How a foster carer changed my life
“You can’t explain what someone means to you when you just love them can you?”
This was the amazing way 19 year-old Kirsty* described what her former foster carer Diana* meant to her!
Kirsty found herself needing foster care aged 15, after a traumatic family bereavement.
“When I arrived at Diana’s* she wasn’t what I’d imagined.” Kirsty admitted she had expected a much older person!
“Thinking back I was in a really awful place back then. It’s funny the things you remember that made a real difference. She was really cool, didn’t overpower me and cooked pizza and curly fries for my first tea, I’m not sure why that sticks in my mind!”
Moving into a family which had another foster child could have created issues, but Kirsty said their relationship was just like siblings, loving each other one day, arguing the next.
“That was so important to me, it helped me settle, feel part of a real family and gradually I realised I was safe, secure and surrounded by people who cared deeply for me.”
Unused to this, it took Kirsty a while to open up. Given the time and space she needed however, she soon adapted to her environment and felt comfortable talking about her problems and concerns.
“From feeling that everything was actually happening to someone else, not me, to realising exactly what I had had to deal with and knowing I had the support to do this was amazing.
“Diana listened, gave me the stability and security I needed, allowed me to grieve properly for the first time and be a child again. I could never thank her and her family enough for their support during my time of need.
“Without this I know I wouldn’t be where I am now, four years on, living independently and studying hard to get into acting. Life’s not always easy, but I know from experience during the darkest times there is always a glimmer of light. Diana was my glimmer of light!
“I’d encourage anyone thinking they could help a teenager like me to find out more about fostering. It won’t be for everyone, but I know there are many more wonderful people like Diana out there. It’s not who you are or how rich you are that’s important, it opening up your heart and your home, having empathy and caring that matter.”
*Not their real names
Fostering a teenager – what’s it really like?
Trafford Council is recruiting foster carers, especially those interested in fostering a teenager, to help it maintain sufficient loving, caring family environments for children and young people facing difficulties.
It doesn’t matter if they are younger, older, single, married or in a relationship, it’s having the passion, time and energy to make a difference and being able to offer a place in their home that’s important.
So what’s fostering a teenager like? Here’s what two experienced foster carers think.
Single-mum Diana* said: “I got talking to a woman playing with her children around a pool on holiday. It turned out she was their foster carer. I was so inspired I contacted Trafford straightaway, from Majorca!
“I wanted to give teenagers the love, commitment and support my children had. Fostering brings challenges, but seeing teenagers flourish and achieving their potential is absolutely amazing.”
For Gaynor*, a change in family circumstances meant she had some spare time.
“I decided through fostering I could offer support in a crisis. Providing a loving home environment and helping foster children feel safe and secure is so rewarding. Like all families we have difficulties, but working with young people at their pace helps them settle and become part of a family. There really is no greater feeling.”
Diana and Gaynor say it saddens them when young people are stereotyped, they said people should remember how they acted and dressed as teenagers!
Both agree foster carers need good communication skills, be non-judgemental, patient, a strong advocate for young people and provide a listening ear.
“Fostering impacts on the whole family. It’s important you involve birth children, partners and wider family and friends from the start in discussions and listen to them. Their full support helps create a supportive family environment.
“We’d urge anyone considering fostering to enquire, we don’t regret doing it.”
*not their real names