“My mum deserves an award for fostering”
Rianna’s family started fostering with St Christopher’s nearly 15 years ago, looking after children and young people from many different life experiences. For Sons and Daughters Month, she shares how being part of a foster family has changed her own outlook.
How did you feel when your parents first spoke to you about fostering?
Initially I wasn’t happy but I was only eight or nine at the time! I was the youngest of three and wanted it to stay that way, especially because I thought it meant I would have to share my mum more. I didn’t really understand what fostering involved and was worried about it being hard for my mum.
Once you started fostering, was it different to how you imagined?
It has been really cool. Our first foster child was from China and didn’t speak any English. My mum enrolled me in Mandarin classes before she arrived to make it fun for me and get me on board. By the time she moved in with us I was so excited to have some to practise speaking Mandarin with that all my worries had disappeared! It was parent-led excitement but it worked on me.
Most of the young people still say Happy Mother’s Day to my mum, which is so nice that they feel part of the family. I feel like she deserves an award for everything she has done.
What has been your favourite thing about being part of a foster family?
The best part of fostering is definitely including new people in our family. With each foster child there’s something new to learn and a new personality to get to know. When people have “normal” families I think it must be so boring!
My foster siblings have become lifelong friends because we were all a similar age. One girl is still with our family and goes to university, it’s great to have her around.
One girl who came to live with us hated her Black identity. Coming into a Black family really taught her to love herself and built up her self-esteem. She grew in confidence so much.
Another girl we cared for had been involved with criminal activity but she now works within the community to help other young people. It is nice to know our family had a positive impact on both of their lives.
What would you say to other people whose parents are thinking about fostering?
I would highly recommend it as there are so many benefits. Being involved in fostering has made me a lot less judgmental because you never know someone’s story. I’m more open, more observant, better at listening and have more empathy for people.
Fostering also pushes you to learn. I’m not very well-versed in mental health but when you live with someone who may be struggling with this, you definitely put the effort in to learning and seeing what you can do to help.
It’s a big change for your family so you need to make sure you all get on with each other. It’s definitely worth it, so I would say do it!
Is your family ready to change a young person’s life through fostering? Get in touch with St Christopher’s today on 0800 234 6282 or by requesting a call back.