My childhood was amazing. I was fortunate to be born into a very loving, caring, and supportive family. I soon realised that because my older brother was fostered that not everyone was as fortunate at birth and that some families for a host of reasons were not healthy, happy, or safe places for young people to thrive.
When I was old enough to understand, my parents explained why they chose to foster my older brother. My parents went through some challenges to conceive a child of their own, and with a real desire to become parents they decided that fostering was the right path for them. I’m very grateful that they did as they believe fostering my older brother helped them to find their higher purpose and because they were busy tending to his needs, the focus on having a child of their own shifted and in a relaxed state I came along naturally with no need for medical intervention. So, I think that means I have an awful lot to thank my brother for.
Fostering was therefore something that I was born into. It was my normal. The relationship I had with my older brother was like no other. He was protective, fun and as a keen sportsman he taught me how to compete. Looking back, it was playing football and cricket with him and his friends that gave me a great insight into teamwork, leadership, and perseverance. Thankfully, it is impossible for an older brother to stay mad and upset at his little sister for too long, even if you have caught him out of the game, causing his mates to laugh in hysterics. Teaching me to play cricket helped to teach him compassion (smile).
There were lots of other kids over the years. Some stayed for a week or two, with others staying for longer. They all had their own stories to share and because they were often older than me, they taught me what was cool, to laugh at myself and be silly, sometimes they made me cry and sometimes they were even a shoulder to cry on. Looking back, it felt like I always had lots of friends, holiday’s and birthdays were more fun and the house was always busy and exciting. Of course, there were times when one of the foster children would behave badly towards me, or I’d get upset because someone was moving on, but these were all important life lessons that meant my childhood was interesting and colourful.
Although it was amazing to be surrounded by older foster kids, I really longed for a younger brother and sister. You can imagine my delight when my mum announced she was expecting twins. This was the best news ever and on my 6th Birthday when celebrating in the garden with my primary school friends, an ambulance arrived to whisk my mum off to the maternity ward to give birth. I remember vividly the ambulance driver dishing out the jelly and ice-cream in the hope that it would hurry my mum along. A few years after the twins arrived, we were blessed with another brother. We therefore did not foster for a while until our youngest brother was of secondary age. With my older brother now having flown the nest and with me heading off to university my parents had the desire and space in the family home to begin fostering again.
At the time I felt that my parents who had given so much to many young people really should be focusing more on enjoying their own lives now that we weren’t so dependent upon them…but they decided it was something that they wanted to do. There were lots more children who benefitted from their experience and the loving environment that they created.
For over the last decade they have provided care to a trio of siblings and I am so pleased that they have done so as it has meant that they could remain together. The children were 1, 2 & 3 when they arrived and as I write this, we are celebrating the youngest’s 12th Birthday. I have witnessed my parents give and gain a lot from being registered foster carers. It has certainly kept them busy, active, and fulfilled.
5 years ago, I bought a large house and my parents, the foster children, my 21-month-old son and I all now live under one roof. We are a growing number of multigenerational families in the UK choosing to live together. From my perspective, it works well, and I would recommend it to those contemplating taking this path. At first it took a little getting use too but now we are into a rhythm and we are enjoying the benefits of being together.
Fostering young people is incredibly rewarding but it is also very challenging at times. The good thing about working with an agency like Amicus is that they are with you every step of the way. The support they afford does not just reach out to the foster children and my parents. They also support sons and daughters just like me. This helps when dealing with challenging behaviour, interacting with biological families, and experiencing exhaustion from putting so much effort into the care of our foster children. Many young people in the care system have unfortunately had a traumatic history. As a result, they may experience mental health problems, developmental delays, behavioural disorders and learning disabilities. Not all problems surface straight away so the extent of a child’s issues may not be evident from the beginning.
Family life is so important to our well-being. Families provide personal stress relief, family meals contribute to healthy diets, family bonds help to regulate personal emotions and family closeness help people to live longer. Families are so important because these bonds and relationships give us all a sense of belonging and help keep everyone balanced in life. Fostering has certainly helped to enhance my family and life in ways that I would have never imagined, and I am very excited about what the future holds for us all.