Karen – TACT foster carer since 2018
When I was about 10 years old a friend of my mum’s visited, and she had foster children with her. Once my mum explained what a foster carer was, I immediately knew that that was what I wanted to do. However, life got in the way, I started a family and had a career in the public sector. But then in 2016 I was made redundant, and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to do what I always wanted to do: be a foster carer.
Two years after I became foster carer, I met someone who was fostering an unaccompanied child seeking asylum. I knew that was something I would find rewarding, I thought how incredible it must be to make such a difference to a young person’s life. So, I began caring for a teenage girl from East Asia who was an unaccompanied refugee, and she remains with me to this day.
When she first arrived, she was very quiet and withdrawn. She was timid and afraid of many things but was a lovely young person who was relieved to finally be in a safe place. The biggest challenges were language barriers and cultural differences. She was used to obeying adults without question and would also expect children younger than her to show her respect. This was an interesting dynamic, as I was also fostering a 13-year-old boy at the time.
This young lady has been amazing. She is hard-working, bright, very respectful and has a great sense of humour. She is exceptionally gifted at maths. Although it was difficult to get her a school place at first, she has recently been offered a place at a private school to sit her A Levels.
The hardest part has been dealing with the asylum system. The initial Home Office interview was very traumatic and took place in a cell-like room with two men conducting the interview in an aggressive manner. She has had to retell her story countless times as part of the asylum application process, she suffers trauma every time she does, which is just horrible to see.
She doesn’t understand the Home Office processes, despite me explaining them to her, and it is almost like she shuts off the thought of what might happen to her. The whole process of obtaining leave to remain once she turns 18 is a source of uncertainty and stress for both of us. Children and young people like her have been through so much and the system needs to be far more compassionate.
This young lady has fit into my family so well that I have begun the process to adopt her. We have similar personalities in many ways and she is just a lovely person. She doesn’t have any family of her own. My son, who lives away and so hasn’t seen much of her, said he agrees with what I am doing because he didn’t want anyone to be alone in this world. She just feels like a daughter to me, and my birth daughter said she was like a sister to her, so adoption seemed like the obvious thing to do.