Fostering love through relationships

16 May 2024

Topic: Foster care
Author: Seany

In this blog post for Foster Carer Fortnight 2024, Seany*, a lived experienced Consultant wanted to share some thoughts, from her experience of foster care, on navigating the unknown, getting to know and be cared for by new people, and how new loving relationships can be built.

I am an adult with my own family, a kinship carer, have a university degree in Social Work, and have held professional roles in both social work and the civil service. But 10 years ago, it was a totally different story.

Back then I was a typical 13-year old sassy teenager who was unaware of the reality of my parent's addiction issues, which resulted in me being removed from my home and into care. I vividly remember arriving at a front door and being greeted with the cheesiest grin and warmest welcome from my new ‘family.’ We were introduced for around 30 minutes, given a quick tour, and I was ushered to my new room, where I was met with the prettiest view over the North Sea. Alone, confused, and in shock, I unpacked my few belongings whilst gazing at the sea. “What on earth has just happened to my family, my parents, siblings, and animals? And who are these people I am living with?” I thought.

All I knew were their names, jobs, and how many years of experience they had as foster carers. On my journey to their house, I was delightfully informed by a new social worker that I would “get on great with these ‘carers’ as they have yearssss worth of experience”. Despite being mature for my age, I think, I could not comprehend what the term ‘Foster Carer’ truly meant and I concluded that I must have been the problem. All I knew was that the term ‘carer’ implied that someone was employed to support someone due to their problems and challenges. I thought about the time my gran had carers who popped in and out every day to tend to her due to poor physical and mental health; they were great at their job, but they were paid to support HER challenges. In my head, I convinced myself that I must have been the problem to have a carer.

Getting to know my new family

But I knew that I was in foster care through no fault of my own; there were no other options. I was removed by someone who was a total stranger and didn’t get the chance to ask any questions as everything was a blur. This lack of information and communication meant I had my guard up from the start and I found my first six months difficult even though I was made to feel so welcome by the family. I slowly got to know them individually and their families. Due to our initial meeting and the fear of the unknown, I was so resistant to building relationships. My carers worked to understand the feelings behind my behaviours and in hindsight, I believe if the term “foster carer” was introduced as “foster parent” our relationship, the settling in period could have been drastically different.

The support was unconditional

My foster parents persevered through the good and tough times, saw past my mask, labels, coping mechanisms, and knew that all I wanted was a secure base where I felt safe and loved. I appreciated everything they did for me; they went above and beyond to establish our relationships, and share common interests with me. In time, my sense of belonging grew; I knew they genuinely cared for me. But one thing they could not do for years was tell me that they loved me. That is all I wanted most the whole time I was there, because I loved them and their family and viewed them like my own parents. I had the mindset that ‘Mum and Dad’ was a title that was earned, and they had done everything and more for me than my own family. I knew they loved me, but they were scared to tell me - they were scared of the policy, practice, legal, and procedural repercussions this could have.

They continued to support me until I was getting ready to leave for university and never once made me feel like I had to leave. I was so scared to move onto independence and transition into my first home, where to begin? What if things don’t work out? I told them how I felt and they always assured me that they would continue to support me any way they could, even when I left their care.

I am so appreciative that I had my teenage years with a family who showed me the same consideration – and yes, love - as if I were their own. Despite not being related, they did more for me than any member of my own family, and we continue to have a close relationship. They have supported me throughout my transition from childhood to adulthood and have been there at every turn.

Foster carers do so much more than ‘care’

Our first meeting is something that I still reflect on though, and I wish I could go back and alter this. I wish I had known what a "Foster Carer" was, I believe this would have significantly altered my view, understanding, and settling in period with my new family. Yes, foster carers are employed to do a job, and are paid in accordance with their skills, but they are not simply ‘carers’, they are so much more. They were my parents from the offset and continue to be part of my family.

In this Foster Care Fortnight I wanted to share my thoughts about the motivational support and strong influence foster carers can have in the paths children and young people take. Positive relationships, love, and knowing you are loved, are crucial for any young person growing up in foster care to into adulthood with support and the ability to thrive. I am me, because they were them, and together, we are family.


*Some names have been shortened or changed to protect the anonymity of the authors

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