Foster carer follows in adoptive parents’ footsteps
For 44 year-old Rachel, helping young people was a dream she’d nurtured since childhood
Having been looked after by foster carers from the age of just ten months she was eventually adopted by them at the age of 13.
Why we foster
“People become foster carers for all sorts of reasons, but for me, my upbringing played a massive part. I feel lucky that I was fostered by two wonderful people who then went on to adopt me.
“Despite looking different to them – I’m mixed race whereas they’re both white British – I was never made to feel any different and always felt loved, wanted and part of the family. This is something that stuck with me over the years.
“Growing up, I was used to seeing regular comings and goings in the house and although I might not have realised it at the time, it had a huge impact on me. I think it would have been hard not to have been affected in some way; seeing all the children my parents were able to help.
How it works for us
“Justin and I had always intended to have two children then adopt a third. But because of my background we were encouraged to give fostering a try first before adopting, which we were happy to do, so we were approved to provide short-term and respite foster care.
“Over the years children have come to us for varying lengths of time, from a few weeks to several years, including some with physical and behavioural issues. We often found that these issues stemmed from a difficult start to life and that with time and perseverance, huge progress could be made with these children in a relatively short space of time.
“We once looked after a baby who was unable to make eye contact or smile. We spent many hours attempting to make eye contact with him, talking to him reassuringly and making sure he was our main focus. In a matter of weeks we got the smiles and eye contact you’d expect from any other child his age.
“Another child came to us with attachment issues, having had many unsuitable people in his life, and he knew virtually no boundaries. He was also overweight, suffered from asthma and had some behavioural problems. Although he didn’t stay with us for long, with understanding, support and practical adjustments such as diet and exercise, we saw rapid improvements to both his physical and emotional well-being.”
The children are part of the Family
“We’d always gone into fostering with the intention of adopting but after several years of providing short-term care we just never got to that point. Fostering short-term meant that we could help many children and build strong attachments with them.
“We’d been providing short-term care for one boy for four years. A lovely child, he’d never really known life without us and our sons had grown particularly close to him. They were devastated at the prospect of him moving on; something which almost became a reality at one stage and it was at that point that we knew we could never let him go. So we decided to foster him on a long-term basis which means he’ll have a home with us for however long he needs us.
“We’ve always fostered as a family and have supported each other along the way. Justin works full time in a garage but he’s just as involved as I am when he’s at home, whether it’s doing the night feeds, helping out around the house, or for moral support. Likewise, my sons Alex and Gabriel, who were four and eight when we started fostering, were always hands-on right from the start and loved all the children who came to live with us.
“We all look back at those early years with fond memories but it wasn’t always plain sailing; from sibling rivalry with one of our first placements to our sons’ sadness at seeing the children move on… But as a family you work through these things together and you learn from experience.
“These days I feel we’ve got the balance right and our social worker recently said that the arrangement we have ‘just fits’. Now aged 15 and 19, our sons have grown into wonderful, caring individuals, which I believe is due largely to being part of a foster family.”
Just go for it
“There are many reasons why children go into care. In my case, being born out of wedlock to mixed parents meant my birth mum was under immense pressure from those around her and she felt she had no choice but to place me into care.
“Back then things were different and thankfully times have changed. But my adoptive family was my lifeline and without their support, things might have turned out very differently for me.
“Children entering the care system today are no different to how I was back then; they too need and deserve the best possible start to life and want someone to be proud of them. This cannot be possible unless more people come forward.
“When I tell people I’m a foster carer the response is often, ‘I’ve always wanted to do that’, so my advice is, why not just go for it? I’m proud to be able to make such a big difference to children’s lives. Fostering is a way of life; something that you need to be prepared to commit to 100 per cent. But the rewards are immense and definitely worth it.”
Interested in Foster Care?
Check out the foster care webpages for more info