve had the same supervising social worker since day one, who has been a constant source of support and guidance whenever needed.

My favourite thing about fostering is seeing the progress the children make and seeing them grow up and blossom into young, independent adults. We got to see a previous long-term placement of ours move into independence, get a good job, a promotion, and then move to a different country with work. He is still a part of our family and comes home for Christmas to spend the holidays with us. One of my most special moments was when he home and said, “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.

The two siblings who are currently with us were originally placed separately when they came into care due to various issues – the boy came to us, while his sister was placed elsewhere. Through no fault of her own, the young lady came to us on an emergency temporary respite but never left. Her relationship with her brother started to blossom and she told us she felt like she belonged here. We could see the benefits of being together for both her and her brother, so when it was suggested she move on after being with us for 4 months we fought for her to stay with us.

Being together has brought both of them closer together and 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 means they keep a sense of who they are – they can travel together when they visit birth family, they can share memories and can always rely on each other for support.

Children who come into care have lost so much already, whether that be personal relationships or even schools and clubs if they’ve had to move areas. To break up another relationship they have would be heart-breaking which is why I believe it to be so important to keep siblings together whenever it’s possible. Fostering siblings can sometimes come with additional issues – there is the occasional bickering and arguing between them, but this is the case for most siblings who live with their birth families.

The biggest challenges we’ve faced have often been linked to the children’s schools – it’s been difficult sometimes to get the school to understand the issues which the children face and the reasons for why they may sometimes act a certain way. We did face a long hard fight with this issue at one stage, but with the support from our supervising social worker we were successful, and the child was able to have a pleasant last two years in school.

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 is thinking about fostering is simply go for it, as long as you are always prepared to put these young people first. There will often be lots of involvement from social workers and other professionals, so this is something to prepare yourself for.

I think potential foster carers should be open to the idea of caring for sibling groups 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 taking in these two, it has been an experience that has made us realise we would 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.


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