Throughout Sons and Daughters Month this October we will be hearing from sons and daughters of foster carers as they share their experiences of growing up in a fostering household. In this blog Samantha tells us how she decided to go that extra mile for her fostered siblings and how being part of a fostering family has influenced her outlook on life.
My parents began fostering a few months before I was born, so I have been part of a fostering family for my entire life.
Makaton has been used within my family for the past 13 years, when one of my foster sisters - who had a disability which caused her to be nonverbal - first moved in with us and it was the only way we could communicate. More recently another foster sister moved in with us, she is also nonverbal and very autistic, she loves watching music videos on her IPad.
After attending a Makaton training course I decided to try and make some videos for my foster sisters. Initially I signed to some Disney songs, but I have also done a few pop songs and some Christmas ones too. I put the videos onto YouTube so that some of my sister’s friends could watch them as well. Then the videos were viewed at their schools and have since been shared with many other Makaton users in the UK and in other countries around the world.
Ups and downs
One of the best parts about fostering is being part of a big, busy family. The dynamics change depending on who is living with you, I’ve had older foster siblings, younger and some around the same age. A few have been in short term placements, but the majority were in longer or permanent placements. I’ve had the opportunity to try all kinds of different sports and hobbies because of my foster siblings’ interests. One of my foster sisters and I used to go pony riding together and I used to go rollerblading with two of my older foster brothers; there was always someone to play with.
I suppose there are times when being part of a foster family affects my social life, but it is no different from ‘ordinary’ big families. In many ways my social life involves my foster siblings anyway. Many of my friends think that I am lucky to be in such a big, diverse, family. They also think that it is wonderful that we can offer a family life to children who may be having a hard time.
The worst part of fostering is definitely saying goodbye at the end of a placement. I know that in most cases the move is planned and beneficial to the child - whether it be moving back to family, to an adoptive family or onto independence - but it can still make me feel sad to lose them. I keep in touch with some of my fostered siblings; my family is their family. However, it isn’t possible to keep in close contact with all of them, partly because there are so many, but also because some of the families of the children who are adopted want to make a fresh start. Social media has been very helpful in allowing some of my ex-foster siblings trace my family and make contact with us again, which is lovely.
I think that being part of a foster family has helped me to understand a lot more about the problems that some children and young people suffer. It has also helped me to be tolerant and caring and very family centred.
I get on very well with my biological siblings, I have three older brothers and a younger sister, Sabrina Jayne, who was also ‘born into fostering’ and is an amazing role model for our fostered siblings. Maybe our shared experience of fostering has been instrumental in creating such a strong bond between us. I also have two adopted little sisters who we initially fostered. The way in which they have changed from being ‘children who are fostered’ to ‘children who foster’ is amazing, they are so helpful and lovely with our youngest foster sister.
I have always been very close to my parents and am proud of how they have helped so many children over the years. I was very pleased when they asked me to officially be one of their ‘backup’ carers and helping them foster definitely strengthens our relationship.