Karen – TACT Foster Carer Since 2015
I have always wanted to foster, but decided to wait until my three children were old enough before I pursued my ambition. I finally decided to go for it after my son, then aged 16, and I watched a TV program about a teenage girl who, thanks to her foster family, was able to fulfil her ambition to go to college. My son said, ‘we could do that for someone’ and so we did.
I chose to go with TACT Cymru as they are a charity. The application process was quite intense and involved reflecting on my own life experiences, but my TACT social worker was super reassuring and confident that I would be successfully approved to foster, which I was in 2015.
My first foster child was a girl aged 14 who stayed with me for four months. She had family problems and struggled with her mental health. I was extremely nervous when she first moved in, I wanted everything to be just right for her. She did not completely move in with me at first, I initially saw her most evenings and had her at weekends until she finally stayed with me full time. I was keen that she had everything she needed. Having found out she liked art I bought her some art supplies. We got on really well and I learned a lot from that first fostering experience.
Since then, I have welcomed several foster children into my home. When they first move in there is a lot of walking on eggshells by both parties. I don’t want to be too much and overwhelm them, and the child is often reserved and holds back at first. Slowly you can see what they need from the relationship. I found it beneficial to do some outdoor activities as a way of quiet bonding (walks, paddle boarding etc). We did this as a family with my daughter and her partner. It also helps that we have a dog, pets are very therapeutic for children and the dog is always happy and eager to go out.
My greatest fostering success is probably P, who is now 17 and moved in with me when she was 12 years old. Pretty quickly after living together, we knew things were going well and agreed that we would like it to be a more permanent arrangement. P had experienced instability in her life up until then which had negatively affected her. So, a long-term care order was approved, which means that P can stay with me until she is at least 18 and hopefully beyond. This has had a really positive impact on P and made her much more relaxed and happier in herself, which is so rewarding to see. She is really ambitious and wants to go to university to become a criminal psychologist.
P has become a member of my family and I reassure her that that will always be the case, no matter what. She gets on so well with all my birth children and grandchildren and has been with me to South Africa to see my daughter, and to London to see my son. P and I constantly talk about our plans, such as me being a granny to her future children.
I enjoy fostering older children as I feel they are an often-forgotten group but once you connect it is wonderful to see them blossom into young adults. They can be difficult, as teenagers have hormones racing but they have a great need to be loved and respected more than younger children due to a rough start. They are scared, feisty, funny and they keep you young and in touch with modern times. It’s hilarious when they tell you you’re old… that makes me laugh.
What I have learned as a foster carer is that slow and steady wins the race. Being patient, gentle, consistent, listening to the child and trying to understand what they have been through are all vital. The children can sometimes have trouble coping and test your patience. Their backgrounds are varied, and you may not know everything that is needed to know, so you have to find out while you go along. I find that always being honest with the children helps. And it has been really helpful taking the courses that TACT provides to learn new ways to care for the children and manage any challenges that arise.
I have been lucky to foster such great children. It helps that all my birth children are really happy for me and are super supportive. I thoroughly recommend being a foster carer. Yes it is challenging at times, and I know finding the right home can take time for some, but when it works it is so rewarding for both carer and child.
Read more about fostering teenagers.