Foster carers Matt and Trishun, both 30, have so far fostered five children on short term emergency placements, including children who have been supported by the Barnardo’s BRICS and STEPS programme. Matt is a store manager for a supermarket and Trishun worked as a customer advisor before becoming a full time foster carer.
These programmes offer short term emergency care and supports children who may have been criminally exploited or who are awaiting court proceedings.
The couple live in the West Midlands with their cats Max and Oliver.
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“We were at a stage in our relationship where we were talking about growing a family,” said Trish. “We discussed adoption, surrogacy, lots of options. We started to get in touch with adoption agencies initially and Barnardo’s was one of those. They invited us to attend an information event to find out more. Fostering came up in the conversation as another option which we were willing to hear out. To be honest, it wasn’t something we’d thought about but after learning some more, we came to the conclusion it could be suitable for us. So we agreed to the next step.”
Matt said: “I remember the defining point for me. Initially we talked about ‘foster to adopt’ as a route to adopting a baby. At this stage, we had a vision of what we wanted our family to be and that involved a baby. But listening to the age groups of children that are in need re-aligned our thinking of what our future could look like.
“We learned about the separations children go through and the trauma they can experience and started to think that our lovely home and our personalities would be well suited to help children in those situations. It can be upsetting and shocking to learn there are so many children who need a home and who, through no fault of their own, have just been dealt a poor set of cards in life. It made us recognise our own blessings and think how fortunate we are. That meeting spun our way of thinking around and we came away with a totally different view.”
Trish recalls hearing about the need for caring foster placements for children aged 7-8 years old at one of the Barnardo’s information events. “That really resonated with me as my nephew is around that age. It pulled on my heart strings.”
After a home visit from Barnardo’s social worker Louise, the couple ‘felt instantly that we were going to do this.’ Their involvement was at the start of the pandemic so most of the training and their assessment was via Zoom and Whatsapp. “The assessment is intense,” said Trish. “But we both enjoyed it. We reflected a lot about the past, our childhoods and that’s really good to do.”
Rollercoaster of emotions.
After 6 months of being assessed, the couple went to the Fostering Panel and were delighted to be approved for short-term fostering placements, “We were so relieved and really happy. It was like we had won the lottery!” remembers Matt. “But it’s true to say the journey is a real rollercoaster of emotions. One minute you feel elated and then there’s the realisation that this is real, we are really going to do this.”
Within two weeks the couple got their first call and welcomed 15 year old Sam (not his real name) into their home…the adventure as foster carers had begun!
“We were sent a profile of Sam who needed emergency care. We had in our minds that we would get a young child, so the reality can be very different. We just knew this young person needed our support. We actually felt scared, but when we met Sam it felt right. We didn’t doubt it for a second,” said Trish.
Sam stayed with the couple for almost a month. During that time the couple helped make memories for Sam, giving him his first ‘proper’ Christmas. Matt said: “He’d never had a Christmas with presents and games. It was a great day and has stuck with us as a real positive.”
Since that time the couple have opened their home to four other children offering short term placements. “The children who have been with us have given us a variety of experiences. And we always try to give them something to take away with them. I always try to teach a couple of simple life skills, like cooking, baking, how to do washing. You soon realise that not everyone is taught how do to those things. The difference we know we can make in that short period of time far outweighs any concerns we may have initially. We had a letter from one of the children after she moved on thanking us which brought me to tears. That was a real high. Her experiences with us have led to her getting the specialist support she needs. That brings comfort,” said Trish.
Safe and caring.
Four of the children have been supported by the Barnardo’s BRICS and STEPS programme. This specialist service works with children who need emergency foster carers or may have been criminally exploited or are on bail or remand, as an alternative to custody, needing a safe and caring placement until they attend a court hearing.
Matt added: “The children come to us having experienced trauma and they’re hurting, so there’s going to be ups and downs. But we are happy, calm people who can offer them something positive to take with them on the next stage of their journey. We have found that it is possible to have an impact and create positive memories for a child in a short space of time.”
The couple praised the continued support they receive from the Barnardo’s Fostering team. Matt added: “Lots of people from Barnardo’s get in touch with us to tell us what a good job we’re doing as foster carers. That gives us confidence. And they are constantly there to offer support. If anyone is thinking about fostering I would say just get in touch with Barnardo’s and find out more. The on-going support and training is incredible and has made fostering do-able for us. I would also recommend speaking to people who are foster carers already. That’s really helpful.
“The raw, honest truth is that fostering is a roller coaster at times. But it is a real pleasure getting to know the young people who stay with us and to know that they move on from us having had a positive experience.”
To find out more about fostering with Barnardo’s, please visit www.barnardos.org.uk/foster/fostering-focus or fill out our enquiry form and a member of the friendly team will call you back.