“When young people tell us we were the only ones who believed in them”

Author: TACT

Tags: Children with additional needs, Long term fostering, Short term fostering

Marian – TACT Foster Carer since 2000

Seeing the difference which a friend of mine was making to a child’s life by fostering really encouraged me to start myself. I’d had some traumatic experiences as a child, which led to me wanting to care for vulnerable children and ensure they didn’t have to go through the same things I did. We saw an advert for TACT and liked the fact they were a not-for-profit charity – they really seemed to be centred around providing the best care for children, which was a stark contrast to what we’d been informed about of other agencies by other foster carers.

We have cared exclusively for adolescents so have encountered a number of challenges throughout our placements, including drug abuse, alcohol abuse and self-harm. We’ve worked tirelessly to support each young person through this stage of their lives, knowing that they’ve been let down so often by so many in the past which has often led them to the path they find themselves on. It’s not always successful; sometimes recognising we are unable to keep the young person safe and they need to move to other placements, sometimes needing to end a placement if it was affecting the safety of other young people who were in our care. However, we’ve largely been able to have a positive impact on the lives of children in our care – the most rewarding part of fostering for us is watching young people grow into individuals and creating their own identities.

It’s not always visible at the time, but one of our favourite things about fostering is being able to recognise the difference you’ve made to a young person’s life. We’ve stayed in contact with several of the children who were in our care and they’ve continued to visit us, sometimes years later! It’s always wonderful to see how they are growing up and settling down – one of our biggest fostering successes is when we have young people tell us that even though they didn’t realise it at the time, they realise now that what we were doing for them back then was the right thing. We’re now foster grandparents to several children and couldn’t be prouder.

TACT have been an incredibly helpful and positive influence throughout our fostering journey. Even though we’ve been fostering for 17 years, the training is always worth our time and we learn something new at every event, which benefits us and the young people we care for greatly. We also can’t fault the support provided by TACT – we get regular calls, visits and out of hours support if necessary. It’s so comforting to know that there is always someone at the end of the phone 24/7 to assist us with any problems we may encounter.

Fostering has helped our own children have a much more open view of the world we live in and provided them with views, morals and skills which they wouldn’t have gained if we had not become foster carers. It’s been a challenging way of life but definitely a rewarding one! When young people come back and tell us about the difference we made to their lives and that we were the only ones who ever believed in them, it really puts a lump in our throats.

Specific skills that, based on our experiences, are needed to be a foster carer include being non-judgemental, having empathy by the bucket-load, and having plenty of time, patience and energy! There can be some challenges, but the rewards and what you get out of fostering make it well worth it. To anyone who is thinking about becoming a foster carer: with the right support, training and frame of mind, you can do it.