A growing family

Foster carers Gail and Sharon share their story of their growing family.

How long have you been fostering?

Gail has been doing respite for 21 years; Sharon for 15 years, we both became full time foster carers two and a half years ago.

How many children have you looked after?

For respite, wow, too many to remember! We had one young man for 20 years for respite! As well as many, many more. Full time fostering the four we have at present.

What ages of children do you currently look after?

We have an 11 year old, two eight year olds (twins) and a five year old.

Who lives at home with you?

Our niece, four foster children and two dogs!

Why did you decide to foster?

We had been doing respite for families for years and were then asked to do an assessment on a child with autism who was living in residential care to see if she would cope in a home. We ended up taking her full time because we just adored her. Then we added another three!

Do you feel your careers as nursery nurses help you with fostering? If so, how?

Yes definitely, we both worked in special education as nursery nurses so we had experience of working with children with additional needs, so we sort of knew what we were getting into.

Why did you decide to foster with the City of Edinburgh Council?

We lived in Edinburgh and had always taken Edinburgh children for respite so it just happened naturally.

Has fostering made a difference to the children you have looked after?

In a big way. Our eldest was living in residential care and had been there for four years. She wasn’t toilet trained, or communicating very appropriately; she was a bit of a wild child. She is now doing really well, fully toilet trained, speech has improved drastically and she is using PECS to communicate. She has recently moved schools because she is doing so well she needed a challenge. She has just changed so much it’s great to see and to be part off.

What do you get out of fostering?

Loads! We get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the kids improve and develop in so many ways. We have made many new friends through carers groups. It’s nice to know that we can use our experience and time to make a difference to children and make them part of our family.

What support do you get?

We are very lucky to have a very good family and friends support network who are all experienced in child care and additional needs so we get lots of support from them. We also have a very good Council Family Based Care support worker who is always there when we need her.

What kind of training have you done?

Most of our training has been done through our workplace from HNC Childcare and Education, first aid, moving and handling to safer caring to name but a few! At present we are both doing an attachment course.

What effect has it had on your family life?

Well three years ago there were two of us and two dogs now we have a family of seven people and two dogs, so our whole life has changed really. It has made it a very busy household which sometimes requires military precision to make it work but we work as a team and wouldn’t change it for the world.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Knowing that daily we are making a difference to the lives of the kids in our care. Helping the kids, seeing them developing and growing. We have a lot of fun with them as well as helping and teaching them.

What are the challenges you face?

Two of the children we look after have additional needs so that brings its challenges.

Like any other large family it can take a bit more organisation and planning especially preparing for holidays, days out and managing school runs but we plan and communicate well in advance and it usually works out.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking about fostering?

Go for it! When you foster a child and see the difference you can actually make using your skills and expertise it is the best feeling in the world. Yes you will have glitches, and problems will arise but there are many, many experienced carers out there who are always willing to help and support you.

If you’ve been inspired by Gail and Sharon, could you become a foster carer?