Fostering stories

Vicky and Dave from Somerset have been foster carers with TACT for just a few months. Here’s their story.

When Vicky first told her husband Dave she’d like to foster, he admits it wasn’t an idea that grabbed him straightaway. Their sons had only recently left home for university. Was this a case of empty nest syndrome?

“I’d never thought about fostering before,” says Vicky. “When a friend started fostering it hit me that this was something we could do. Our boys had flown the coop, but I felt we still had plenty of parenting in us. So I mentioned the idea to Dave. It was a big bombshell to drop on him – he really didn’t see it coming!”

“I could see it was important to Vicky,” Dave explains, “but we agreed to leave it for a while and come back to it again at a later date.Vicky knows how I work.”

When Vicky later saw a TACT ad in a local paper, she raised the subject again, this time more seriously. “I was always clear I didn’t want to be ‘persuading’ him,” says Vicky. “It was a definite ‘no’ unless he was 100% about it too.”

After receiving an information pack from TACT and researching on the internet, they decided to go for it.

“Applying to foster is a long, tough process, says Vicky.“I’m good at talking openly about myself, but Dave finds it harder. You’re asked so many questions. There’s lots of digging up the past. They’ve got to get it right, make sure you’re serious about fostering and that you’ve got the right skills and experience. The whole process took about 15 months.”

Soon after being approved to foster, Vicky and Dave were putting the theory into practice when 14-year-old Daniel moved in. He had a number of unsuccessful placements under his belt. “We knew there were issues,”says Dave, “but as soon as we got the green light we said we’d have him.”

Just nine weeks later, they can see they’ve started making progress, but it hasn’t been easy. Some days are great, but other days they feel like they’re going backwards.

“Daniel’s faced problems since he was nine, particularly in his relationship with his mother. He’s been in care since he was 12,” Vicky explains. “Despite being a bright lad, Daniel doesn’t go to school. It’s a shame. He could do so well academically. He just cannot ‘do’ groups. He needs lots of one-to-one time. So instead he goes to a local farm each week where he does land-based studies. He loves the farm.”

Vicky and Dave can see that they are a good match for Daniel. Their home is quiet and calm. Previous foster homes had been busy households with other children to contend with. While a bustling family setting is perfect for some some looked after children, others need more one-to-one care. It’s all about meeting the individual needs of the child.

“People who know Daniel tell us he seems more settled; they can already see a difference in him. Daniel himself says he feels at home,” says Vicky.

Although they both see a positive change in Daniel, Dave and Vicky talk frankly about how challenging the role of the foster carer can be. “We’re still establishing boundaries
with Daniel,” says Dave. “He’s had years of living by his own rules. We need to take a softly, softly approach and have to pick our battles. It’s about learning when to stand back and when to push.”

In the past Daniel has been in trouble for violent behaviour. “When he gets angry he can get violent,” says Vicky. “But since he’s been with us he’s definitely calmed down. He might seem threatening sometimes, but we’ve never actually been threatened.

“There have been times when we’ve felt completely out of our depth and questioned what we’re doing. But there haven’t been any regrets.”

“The support from TACT has been brilliant,” says Dave. “There’s always someone to talk to. Elaine especially is always such a calm presence on the end of the phone. At the start Daniel threw a lot at us. Without the support from TACT it would have been awful. They are a listening, sympathetic ear when you need someonewho understands what you’re going through and they tell you certain things you must do in specific situations.”

Dave and Vicky are very much fostering as a couple. “We are a partnership,” says Dave. “That’s really important for us – we’re doing this together.

“But if any couples are considering fostering, they must understand they need a strong relationship to make it work. Fostering can be very tough, sometimes even divisive. Daniel’s giving us a lot to deal with. He’s taken drugs in the past and still smokes cannabis. And he’s recently started taking medication for ADHD.

“Hearing first-hand experiences of other foster carers helps; it gives you an idea of what to expect.

“Although nothing really prepares you for the reality until your first child or young person arrives. The practice is very different from the theory.”

More of my interviews with regional foster carers are on TACT’s website.
Read Andy’s story.
Read Sue’s story.

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