Gill’s Story – fostering has changed my life.

I’m Gill and I have been a foster carer for 17 years now. I started initially with an agency but transferred to Foster with Edinburgh 4 years ago.

I was previously a qualified riding instructor, teaching all ages to ride horses. I also taught the Riding for Disabled groups which sparked an interest in care work.  I was a nursing auxiliary for a few years and attempted nursing training but preferred being an auxiliary.

When I had my own children I decided that I would like to work from home. I then looked into fostering and decided that my experience would be useful whilst hopefully helping children and young people simultaneously.  When my husband and I split up 14 years ago I continued as a single Foster carer.

I really enjoyed the process of becoming a carer.  The home visits were a chance to help decide what type of fostering would suit, also I found it interesting reflecting on strengths and challenges of my own life and how they may help others.

I always wonder if a new child or young person will like it here or what they will be like, I can only imagine how nerve wracking it must be for them and this keeps me calm.

I have only fostered teenagers, some short term or respite and some long term for years. I am approved for any age but I believe that teenagers have a  bad press and I like to give them the chance to feel safe, less judged and to give them opportunities to thrive.

I love it when kids (or adults) get back in touch or stay in touch and let me know how they are doing.  Even if they are struggling, they can talk to me about it, most of my job involves listening. Fostering teenagers can be challenging since some of the children have been through so much more than most.  Along with the confusion of hormones and body changes that we all went through, they have social media, stigma of being in care, difficulties with or lack of birth family. I really enjoy the training that Edinburgh provides as I can choose which training suits the children I’m working with, for example relative to a disability or trauma.  The support received by my link worker is great, whether it’s required advice or a sympathetic ear there is always help available. Support groups are a great way to meet other carers, to pick up ideas for activities or to hear how things are going.  I’m glad I transferred to Edinburgh,  they know me so well that the matching process is quicker and I don’t sit without a placement for months   which can happen in an agency.

Fostering has changed my life.  My own children have grown up with Fostering and it has made them more empathetic even though my eldest has autism.  I feel like I have a huge extended family full of people I have fostered over the years.  I never get bored and I’m always learning   mostly from the kids.

If you are thinking about fostering then I would suggest talking to other carers and social workers, also go along to a drop in at Edinburgh.  Don’t be scared to ask questions, even awkward ones, we’re probably used to it.  You need a  big heart, a good ear and a sense of fun and you’re half way there.