Sarah’s Story – A Foster Carer from Lancashire
Sarah from Lancashire has been a foster carer for seven years. As well as fostering, Sarah has four children (two girls aged 16 and six, two boys aged 13 and two) and a step-son aged 11. Sarah, along with her husband and the children, has provided a caring, loving home to many teenagers over the years.
‘I’ve always felt fostering was my life purpose. My dad was brought up in a foster family. His experience was great but he never knew his real family. I’ve always encouraged the children to keep in contact with their birth families where possible.’
‘I began with calling my foster care agency, they were so helpful, and everything fell into place.’
Sarah, believes her ‘unconventional’ family experience helps children feel at home and gives them the sense that they can belong and fit in.
Mainly fostering teenagers, Sarah remembers the first young person that came to stay with them.
‘It was the Easter holidays and all the children were at home. It was a rocky start at first but we made sure the first few days were really nice. We all did lots of stuff together and the girls shared sweets with the other children.’
‘It was a challenging first fostering experience but there is no easy introduction to fostering. Our foster care agency was so helpful, we discussed strategies for dealing with the children. Once, when we all went on holiday to France they would call every day to make sure we were ok.’
Sarah’s next foster child was another teenage girl. ‘This time we had some experience to draw upon so planned things better, such as meeting the parents etc.’
‘We felt really positive about the whole experience as the teenager kept in touch with her family and her relationship with them began to improve over time. We really enjoyed having her here.’
‘Eventually she returned to live with her mum, which was the best outcome. It was sad to see her go but it was so positive to see her work through her relationship with her mother. She’s kept us informed on her personal developments such as getting into college. We still see her now. She’s got her own children who are gorgeous.’
‘Your time spent with a child may be short, maybe only a year but it can be such an important time. You really can impact on the rest of their lives, it’s so amazing.’
While Sarah encourages more people to think about fostering, she’s the first to admit it can be challenging.
‘When you start fostering, it changes your life,’ says Sarah. ‘You see and go through so much with the young people you take into your home, but the support you give them is vital. Fostering is a profession and it’s not one you go into lightly.’
‘You don’t need to be in a relationship to foster but for us fostering is a partnership. I manage most things because my partner is out at work although he’s still very hands on.’
‘It’s important for me to have someone to lean on and to share things with. If you’re going to foster as a single person, it is good to have really strong support around you.’
And how do their children cope with fostering? ‘Our own children have never had an issue with ‘sharing’ mum – it’s a way of life for us. Rather than it being about mum and dad fostering, we’re a family that fosters. It makes for a great family life. The kids enjoy it. They appreciate meeting and talking to new people and sharing different experiences. ‘
So what would Sarah say to anyone thinking out fostering?
‘There’s no ‘ideal’ foster carer,’ says Sarah. ‘Everyone brings their own special something. I’d say good life experience, being an understanding, caring, patient person and a good listener would all stand you in good stead. And from a practical point of view, you need a spare room.’
‘My advice is pick up the phone and talk to the Fostering Agency to get the info pack and take it from there. There are lots of different processes to becoming a carer and at any point you can change your mind, so there is no pressure‘
‘Fostering is not for everyone but for me it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.’
If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer and have room in your heart and your home to help children and young people contact us submitting your details in the ‘Apply to Foster’ or ‘Call Me Back’ section or email firstname.lastname@example.org