Kerry began fostering children in 2019, after being a primary school teacher in the West Midlands for over twenty years.
Kerry explains; “I have always loved working with children in my career as a teacher. However, during the last few years, I was not getting the same job satisfaction that I had previously. I loved working with the children, but the profession itself had changed so much. I considered my options and thought I would take the leap into fostering, using these skills I have refined throughout my career with children.”
Kerry and her husband were placed with their foster child, Ryan*, when he was 16 years old, four years ago. “Ryan came to us at 16 years old. He wanted to continue with his education in our city, as it specialised in his chosen career – Architecture.
“Ryan was with his previous foster parents within FCA for over ten years, and unfortunately, they were moving to Wales. He had to make the difficult decision to stay in the Midlands and choose to live with a new foster family in order to continue with his education at the specialist college he was attending. What a massive decision to make at 16!”
The couple explained that they felt very lucky to be placed with such a lovely young lad, as Kerry explains; “When Ryan came to us he was a polite and respectful young man and over a short period of time, he settled in and was an established member of our close-knit family. It felt like he had always been part of us!”
Ryan also had a great relationship with Kerry’s elderly parents too, who loved to be in his company. Kerry also explains their birth daughter, who is 14, saw him as another brother and their relationship was full of ‘banter and laughter’.
“My favourite thing about fostering is that it’s a family approach. Everyone is involved and everyone loves it, which is the best thing.”
Kerry continues; “Ryan maintained his desire to become an architect and go to university right from the moment he was in our care. With our conversations at PEP meetings, reviews over family meals and other in-depth discussions, we ensured he felt supported to follow this dream. Ryan worked especially closely with A2U (Aspire to University) where he attended workshops and even became a mentor to inspire younger teenagers to believe that they too could go and study at University.”
Ryan completed work experience at various Architecture offices where he was “dressed for the job and looked the part, always in a smart suit, even at college”, Kerry explains.
Kerry added; “He built a good rapport with his colleagues and worked with others to deliver a presentation. After reading the glowing report from his work experience week, we were really proud of him, and we knew this was the right career path for him.”
However, not everything was plain sailing, as Kerry divulges; “Ryan struggled at times with the workload of his assignments at school. We would receive an email from his tutor raising their concerns about the lack of work completed, and not meeting certain deadlines. We had to have some honest conversations with Ryan and emphasised that following your dreams means working hard to get there.”
Unfortunately, just as Ryan was reaching the final yards of his college years, the COVID-19 pandemic began in the United Kingdom and completely hijacked Ryan last year at school, leaving him little time to apply for universities, complete UCAS application forms, coursework and exams, and on top of that, Ryan had to work from home during isolation periods.
Kerry said; “This made Ryan’s dream of getting into university even more of a challenge. We were all in a state of limbo and confusion. As foster parents, we of course had to remain calm, cool and in control, but in reality, we were like ducks kicking frantically to stay afloat.”
Kerry believes that the support from FCA helped her greatly throughout this time, as she explains; “Having a supervising social worker through FCA has been hugely beneficial for us. We never feel alone, we are always supported. As soon as I had the initial call with FCA years ago, I knew they were the right agency for us. The communication and support has always been second to none.
“We wanted to give Ryan the best possible chance of gaining his place at university, plus he was determined to go to a particular one, which meant he needed to achieve higher grades.
“Ryan had to move up a gear and ensure that work was submitted to a higher level, and he had to lose the ‘it will do’ attitude. It was suggested by the teachers that Ryan attended school during the lockdown period to catch up with assignments and improve his grades. At first, Ryan wasn’t too happy about it, but he knew that he had no choice if he wanted to reach his goal.”
However, all was not lost. Ryan finally achieved the grades that would allow him to study Architecture, his dream course, at his preferred university.
Kerry excitedly reveals; “We were so happy and excited for him when it was results day. The summer went far too quickly and before we knew it, we had Ryan’s leaving party where we asked everyone to bring an item for the student hamper! It was full of goodies, including non-perishable food, drinks, cleaning products, toiletries and a student cookbook!”
On moving day, the journey to university took the family three hours. Kerry explains; “Ryan wanted to stay at university for the full 52 weeks and begin his new life there, now that he had reached adulthood.
“We said our goodbyes, gave him some words of wisdom and reminded him that we’re only a phone call away. Ryan looked so happy as we left, which kept us strong for the journey home. It is one of the happiest memories I keep with me, to date.”
Kerry now has three teenagers in her care and continues to enjoy fostering. She believes that fostering has changed the family’s life in many positive ways; “It’s hard to put into words really! It allows us to do more family orientated activities as I do not have outside pressures from work and things like that. It’s all encompassing to the family unit; we are all part of this journey, and we work together.”
Kerry is still in close touch with Ryan and hopes to visit him during February half term; “We drop him a text every couple of weeks to see how he is getting on. I hope to see him at the end of February and hear all about his Uni experience so far!”
*The name of the foster child has been changed to protect the identity of the child.
Our #ChangeTheStory Campaign aims to break down the stigma that surrounds children and young people within the care system, changing the narrative by giving them the chance to talk about their own journeys and how foster care changed their lives for the better.