Sandys Story

Archived: Posted October 16, 2017

“No one is trained on how to be a parent or care for another life, this is supposed to come naturally but the truth is for some it simply doesn’t”

Sandy’s story

Meet Sandy a 69 year old mother, grandmother, published author and foster carer from Sheffield.

Sandy Brown is a successful published author who wrote her first book Angels Do Tell Lies in 2009, an autobiography based on her experiences looking after vulnerable young people. Intended as a therapeutic tool one day Sandy started writing down all of her memories, fears and experiences in order to put her feelings to rest and since then has gone on to write a second and third novel loosely based around some personal fostering experiences.

Giving us a sneak preview of her fourth novel Sandy opens up about her world with husband Gordon and what led them to dedicate their lives to children and young people in need.

Sandy and Gordon have been looking after vulnerable children and young people, inviting them to share their home in Sheffield for more than 45 years. The couple have been foster carers with Foster Care Associates (FCA) for 17 years of this journey. Sandy describes the unforeseen circumstances that led the couple into fostering decades ago:

‘’Our journey into fostering started really unexpectedly when my niece and her eight children came to live with Gordon and I due to difficult circumstances in the family. My sister was in a troubled relationship that spiralled out of control and when she was on the edge of losing the children that’s when Gordon and I stepped in and helped.

‘’At one point some of the children’s friends who were also experiencing difficulties at home came to stay with Gordon and me. We sort of became this safe haven for the kids and before I knew it we were building our lives and jobs around making sure these children were safe and cared for. At the time I was working as a medical secretary and Gordon worked in a private hospital. Thankfully whilst we were at work my birth daughter, now 45 years old stepped in and became our full time support.

‘’Although a personal agreement to look after the children was accepted in those days, it got to the point where we needed some official advice and input so nobody could just come along and take the children away. This was when we started fostering with the local authority.

‘’Back then we received no training and very little financial or emotional support which is why Gordon and I were very taken aback and overwhelmed when we left local authority fostering and joined FCA.  Accepting the help and training FCA were providing was really hard for us, we were so used to doing everything alone before so it took a while to get used to the fact that we were no longer ‘winging’ it and now had a whole team of support at our finger tips.

‘’Over time the children we were looking after grew up, some went back to their families and others were adopted or went on to independent living. Gordon and I thought this was the perfect time to get our lives back on track, to focus on our careers and ourselves again now the roller-coaster was over. But the truth is this just didn’t suit us. We were bored and withdrawn and really missed the challenge of fostering.

‘’Back then we didn’t know much about independent fostering agencies so at one point Gordon and I even considered opening our own children’s home. This idea was met with a visit from the Director of Social Services that quickly gave us all the red tape and regulations that would prevent our dream from being solely ours. Cutting a long story short – this was when we decided to give FCA a try and man we were so impressed!’’

Gordon and Sandy describe how through FCA they learnt how to foster properly. They have been exposed to a number of different children in various circumstances over the years. They have looked after children as young as six weeks old, had mother and baby placements on respite care and had a long term placement for more than ten years.

Looking back over their years with FCA the couple explain:

‘’We’ve had some really challenging placements, particularly through difficult experiences around birth families. Contact doesn’t always go well, we feel sometimes it’s best not to be involved and instead to remain partial and a sanctuary for the children to go back to.

‘’When fostering sometimes you don’t always know what you’re going to do but that’s okay. We’ve learnt over the years that it’s all about thinking on your feet and making sure the children know you’re in control. Gordon and I often use humour as a way of dealing with challenging situations.

‘’For example, a teenager that lived with us for around three years had a baby bottle which she used to fill and drink out of all day. At first Gordon and I weren’t sure how to approach this situation but one day it came to me. Gordon and I went to the shop bought ourselves baby bottles and when we got home we filled the bottles up in front of the teen and began drinking from the bottles too. She was shocked. We all ended up having such a laugh about the situation and how silly it was that the three of us were acting like babies and that’s how we overcame this situation. Sometimes you’ve just got to think outside the box.

‘’Gordon and I have had such a wonderful experience with FCA. The support and training provided is invaluable and as recruitment ambassadors for FCA Sheffield this is something we put at the forefront of our campaign to get carers on board. Training is essential,  no one is trained on how to be a parent or care for another life, this is supposed to come naturally, but the truth is for some it simply doesn’t.

‘’We’ve had so many fantastic memories and moments over the years. After one of our mother and baby placements left our care she asked us to be her baby’s godparents. We were completely shocked and of course agreed and this is just one of the many moments. 

‘’Our long term placement that stayed with us for ten years first arrived without being able to read or write. She had an extremely complicated family background and at first she was really reluctant to stay with us. She saw us as being too old to look after her.

‘’After the very first visit we won her trust and ten years later she left our care with 11 GCSE’s, having completed a college diploma and went on to study Health and Social Care at Derby University.  She invited us to attend her graduation ceremony and seeing her walk across that stage and receive her degree certificate was one of our proudest moments. 

‘’If fostering is something that you’ve always wanted to do and is inside you then you should definitely take the leap. We could have stayed in our stable jobs and in our mundane lives but we wanted to do something different, accept a challenge and we have never regretted this decision. Fostering isn’t an easy ride but it’s worth it in so many ways.’’

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.

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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.

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