Andy and Grainne are foster carers in the Midlands. To date, they have cared for 17 children, eight of whom have gone on to be adopted. They currently look after three sisters who they had previously fostered for years – and whose adoption had fallen through.
Here’s Andy to talk about the lengths the couple went to in getting the girls back, and their experiences fostering sibling groups.
How we got into fostering
Back in 2002, after 16 years working in London in the Metropolitan Police, Andy and his wife Grainne decided to relocate to Worcestershire. An opportunity had arisen for Andy to join West Mercia Police.
They had two children of their own and Grainne had always worked with children. Their house was often full of children so fostering seemed like a logical next step.
Grainne was adopted herself and had always been interested in fostering and adoption. After 30 years in the police – 28 on homicide – Andy had experienced at first hand the worst possible impacts that having a poor start in life can have.
“A dysfunctional childhood can affect you for the rest of your life and I’ve seen this in adults and teenagers who’ve ended up in the criminal justice system.”
He said: “A dysfunctional childhood can affect you for the rest of your life and I’ve seen this in adults and teenagers who’ve ended up in the criminal justice system.”
When their own children had reached the ages of seven and five, they decided to explore the possibility of becoming foster carers.
Looking after sibling foster children
Approved as foster carers in 2007 with Child Care Bureau in Worcester (one of National Fostering Group’s local teams), they have also fostered with the local authority and other independent fostering agencies. They transferred back to fostering with Child Care Bureau three years ago.
“When we were with the agency initially, we took care of three sisters, aged between six months and four years. They were with us for three years before being adopted.”
The sisters originally come from a group of six siblings. Andy and Grainne admitted to feeling “torn” when the girls were adopted because they had developed a strong bond. However, they were happy that the children were moving on to a new adoptive family.
“After they were adopted, we moved on to fostering with another independent fostering agency,” Andy said.
“Sadly, we later heard that the adoption had broken down. We wanted to be able to take the girls back, so we had to move to local authority to begin the process.”
Foster children ‘are family’
Andy and Grainne’s experience of the emotional bonding between foster carers and foster children is quite normal. But the couple went to great lengths to get the sisters back ‘home’.
“It took around 18 months but now they are back with us and they will be here long-term,” Andy said.
“We were devastated when we learned that the adoption didn’t work out and really wanted them to come back. It took a long time but finally they came back to a place they knew, where they had lots of memories, and it felt like coming home.
“It took a long time but finally they came back to a place they knew, where they had lots of memories, and it felt like coming home.”
“The girls are now 10, 12 and 14 and they are doing really well, considering everything they have been through. They are currently having therapy to help them to come to terms with their experiences.
“They are part of our family now and our two grown-up children – Jack and Larragh – have been great role models for them. We couldn’t have done what we’ve done without their support – they have been such a steadying influence.”
From fostering to adoption
Andy and Grainne have always fostered sibling groups and the highs have been watching them start to thrive and then go on to be adopted.
The foster children who have gone on to be adopted still keep in touch with them. Andy said: “They are settled with their new families and are facing a bright future.
“We are still part of their lives and they are very appreciative of everything we’ve done for them.”
Can you be a foster carer?
Fostering siblings isn’t the only type of fostering we offer – there are many different placement styles, from respite to remand and Bridge to Foster, across the UK.
Visit your local independent fostering agency page for more information or get in touch using our form.