Finlay’s parents became foster carers over a decade ago and even though he has moved out already, the 26-year-old is still very involved in his family’s fostering. Finlay is certain that he became the person he is today thanks to his upbringing. He considers fostering a gift worth giving and argues that foster carers need to be more heard and supported better.
My family’s fostering story began more than ten years ago when a wee boy with a beaming smile arrived onto our doorstep. He marked the moment when my family’s and my understanding of the word ‘family’ would change forever. My mum refers to us as a ‘liquorice all sorts’ family. Together, we laugh, we love, we fight. We are there for each other and pull each other up.
Fostering as a teenager
It was a few months shy of me making the big move up to high school when my little brother moved in. Since then my family has continually fostered. We usually have children stay with us long term, but we also had an emergency placement once and two mum and baby placements. I must admit that growing up with my birth sister, Taylor, as part of a foster family has not always been without its challenges.
I barely remember anything that came before the endless whirlwind of social workers and panels, or the loss of a substantial amount of my parents’ time so they could care for and support my brothers and sister. I often felt jealous of my them when I was a teenager because they got so much attention. However, I also soon understood how lucky I was and to this day, being a big brother to these special kids is one of the proudest achievements of my life.
Fostering was a learning curve for me, and I gained incredible life skills. Through fostering I have learnt to share, to celebrate the ordinary (like getting my brother to eat more than canned foods) and to revel in the extraordinary (when it feels the weans have broken through some inner barrier, for instance).
The role at home
I think as I became a young adult and moved away from home, the role I increasingly play is to support my mum and dad through the harder times in our families. I am an ear for my mum to vent to and sometimes a role model for the weans. The support for foster carers is nowhere near adequate. It can all too often feel like it is your family against the world, and although the motivation is for the kids to be treated as if they are your own the system itself can feel cold and alien.
As an older brother, I like to think that I help my brothers and sisters to be confident in themselves. I encourage them not to limit what they think they can achieve in the world due to their past.
The importance of fostering
I think fostering is one of the most amazing things in the world. It is incredibly challenging, complicated and may at times feel like a thankless task. However even providing a safe place to laugh, love and be loved for one day can revolutionise a child’s life. That’s a gift worth giving. And yes, fostering will impact your children, but who says the impact will be negative? Think long term, think about the kind of human you want your birth children to be... I couldn’t be prouder of who I am today, and I am certain that this is in large part down to my experience growing up in a fostering family.
Advice for sons and daughters
I think it is important for sons and daughters to check their own privileges. Your emotions, wants and needs matter, but don’t get stuck not seeing the woods for the trees. I have learnt that love isn’t finite and once you realise that your family can expand and grow exponentially that is the lightning moment. Love creates love.