As the daughter of foster carers, Nicole Conlan has been part of a family who fosters for the past eight years. She shares her thoughts on what her experience has been…
“It’s been seven years of me being a young foster carer and nobody has ever asked for my opinion or will ever see how difficult foster caring is until they are in my shoes, and are seeing it from a young carer’s point of view. Seven years ago I was eight, and I’ve been a young foster carer for almost half my life. From year one of becoming a young foster carer I had no clue my life would be like it is now, nor that I would be the person I am today. Foster caring has its beautiful ups and its major downs. People just expect foster caring to be easy, and don't really realise how important the small details are.
I'm here to speak for all of the sons and daughters of foster carers. I'm here to give all of them a voice, because yes, foster caring is about giving the kids a better home and start in life, but what about the people who get them to that stage? What about the people who are willing to give up things that no other family has to? Share things with people that they don’t know? People who have been brought into their life with such a difficult background, it’s not their fault but it’s people like us who help them, care for them and accept them as part of the family.
Foster caring has taught me life skills that other kids would love to have and also made me a better independent young lady. So therefore I do not regret one bit of fostering because it has brought lovely times to our family and although times get tough, there’s always a rainbow after a storm, isn’t there?
We are such a close family; we would not have got through fostering if we weren’t. I'm very close with my sisters, but being the youngest I feel like I do feel the biggest impact as I didn’t really understand what fostering was and what it was going to be like.
The past five years were the toughest as it wasn't just one foster child being added into my family, it was three. They do say that two is plenty and three is a crowd, I don’t usually believe that saying, but in this situation I did. It was hard with the youngest sibling being aged 4. He was a confused child who should have been moved into a separate family from his brother and sister from the start. That way he would have had a much better start in life, however in this case this was not a current idea at the time.
My mum and dad are such generous, caring and strong people and have a bond that no other couple would have. They've gone through so much together and will always see things through to the end. They are such open and understanding parents which is so important for becoming foster carers as it is such a heavy weight pulled off the foster child’s shoulders.
Besides the fact that the fostered children were brought into a new home with new people, it was very difficult for my sisters and I because we didn’t get as much attention as we had, we didn’t really have those family days out like we used to, and just the whole daily routine for our family had completely changed. I most certainly miss it a lot but there are some things we have to let go.
This wasn’t just like a normal job for my mum and dad. It wasn't even a job that only included my mum and dad, it included all of us but I was at such a young age and nobody explained to me what I had to do. There were social workers for the foster children, and our parents, but not us. I’ve matured so quickly and grown up so quickly, from being knocked out of my normal, fun and crazy childhood, I had to suddenly become a responsible adult that had to set a good example for others. But, I like my maturity; I'm proud of myself and the fact that I figured everything out on my own, became the person I am by following my own little path. It wasn't easy but it was worth it.
There are always negatives to positive things, but you've always just got to pick yourself up and keep moving. Life isn’t always easy when you are fostering but I cherish every moment of it, the bad as well as the good, because I’ve learned to stand on my own two feet with problems put in my hands and figure them out by the click of my fingers.
I would like there to be a change for the kids like me, for there to be maybe a worker for us who can ask how we are feeling about fostering and maybe the things that we are struggling to cope with. I’d like us all to get together and have a day out where we could get away from the house and responsibility that we have and then share ideas that we have and keep the fun factor in fostering as best we can.”