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Learning to Ride the Wave

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Sarah’s Story 

A challenging childhood can sometimes be the catalyst that makes someone want to become a foster carer later in life. This was the case for Sarah, who has fostered with the National Fostering Group for just under three years.

Sarah explained:

“I didn’t have the perfect childhood, although I recognise now that it was pretty good compared to what some young people go through. My parents split up when I was 11 and I ran away a lot. Now I’m an adult myself, I really want to help children and young people who’ve a difficult start in life. Even if I can help just one person, I’ll feel it has been worthwhile.”

Welcoming from the start

Unusually, Sarah was below the age of 30 when she applied to become a foster carer. Many foster carers come into fostering after having their own family. Sarah said:

“Some people were shocked, they didn’t think I’d go through with it. But I knew I wanted to help children and, even though I haven’t had any of my own, I was convinced that fostering was right for me. I enquired with a couple of agencies and the local authority. The person I spoke to at the National Fostering Group was lovely. She made me feel welcome right from the start so I decided to apply with them.”

Prioritising the foster child’s needs

Sarah began the application process during Covid. At the time, she was working as a Director of a care home, and had a separate business focusing on falls prevention within the care sector. But despite her work commitments, Sarah was clear that fostering would take priority and the needs of a foster child would always come ahead of everything else.

“It was one of the questions they asked me when I went to panel and I had no doubt about it,” said Sarah. “My sister is my support network so she is able to step in if ever I need her to.”

A good match

Sarah was approved as a foster carer in April 2020. A few days later she received a call about a 12-year old girl that the agency had identified as a potentially good match. Sarah agreed and the girl arrived the following day, bringing only the clothes she was wearing and her school bag. Sarah explained:

“Even with all the training, nothing quite prepares you for the arrival of your first foster child. When the social workers left, it was just the two of us – virtual strangers – together in my house. We made food and went for a walk with the dog and watched TV but I wasn’t quite sure what to do. In those early days, I was on the phone to the agency team quite a lot, asking for support and reassurance. They were great – always there to help.”


An unexpected turn

A year after she was first approved as a foster carer, Sarah went back to panel to apply to keep the foster child long-term. Her application was approved and Sarah fully expected to foster the girl until she turned 18. But, after two and a half years, things took an unexpected turn.

Sarah explained:

“Fostering can be unpredictable and a few weeks ago things changed with my foster child. She began to withdraw from me, but I wasn’t sure why. I raised this with the supervising social workers and asked the safeguarding lead at school if they could talk to her. The fostering agency arranged a stability meeting and it was agreed that she should go to respite for a few nights. But, sadly, things didn’t work out and she’s now left to go to another foster carer. I don’t know what happened and maybe I’ll never know. It feels sad, but would I change anything? No. We have had some fantastic times together and I have helped her to move in the right direction in her life. Now it is time for her to move on and for me to turn my attention to helping other foster children.”

Making a difference

After a short break, Sarah will be returning to short-term, respite and emergency foster caring. She said:

“It has been a challenging time, but the National Fostering Agency has been really supportive and I’m looking forward to whatever will happen next. You don’t come into fostering to receive thanks, you come into it to make a difference and I did that. It was great to see the difference I made to the tearful girl who arrived on my doorstep. When she left, she was a very different, more confident young woman. I took her to Kenya with me to support the schools there and see how they lived and we went on holidays in the UK and Mallorca. Hopefully those experiences will stay with her for the rest of her life. They certainly will with me.”

Sarah is full of praise for the support and training she received from her fostering agency, which built on the skills she’d developed over many years in the care sector and helped build her confidence as a foster carer.

She offers the following advice to would-be foster carers:

“Do it. You could change someone’s life. It is daunting and it is scary when a foster child arrives on your doorstep, but it is also rewarding and so worth it. And, it’s good to remember that, as scared as you are, they are probably more scared than you are. There are good times and bad times in fostering, but you learn to ride the wave.”

If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible, try our Can I Foster? tool, which answers common questions about suitability to foster, based on a personalised Q and A style format. The outcome might surprise you! If you’re ready to chat with one of our fostering advisors, contact your local team.

Find out if you could be a foster carer
Find out if you could be a foster carer
In a few simple questions, you’ll know if you’re suitable to apply to become a foster carer.