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Saira & Danish’s story – giving 100%

Monday 06 December 2021

Saira recalls the first time she discovered that her aunt had been approved as a foster carer. It was during one of the regular annual visits she made to her aunt’s home, along with her husband Danish and their daughter, then nine. Her aunt is a foster carer in Bristol.

“We’d heard of fostering but had never met anyone who did it. By then my aunt already had her first foster child – a boy of around 17 who was asylum seeker. He didn’t speak any English and rarely made eye contact.

“A year later, when we visited again, he was a changed young man. He was talking and making eye contact and attending the local college. It was amazing to see.

“My aunt had a second foster child by that time and told us she was loving being a foster carer. She said we should consider doing it.”

Becoming foster carers

The idea of being able to give a child a better life fitted with Saira and Danish’s personal values and their Muslim religion. Their daughter – an only child – had been raised in accordance with these values. All together, they discussed what it would mean to become a foster family and agreed to go ahead.

During lockdown, they went through the six-month application process to become foster carers with the National Fostering Agency. Saira admits it was “gruelling” at times.

“We made sure our daughter was involved in the whole process too, so that when the time came, she’d be mentally prepared.”

“We placed every aspect of our lives in front of them. It was sometimes exhausting but it is absolutely right that prospective foster carers are thoroughly checked in this way. The foster agency needs to know what we’ve gone through in our lives and how we can best help vulnerable children.

“We made sure our daughter was involved in the whole process too, so that when the time came, she’d be mentally prepared.”

Patience with an eating disorder

Danish was approved as the main carer as Saira works full-time in a bank, but the couple works closely together to provide practical and emotional support.

Their first foster child was a girl of 11. She came from a non-Muslim background and arrived as an emergency placement, at very short notice. She was malnourished and presented many significant challenges around food. She wasn’t able to eat in front of people, ate only snack foods, was unfamiliar with many types of fruit and even everyday foods like eggs.

The family did whatever they could to help her settle in and provided whatever food she wanted to eat. By day four, she began sitting down to dinner with them and started to join in with the conversation.

Within three or four months, she’d begun to eat a healthy diet and had grown and gained weight.

Advocating at school

Saira also became her advocate at school. Their foster child was attending school but wasn’t engaged and didn’t like reading.

“She carried the same level two books around in her bag and just read and reread them rather than joining in with any of the lessons,” said Saira.

“I met with the school and said she needed to be given books that would challenge her. Now she reads for 30 minutes to an hour every day and has gone up five levels in six months.

“She has started at senior school, and we have a set routine every night that involves reading and homework. She has not missed doing any of her homework so far. During a recent therapy session, she described herself as ‘strong’ which is a positive step forward.”

‘Give them 100%’

Becoming foster carers has been challenging on many levels, including going through court proceedings with the child’s mother, and dealing with difficult behaviours like recurring eating disorders and some self-harm.

However, with patience and persistence, Saira and Danish are continuing to support her and hope to become her long-term foster carers.

They are full of praise for the training they have received from their agency and the support from their supervising social worker.

“Don’t be afraid to help others. Take a risk and you will see the rewards. You will see the change, the appreciation in that child’s eyes even if they cannot say it in words.”

Saira said: “It is fantastic to see so many people from different organisations working so hard to provide a better life for the foster child. I love that about this agency and about fostering as a whole. The child always comes first.

“The application process was gruelling but now I understand why this is so important – they need to know everything about us and our history.

“I’ve recommended fostering to so many of my friends and family. If you have the space and mental capacity, it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do.

“I think if you’re going to foster you need to treat a child who comes into your house as your own and give them 100%. Our foster child is now so different from when she came and that makes me feel really good.

“Don’t be afraid to help others. Take a risk and you will see the rewards. You will see the change, the appreciation in that child’s eyes even if they cannot say it in words.

“When they grow in front of you physically, mentally then that makes all your effort worth it. After becoming a foster carer I feel self-empowered and grateful to be part of such a big network.”

Have Saira and Danish inspired you?

National Fostering Group is the largest independent fostering agency in the UK, with more than 3,000 foster carers across the country.

This means we can offer better support and training than any other provider in the country, helping you be at your best in this important role.

Visit your local independent fostering agency page for more information or get in touch using our form.

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.