TV star and the Westminster Government’s fostering ambassador, Lydia Bright, grew up in a fostering household. For Sons and Daughter’s Month 2016 we asked fellow daughter of a foster carer, Madison Clarke, to find out more about how Lydia’s upbringing has influenced her.
How did your family start fostering?
When I was thirteen months old my mum was in a restaurant when she saw a lady with lots of children who appeared to be struggling, so offered to help. After talking with the lady my mum found out that she was a foster career. Knowing that my nan had been in foster care, she was interested to find out more so contacted the local council and the rest is history!
What adjustment had to be made to accommodate having such a large family?
We’d have to share rooms and toys, while making sacrifices about going on certain trips. But at that time, and looking back on it now, there were always more positives than negatives. It was just what happened in order to get on as a big family.
What are the most important qualities you think children of foster careers should have?
You have to be accommodating and flexible, as it’s not regimented hours. As a foster sibling I think the most important quality is kindness, as well as being accepting and being able to share. It’s great if you can be a good listener and a support system for the children, adapting how you are depending on the child’s circumstances.
How did your parents balance their time and energy between you and foster siblings?
My parents were always busy with all of the children, which must have been hard for them. I was always used to having lots of children around, and it was normal to not always have one on one time with them. My mum was always a bit worried about the possible impact fostering could have on us, how it could force us to grow up too quickly, but, because of the responsibility I had as a child I am now fiercely independent – I moved abroad at 17 and owned a property by the age of 20 - which is a positive thing.
Do you have any regrets from fostering?
Not at all, I loved being a big sister, looking after the babies and helping my mum. Every child wants a sibling to play with and I was fortunate to have lots. Summer holidays were always fun, because we would always go abroad together and get to bond, while having a great time.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to the children of foster parents?
I think you need to be patient. Sometimes the children can be disruptive and there were some children that I really clashed with, but that’s the same with all siblings. Looking back on it now there were always more positive than negatives. Children are very adaptable and after living with you they flourish into these wonderful people with amazing personalities. Most of the time all they need is a bit of love and stability, so once they have that and are settled they become a part of the family, so just keep being patient. Also, a lot of these children may have been hurt and let down by adults, by their loved ones, so could relate to child more. I found that the role of a foster sibling is vital, as fostered children will sometimes share and trust their brother or sister more than their careers. You become their listener and that’s what children remember when they are older. Kids mum used to care for always say they have memories of me and my sister.
Lots of the children we fostered have got in contact now that they are older. Many of them have now started their own families and often, if they have news, the first person they tell is my mum, which shows the impact foster families can have.
Would you foster in the future and why?
I would love to foster when I have settled down. At the moment I am too busy to start my own family, but when I find a partner and have kids I would definitely consider it. Fostering is such a good career; it fits in with family life so it works for a lot of people.
I had a wonderful upbringing, so I’d like my own children to have a similar experience. I understand how parents can be wary, but I honestly believe it has shaped me into being a well-rounded person. It allows you to understand some of the realities of life - such as the effects of drug and alcohol abuse - knowing this allowed me and my brother and sisters to make healthy lifestyle choices, as we saw the negative impact first hand. I also think fostering taught us the value of caring for others. The Only Way Is Essex (TOWIE) has given me a platform to raise money and awareness and give back, and the reason I am passionate about that is because I have fostered. Overall, the social skills and selflessness you gain from fostering is amazing and it truly makes all the difference.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
Firstly, well done to all you foster siblings! And to anyone who is considering fostering, please give your local fostering service a call and talk to foster carers to hear their stories. Any job that is as rewarding as fostering is incredible and I hope you consider it.