Marlene and Colin’s Story

Archived: Posted November 15, 2016

Marlene and Colin Hughes from Ballymena, County Antrim in Northern Ireland have been foster carers with Foster Care Associates (FCA) Northern Ireland since 2008. Marlene and Colin were inspired to foster by an advert they saw on TV over Christmas and since then have never looked back. Marlene describes just how this moment made the couple consider fostering with FCA Northern Ireland.Marlene and Colin

She said: ‘’One day over the Christmas period my husband and I were watching TV when a fostering advertisement popped up. This advert really inspired us to want to do something good with our lives and it made us talk about the idea of fostering.

‘’We had a six year old daughter of our own however, we wanted to expand our family by helping children in need of care, and felt that we had more than enough room to do this. At the time I was a retail manager but having fostered for eight years, it is my full time career and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 ‘’After seeing the advert and having a chat about our options, Colin and I googled fostering and FCA was one of the first agency’s to really grab our attention.  I filled in an enquiry form and was amazed at just how quickly I was responded to.

‘’A lovely lady from FCA contacted us and ran through the procedure of applying and spoke through our concerns. There was absolutely no pressure, we had plenty of time to have a think about whether we wanted to go through with our application.’’

The couple explain that initially their family had some concerns about their decision to foster.  Marlene said: ‘’Before we went through with the process we spoke to our friends and family to gain their opinions and thoughts about fostering. Whilst our friends were very supportive and inspired by our decision, our family was a little concerned.

‘’They worried about the impact it would have on our birth daughter and whether it was a good idea to invite strangers into our home. They had some misconceptions about fostering, but once we talked about I through and dispelled some of the myths, they agreed to be supportive of us.

‘’We were accepted in April 2008 and since then have had a number of different types of placements. We have cared for teenagers, parent and child placements, had short term, emergency and respite children in our care as well as some longer term placements.  We currently have three siblings who are 11, 12 and 14 years old. We have looked after them for two and a half years.’’

Marlene describes some of the challenges herself and Colin have experienced in their time fostering.  She said:  ‘’Along with all the up’s, you’re bound to experience some downs in fostering, however it’s getting through those difficult patches and coming out the other side that makes you feel so rewarded.

‘’We find it particularly hard to deal with the fact that you aren’t able to get through and help everyone. It can be challenging working with the parents, for example, we have looked after a mother and her baby and it can be tough presenting any authority or changing the habits of their previous life, whilst ensuring that they put the needs of their child above their own.

‘’You can often spend time building friendships to end up being let down or disappointed. These children in need have often come from extremely complex and difficult backgrounds making it really hard for them to trust you. Sometimes you do need a little help or guidance and FCA is always available for this support.

‘’FCA offer respite and supervision support which is a great release, they also have Team Parenting® training to help with complex placements. We always attend their support groups as this gives you access to other carers and their experiences.’’

Marlene describes her overall experience as extremely positive and explains that in all their time fostering the couple have experienced far more positive memories than negative ones.  She said: ‘’People often think it can be all doom and gloom when fostering, but this is simply not the case. We have experienced more positive memories than negative ones. We make use of the support that is provided to us and FCA have been fantastic. They even helped us link up with other support networks such as Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) who helped fund a six week cooking project which one of our placements participated in.

‘’One of our best fostering moments so far was when we had a mother and baby placement straight from hospital. After just six weeks the baby’s mother left. We looked after the little girl, who left us just before her 1st birthday. We helped her learn to walk and reach all the appropriate milestones.

‘’She went to her new adoptive family, who after multiple attempts and hurdles were unable to have a family of their own. They so deserved to be parents and we were able to play a part in giving them this amazing gift. Although it left a huge gap in our family when she left, being able to do such an incredible thing for another family is something we will never forget.’’

Marlene and Colin offer some advice to those new to fostering, encouraging foster carers to accept all the help and training they possibly can.  Marlene concludes:  ‘’Take every piece of training you can, this will really help enable you to understand these kids and where they have come from. Support from groups and other carers is going to be you’re lifeline and therapy through difficult times. These kids are different to your own but love them as much as they will allow you too and eventually it will prevail.

‘’Fostering isn’t something you can do on your own. There is always a team of people happy to support and help you when you have had a rough day.’’

How can we help?

Ready to start fostering a child or young person? Or just want a bit more information to help you decide whether fostering is for you? All you need to do is contact us.

Phone us

Call us on 0800 023 4561 (lines open Monday - Thurs: 9am - 7pm, Fri: 9am - 6pm)

Fostering a child or young person is a big decision so we're here to answer any questions you may have. Our friendly fostering advisors, many of whom are carers themselves, can talk you through everything you need to know about becoming a foster carer.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Call me back

Haven't got time to chat now? Leave your details and we'll call you back at a time that suits you:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • Why do we need this? So we can email you a brochure.
  • Why do we need this? We appreciate that starting to foster is a big decision that needs careful consideration and you are likely to have questions. We’d like to help answer those questions.
  • Please enter your postcode to see news and events in your area.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Phone us

Call us on 0800 023 4561 (lines open Monday - Thurs: 9am - 7pm, Fri: 9am - 6pm)

Fostering a child or young person is a big decision so we,re here to answer any questions you may have. Our friendly fostering advisors, many of whom are carers themselves, can talk you through everything you need to know about becoming a foster carer.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Call me back

Haven't got time to chat now? Leave your details and we'll call you back at a time that suits you:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • Why do we need this? So we can email you a brochure.
  • Why do we need this? We appreciate that starting to foster is a big decision that needs careful consideration and you are likely to have questions. We’d like to help answer those questions.
  • Please enter your postcode to see news and events in you area
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Share This With A Friend