Return to listing

"If you're already thinking about fostering go for it."

Meet Allison, a foster parent from FCA Northern Ireland as she shares her fostering experience so far and what is like to foster alongside having your own children.

April 11 2023 - 5 min read

Meet foster parent Allison and husband Sylvain who alongside their 15 year old and 13 year old have been fostering with FCA since July 2022. We caught up with Allison as she shared with us her fostering journey so far and what is like to foster alongside having your own children.

“We really wanted to foster because we wanted our own children to have the experience of being foster brothers and sisters. We thought it would be a nice experience for a child who was in care to come into our family, warts and all and be part of the family life for however long they are with us.

We are not totally unfamiliar to fostering, we adopted one of our children as part of foster to adopt. Our adopted child has autism and we felt we have quite a lot of experience in the more therapeutic approach to parenting”.

Initially thinking to wait until their children were older and had left home to start fostering, during lockdown their daughter planted the seed about fostering when she told her mum and dad they would make great foster parents. After a discussion Allison and Sylvain had a change of heart and made the decision to do it now. It was a friend who already fostered with FCA and recommended the agency praising their 24 hour support.

“I didn't even think about looking anywhere else. I phoned FCA that afternoon and that was kind of the first step and then within a couple of weeks we had interviews and calls set up.

It was an interesting journey for us because initially we wanted to foster an older child 9 to 11 years old because we thought older children don't always get the same chances.  But after talking to our supervising social worker and the placement manager, we thought the best match for our family would be to foster a slightly younger child. Ultimately once our two kids are older our aim is to foster an older child”.

Family and friends weren’t surprised by the families decision they were all really receptive and very positive about as they have done foster to adopt previously but highlighted fostering had a different aim.

Speaking about her experience during the assessment process Allison said” I would be worried if it wasn't intense and very detailed it has to be to make sure that this is really what you want to do and that you know your motivations are the right motivations.  We had a great Form F assessor who was just really personable and very approachable.

For us there weren’t any long pauses and it went through smoothly.  Panel can be a bit intimidating, but they are not there to catch you out and we had great support from our Form F Assessor”.

Their first placement was a four year old foster child who gets on really well with their teenagers.  Allison explains “The dynamics work well, they're really sensitive to his needs, our 15 year old has taken a very sort of very nurturing approach and our 13 year old son is a bit of an older brother and playmate.  They get on very well together. Having our foster child here has just brought so much joy to the family. We're learning so much from him and each other along with the experience of having a younger child in the house again”.

“The support from FCA is great from the online training platform to our foster parent buddy to monthly support groups that are a really nice, safe place to chat. There are lots of opportunities, I never feel like we're on our own and I always feel like if I need some help, there's somebody I can phone.  That's what's really important to us because we know how challenging things can get”.

Reflecting on their fostering highlights Allison said “it’s just the silly moments around the dinner table. It's nothing big, nothing grandiose. It's just kind of those little snippets of normal everyday life we really enjoy, where somebody tells a joke and then all of a sudden everybody bursts out laughing. It's those little moments that I think are really nice and we get those every day”.

Fostering isn’t always plain sailing as Allison explains some of the challenges, “we now have to be much more organised than we were before from a logistical perspective you have to be on the ball all the time to know who's supposed to be where and when.  We have to factor in family time because our foster child has family time twice a week, so organisation is definitely a big challenge. We have a family calendar in the kitchen, so everybody knows where they're supposed to be at a particular time.  Our two older ones, they have their own little desk calendars in their bedroom and then I've got my online calendar.

There are times where our foster child gets a little bit sad because he misses people and it's managing that but not getting involved in the emotions and being there for him giving him space to sit with his sadness and how he's feeling”.

Allison’s advice to anyone nervous to foster alongside their own children is “don't worry too much, don't ask yourself too many questions about it because actually, if you have a good honest conversation with your children you might actually be surprised by their response.  We spoke with our children to explain and understand what fostering is and it's not necessarily long term, it's about making a difference for the duration of time that the child is with you.

We do have to be sensitive around making sure our children get quality time with us and recognising those signs if they feel left out and we manage that. But I would say go for don't let that stop you if you've got your own kids at home. I'm so glad we've done it now and that we didn't wait.

If you're already thinking about fostering go for it and have a chat with FCA. You will not regret it because it transforms you as a person when you're looking after someone who is vulnerable and just needs to feel safe”.

More fostering stories:

Looking for a new career path?

Find out how you can make a difference...

By Phone

Call a member of our friendly fostering team and they'll be able to answer all your questions

0800 023 4561

Live chat

Have a chat with one of our dedicated fostering professionals

Chat Now

Visit an office

We are always happy for you to pop in for a chat

Find a team