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“Our foster child is one of the family”

Sons and Daughters Month celebrates the difference that birth children make in fostering. Whether they’re still young and living at home or have already flown the nest, having an extended family that care about your foster children makes a massive difference to their well-being and sense of belonging.

Jackie has been fostering with St Christopher’s in the West Midlands for four and a half years. Her youngest son, Josh, still lives at home with Jackie and her foster daughter.

I’ve been fostering for four and a half years and have looked after the same young person, Abby, for the entire time. It’s gone really quickly and Abby has now started college.

My son Josh is 19 and still lives at home – my other children are older and have moved out. Some even have children of their own now. He’s always been very laidback and never had any worries about fostering as my sister had been doing it for many years. He knew children that she had previously fostered and understood what it would be like.

I had a few discussions with all of my children, not just Josh, throughout the application process. They knew they could tell me if they had any doubts and that I wouldn’t go ahead with fostering unless they were completely happy.

Abby was challenging at the start. Everyone thought that she would be eager to leave as soon as she turned 16 but it hasn’t been like that at all, and I think that’s down to making her feel included in our lives.

At first it was hard for me and Josh to adjust. There are lots of new rules when you start fostering about not going in other children’s rooms and they must be stuck to. Abby had made a few allegations in the past against boys so safeguarding my son was a main priority.

When she moved in with me it was the first time Abby had lived with just one foster carer instead of a couple. It’s made her realise that not every child lives with both their parents. She saw that my son Josh relies on only me and I think it’s made her think differently about foster care.

My older son is a teacher and always advises Abby on problems at school and helps her with homework. I think she really benefits from knowing our whole family is behind her and gets a lot out of the extra support.

Abby always refers to Josh and my other children as her brothers and sisters. She is part of our family, she comes out for meals with us and goes to all our events. My own children involve Abby in everything – and why wouldn’t they? I don’t think she would’ve minded being the only child in the house, but when she is treated like all of the others it does help her to feel more at home.

Fostering hasn’t changed my relationships with my children, but it has opened our eyes. When you have your own children you think you’ve seen it all but you really haven’t. It’s a learning experience.

Josh is thinking of moving out now so another foster child might be coming to live with me. I’m treating the topic with Abby the same way I did with my own children – asking her if she would be OK with it and not going ahead with it if she has concerns. She was set against it at first but she’s starting to ask more questions now about what the person would be like and how old they would be, so she might come round in a few years!

Find out about fostering