Young boy sitting on the sofa with an adult female. Both are smiling

For Sarah*, fostering children and young people has been a part of her and her husband’s lives for almost 11 years.

From babies to teenagers, they have seen a continuous flow of looked-after children, all in need of a safe and loving place to call home.

Sarah became interested in fostering after her job in education was merged with the social care department in her local authority, which was her first insight into the world of social care Sarah would spend evenings reading through case files in tears, desperate to take children out of horrific situations and into her own home. She knew from that point forwards that she had to be involved.

After their daughter was born, Sarah and her husband Jason* decided it was the right time to open their home to children needing foster care. Since then, they have supported over 20 children, ranging from care for just a few days to nine and half years.


The tough times

Fostering has not come without its challenges however, and Sarah has faced many difficult situations. Some are linked to the young person or child, particularly regarding challenging behaviour and reluctance to attend school. But often it is the system itself that creates problems. Budgets can be tight, and what is best for the child or young person is regularly not available to them.

Sarah said: “There are often many people involved in a child’s life and this can work really well to support through any difficult times. There are social workers, school, birth family and us as foster carers. But, on occasions, this can also cause issues as they don’t always agree on what’s best for the child and this can be challenging.”


The great times

Despite these trials, Sarah and Jason have supported the young people in their care to achieve what once that child may have thought to be unthinkable. Reintegration into school, reconnection with biological families, completion of children’s university degrees, and acceptance into the police cadets are just a few of the successes that Sarah has celebrated over the years.

But it is the small acts that remind Sarah why she does what she does. She said: “It’s the first time a child puts their trust in you, when they take your hand or grab your leg when they are shy. Or the first time a child comes to talk to you about a problem. That’s when you know you’ve gained their trust.”

For Sarah, one moment in particular reminds her of the importance of foster carers and the job they do. A young girl had been placed in their care after she’d been neglected. She was malnourished and had no clean clothes. Sarah and Jason provided her with everything she could have needed and more, yet when she was asked by her social worker what she liked about living there, none of this was mentioned. Instead, she simply said: “They keep me safe”. She was just seven years old.



NYAS support

Foster care is a lifeline for many looked-after children and young people, and it often provides the space for a child to be supported in having their voices heard. Sarah has helped foster children in her care reach out to NYAS to make sure their views and wishes are respected. A young person was put in contact with NYAS by Sarah and the social worker after the young person was told that she was going to be moved somewhere new along with her siblings, who were living in different homes. She did not want to leave Sarah and Jason’s home, so NYAS supported her in expressing these wishes, and she was able to remain under the care of Sarah and her family.

Encouraging children and young people to speak up and advocate for themselves is incredibly empowering, Sarah believes, and it is because of this that she continues to foster. “It’s not one size fits all, we have to realise our children are all very different with very different needs, and it’s our role to help get the focus back on to what the child or young person needs."

Foster care can be rewarding, challenging, messy and exciting all at once, but what remains crucial is that the focus is always on what is best for the child or young person in care.


*Names have been changed for confidentiality



If you want to find out more about becoming a foster carer, visit the website below.