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My name is Tia and I am a single carer who has been fostering for 16 years.

How did it all start?

I began as a carer for children aged 0-8 years as I had a previous background in childcare, mainly with children 0-5 years. My experience and confidence developed over the years and I am now my approval has increased for children 0-18 years.

What were your first impressions of fostering?

Like many people I had a couple of reservations when I first began fostering. One was the impact on my two birth children and another about becoming too attached to the children I was going to be looking after.

There certainly have been challenges but my children have really embraced being part of a fostering family. They have developed a greater maturity and empathy for others. One has further gone on to become a children’s social worker in a fostering department!

And yes, moving children on can still be hard…but to see a child successfully returned to their birth family or on to a loving adoptive family is so rewarding. I’ve learnt to allow yourself to attach and give as much love to the child when in your care. This helps the child feel secure and helps them to be able to develop positive attachments with future families and relationships.

Any highlights?

I’ve had a 15-year-old in a permanent placement for the past 10 years. She has developed into a confident, amazing teenager who is achieving well at school and is part of my family and was recently a bridesmaid to my daughter. I was so proud when the previously 'shy little girl’ gave a speech to 100 guests!

You are not just a mainstream carer are you?

As well as mainstream care I have also provided respite care. This can be for another foster carer who needs extra support or has a challenging placement and I provide a consistent person for the child, who may have already known many different people or moves. As it is usually planned in advance, I really enjoy the greater flexibility that respite care can give over mainstream fostering.

Anything else?

I have also provided emergency short term placements when children may be brought by the police late at night and with only the clothes they are wearing. They can be scared, upset, angry and confused. They often feel that they have done something wrong or may have witnessed a traumatic incident. I try to remain calm and reassure, comfort and explain as much as possible. It can be a challenge for us to have a child arrive unexpectedly into the household but I always try and imagine how overwhelming and scary it must be for the child.

What support do carers get to help out?

Islington offers 24-hour support, regular training and support groups with other foster carers. The foster carers in the groups have a wide range of knowledge and experiences offering each other reassurance, support and advice. My supervising social worker visits regularly and offers great support to myself and family. She always makes time to speak to family members and really understands the household. This helps ensure future placements are suitable for both the child and my family’s needs.

What would you say to those thinking about fostering?

Friends and family often say to me about fostering 'I don’t know how you do it, I could never foster'. I didn’t think that I could in the beginning, but 16 years later I’m still here, loving it and learning all the time.