Pets in Fostering: Gemma and Joy

Author: PCF

Did you know that owning pets is not necessarily a barrier to becoming a foster carer? Here are some of TACT Cymru foster carers who share their heart warming stories of how their pets have played a very positive role as part of a foster family.

Joy

My fostering journey started nine years ago. I was working as a manager in a fast food restaurant and the company offered staff the opportunity to be seconded to work on a community project of our choice. I decided to work in a pupil referral unit for children who are unable to attend mainstream school due to their health or behavioural issues. The experience taught me how important strong and stable foundations are for children and made me want to help more. One day when I was driving, an advert for TACT came on the radio and it was like a sign. I applied and haven’t looked back, fostering has been an incredible experience.

The past nine years we have been caring for a brother and sister. Our pets have played a big part in our fostering journey. We have two dogs, an 11-year-old Border Terrier called Ting-Tong and an 18-month-old Hungarian Puli called Marjorie and both have been amazing companions for the children.

When the children first came to live with me, they formed an instant bond with the older dog. I have grandchildren so the dog was used to the company of children and would just watch the children play, only joining in when she was invited, so the children learned to live with and take care of a pet without it demanding attention.

I used to regularly take them to the RSPCA centre, where they learned about how important it is for animals to be taken care of and looked after well in order for them to be happy and thrive. This helped them understand that this is what children need too.

The children absolutely love the dogs, and when life has its bad moments the dogs are always there with their non-judgemental listening skills. We also had a Bengal Cat that recently passed away at the age of 19. The children grieved which is something we all have to go through, but it taught them that it’s okay to be upset and to show their emotions which not all children in care are able to do. We have a memorial area in the garden as both children loved her deeply and talk about her fondly.

Gemma

My husband Jeremy and I have been fostering the past seven years. I was a support worker for the NHS for 10 years before that and saw first-hand how children thrived in foster care. We both knew we wanted to help and make a difference to a child’s life, and we had a stable and loving home environment to offer, so fostering just seemed like the right thing for us to do.

Our 8 year old Labrador, Jaz, has had a big impact on the young people we have cared for. One of the first young people who came to live with us when he was 15 years old had previously lived in a residential children’s home. He would often get into the big crate with Jaz and tell her his feelings. She really helped him with his difficult emotions. He was once overheard telling Jaz “you’re the only person I can trust”.

Jaz is very good at picking up on how people are feeling in the family and will seek to comfort them. One of the young people we cared for, Chris, has just moved out to live independently now that he’s nearly 19, but we are still very close. He absolutely adores Jaz as you can see in the photo below. Being able to take Jaz on lots of walks during lockdown was a big help for him. The only photo he has displayed in his new house is of Jaz.

Chris: “Having Jaz the Labrador in placement was great, I built up a bond with her immediately and it helped me to settle when I first arrived. Jaz loves cuddles so when I wasn’t feeling my best it was lovely to have a cuddle with her and tell her my thoughts. Jaz helped a lot through the first lockdown I used to take her for several walks just to leave the house and take time out. Having any animal in placement is of a therapeutic benefit I feel.”