Mum: ‘I’m going to be a foster carer!’ Me: ….’What does that mean?’
When I was 16 I didn’t care about much else but hanging out with my friends and family, listening to music, animals and beating all my guy friends at the latest PlayStation games just to prove that girls can do anything boys can, but better! So it was a big surprise for me when my mother told me that she wanted to be a foster carer. I wasn’t all too sure what that would mean, but I knew my mother was very excited about it as she told me with a big smile on her face. She absolutely adores children and helping others who are in need, so of course it was perfect for her. But honestly I wasn’t too sure.
Being the youngest out of five I was always used to being the centre of attention and the one everyone spoils, so the idea that someone much smaller than me could be living with us for a while was bizarre to me. I had lots of questions ‘ what will these children be like?’ , ‘What if someone my age comes and we don’t get along?’, ‘Will they stay with us forever?’. My mother told me that it would be a lovely thing to do to help a child who may be in a situation where their childhood wasn’t as great as mine was and she reminded me just how much I loved and enjoyed my niece and nephew. Which was true…apart from the changing of their nappies and having them draw all over my bedroom walls I did love children as much as my mother and my whole family did too. I imagined myself being a big sister to them and teaching them all the things I know like how to balance a spoon on your nose and the importance of taking in part in games but never getting sour grapes if you lose…just get them back next time by being better!
So when the time came and we fostered a brother and sister who were under the age of 5, I was nervous but excited to get to know them. It was such a lovely experience, especially as I had never been a big sister before but now I had to help my mother look after two little ones who looked up to me.
They were funny and had so much personality and I felt myself filling up with so much love for them and just wanting them to have a great time whilst they were with us. When we were eventually told that they were going to be adopted, I was shocked and upset as it meant they would be leaving us soon. I wouldn’t be a big sister anymore. I spoke to my mother about how I was feeling and I’m glad I did as she assured me that it was a good thing and that it was always going to be short term. She also mentioned to me that they would be going to two nice people who have always wanted children and we should be happy about this. I sulked for a while and went to my room blasting out some emotional music and was thinking to myself ‘this isn’t fair!’ But when I met the adoptive parents my feelings changed and I saw that the kids really liked them. They were happy. The parents thanked us for everything we had done with the kids and that my mother was a great foster carer and they had enjoyed this time with her helping them to get to know the children. I beamed at my mother and thought I have never been so proud of her. It was true she was amazing at what she did.
Now over ten years later my mother is still fostering children and me being at home still has made me witness just what it is like to be in family who foster.
My brothers and sisters don’t live at home anymore however they are also fully involved when we foster children or mother and child placements. We are a close knit family so we like getting everyone together including the foster placements (children or mother and child), for picnics in the park, dinners and occasionally a game of bowling which will always begin with my brother thinking he can beat everyone and then soon realising he has the lowest score! Every foster placement we have had enjoyed being involved and treated like they were family, which I think is very important if you want to be a foster carer.
For me now I mostly help my mother with caring for the children we may have whether it be to babysit, to cook dinner or to help them with homework… but certainly not maths it’s always been my worst subject! So I am quite involved with the everyday care which is not an issue to me as it’s always been a part of my life for a long time now.
Fostering has affected me by making me a better person I think. Not that I wasn’t before, but it’s really made me sensitive to others situations and has made me realise how important it is for everyone to be cared for and to live somewhere where they feel safe. Which I think are little things we tend to take for granted. Just seeing children and young people progressing and making good changes in their lives, smiling more and genuinely being happy makes it all worth it.
This is also in the case of mother and child placements. Seeing mothers figuring out what’s best for their child/children and gaining advice from my mother or myself and putting it into action; then finally getting their children back in their full care. It’s enough to make you happy about what you do and experience just how rewarding fostering is.
We work hard with mothers and at times this can be challenging, as a lot don’t like the idea of someone telling them how to look after their own child. Which I feel is understandable. However being patient with them and reminding yourself just how they must feel living in another’s home and having people involved heavily in their life, helps you to connect with them. Thus they feel they can see you more like a friend who only wants the best for them and especially their child. Which hopefully results in them making better choices and leaving placement with smile on their face as they walk out the door with their child.
Overall I would say fostering is an amazing thing to do. My advice for anyone who wants to foster is to go for it ! If you love children and feel you can bring some sunshine to their life for however long you have them, then do it. Yes it can be hard at times accepting others in your home, or having another child amongst the ones you have already (including emotional teenagers like I was haha) but you will get to see just how wonderful it is to make a great impact on someone’s life.