Abby – TACT Foster Carer since 2014
I am a mum of two birth children, or ‘belly babies’ as I call them. Their father and I had planned that after having children of our own we would keep a space for a ‘heart baby’ – a foster child in other words. So, when the time was right we started our fostering journey together, but we have since divorced so I have continued as a single foster carer.
We chose to foster with TACT because it fit our criteria of being a not for profit foster agency that could fully support us during the long-term commitment of fostering a child.
Now that I have been fostering for some years, I have learned that children adapt very differently to each other when they first arrive at their foster home. My first foster child was initially very quiet, so we allowed her to observe us doing everyday activities, such as cooking dinner and chatting about the day, until she felt like she wanted to be involved. In comparison, our current foster son marched straight in with his carrier bag of toys and asked where his bedroom was!
Our foster daughter was with us for 10 months. Our second foster child – the five-year-old boy who confidently walked into our home and our lives five years ago, is still with us and will be staying permanently. I have looked after him as a single carer with lots of support from my two daughters now aged 15 and 20. My partner has now started foster training so that he can officially become his parent which he is really excited about as they get on so well!
Seeing the positive changes in our son has been so rewarding. He used to run away from school, mostly just to check on me and the girls at home, now he goes to school every morning without any problems. Watching him taking part in a school Christmas concert for the first time ever at the age of nine was overwhelming for me. A lot of successes are in little things, like when you get a call from the school for example to just check in and not because there’s an issue.
When he first moved in he used to struggle to get a night of sleep without terrors and fear, now he just curls up and sleeps in the dark, at peace, knowing he is happy and safe. Watching a child slowly decompress from being angry, nervous and compulsive, to relaxed, laughing and trusting, really changes how you see life. Many people wouldn’t understand why I might be doing a happy changes dance in the supermarket and congratulating myself for being parent of the year.
My daughters just can’t remember life without this boy, he is their cheeky little brother. They’ve been incredibly supportive, patient and flexible. My oldest daughter has always been maternal and hands-on with him and he respects her authority when he is being naughty. My youngest daughter loves him just as much as her sister, but has no interest in engaging with him when he is behaving badly and will inform him so, before leaving the room. Both girls are helpful in their own right and he knows he’s loved by both of them.
Of course the current situation with coronavirus has brought challenges. We’ve had some problems with his sleep routine as he hasn’t been able to burn off as much energy now that he’s away from school. On the whole, however, we have coped with the lockdown well. We are lucky enough to have a garden, and the whole family is aware that other families have it harder, so we are just grateful to be together and healthy.
Being forced to spend all our time in the house has brought some positives. It’s been nice to have the time to enjoy working through puzzles and games together. Our foster son absolutely loves building things and the lockdown has allowed him to indulge his passion. Recently he built a 7,000 piece Lego Yoda!
I think the main thing I am trying to keep focus on is that it that we come out of this time with strong healthy relationships. We do a few hours of school work in the morning but are not striving to do ‘school’ – but instead just to keep some routine and maintain some skills. To keep the fun and laughter where possible, and just relax into what is a very unique time that we will all get to look back on.
Lockdown or not, fostering can take a lot of energy – mental, physical and emotional – often all at the same time! I have learnt that you need to establish certain self-care habits and remember that you are not alone. There needs to be a large margin of flexibility, and the constant reminder that very few things are the end of the world and most things will pass. When times get difficult, it is also good to remember the purpose of why you are doing this – you are giving children a safe loving home which will give them a chance for a better life and eventually make them better parents themselves.
Read more about short term fostering.