With over a decade worth of experience, Sharon and Robert decided to embark on their fostering journey back in 2010 after their own birth children had grown up and flown the nest.
Sharing five children between the two, Sharon said: “I think it was always something I wanted to do but once the children had grown up and left home, we naturally had more space. At that point fostering was in the media a lot, so for us it kept coming to the forefront of our minds. After looking around for fostering agencies in Wales and once we spoke to FCA, it just seemed like the perfect fit for us.”
Both now retired and fostering being their full-time career, the couple have fostered over 50 children in their time with a range of short-term, long term and emergency placement experience under their belt.
The couple expressed that parent and child placements had taken them by a pleasant surprise. Sharon added: “Once they settle in and you form a relationship on a trusting basis, it makes it a lot easier. You just need to try to make them feel welcome and a part of the family. A key part with parent and child placements is allowing the mum to feel she has got control of looking after her own baby and we are just in the background for help if and when they need it.
“We are still in touch with our last placement which was parent and child, and she still sends us photos which has been lovely.”
Reflecting on one of the many joys of fostering, the couple shared it was being a part of a young person’s journey. Sharon added: “For our first long term foster placement, we welcomed a three and half year old who we saw straight through to adoption.”
Robert shared: “When he first came to us he was wetting the bed and was emotionally traumatised, but overtime, he has grown into a lovely young boy who has his trust and childhood back. Although he is no longer with us, we have kept in touch and met the adoptive family. We always get birthday and Christmas cards which has been lovely as they are a part of our family.”
For the couple, while fostering has its challenges, it is also very rewarding. Reflecting on one placement, Robert shared: “We cared for one girl who went off to Cambridge University to study Law. To this day, she often comes back and forth and stays at our home which is lovely as we have seen her turn her life around and it is a joy to be a part of.”
Where there are highs, there are also lows. For the couple, adjusting to the difficult side of fostering was one of their biggest challenges. Sharon shared: “Early on in the beginning of our fostering days, our trust had been broken which was a difficult time for us.
“The impact of that placement made us consider if fostering was right for us but after some soul searching and amazing support from FCA, we stuck at it and we are here to tell the tale.”
Rob added: “The support you get from FCA is second to none. The care is good, the social workers are fantastic, even right through to management it is great. It has been a lovely place to work for over the years.”
For those considering fostering, Rob said: “Go for it. I think the Journey to Foster training is definitely worth it for anyone who has doubts. Go and ask questions as this will help you decide whether to take that next step or not.”
Sharon added: “You have to use the resources that are available to you. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. I have attended plenty of foster carer support groups and made lots of friends who have helped me in so many ways.”
Robert said: “The first few years are the most challenging but that is simply because you are learning. Even to this day I am still learning because every child is different. The thing we do from the minute our children walk through the door is to clearly communicate with them. So many of children in care have lost their childhood years so we want to work out how we can help them the best we can.”
Sharon added: “After 10 and a half years, we are still learning. Over the years, we have been Ambassadors for FCA, and Rob was even a Carer Rep so there are many different options to take to see if the fostering journey is for you.”
Thinking about starting your fostering journey?
24/7 local support, excellent ongoing training and competitive allowances are just a few of the reasons why you should choose FCA for your fostering journey.
Paul and Riccardo's story
October 6 2020
Meet foster parents Paul and Riccardo who tells us why they choose to foster.
“By giving them a stable home, a stable environment, we’re helping to change history in that child’s life.”
November 3 2021
Foster parent Mandy shares her fostering experience over the past 13 years with FCA Northern Ireland.