Sandie has been a foster carer for over 10 years and lives in south London.
I love what I do because although all of the children have their difficulties, and some of them can be very challenging, I find that there’s always a chink in their armour. There’s always some way that you can get to know them and find something that works for them. In the early days when you meet a child you really have to get to know their likes and dislikes - what’s important to that child.
My husband Gary and I originally thought we’d foster older boys – because we’ve brought up three sons of our own - but then we did think about girls as well. And once we were approved, our first call was about a girl, a 16-year-old girl. So we talked about it and decided, yes, we’d like to try to do it. So our first girl came to us on respite, two weekends a month to start with, and then three out of four weekends. Well, she was difficult – very, very challenging. And we did cope until she started absconding. Not only from her main carers, but then from us too, which meant that I was always having to ring the police and the out-of-hours team personally. It was like, it’s Sandie again. She’s not come home. OK, they’d say, we’ll ring you later to see if there’s any update – there never was. I came to realise that you can make your home as welcoming as possible, but if a child doesn’t want to stay – for whatever reason – there’s only so much you can do.
But there have been many more positive experiences. We had one young woman with us for a week with severe ADHD. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard work. She’d dance, and jump and leap around the kitchen. And she would talk the whole time. In fact, eating her dinner, she could hardly put a forkful of food in her mouth because she was talking so much. But it didn’t matter to me. This was just a child being joyful, if you like. It was a pleasure actually. You could see that she loved being with us. She lived with elderly grandparents, so I suppose she enjoyed being with a younger family. And she absolutely adored the cats – had one on her shoulder practically the whole time. So it was just pleasant, and really rewarding to have done that.
We didn’t go into fostering with our eyes closed. You know that the children are going to have baggage. But you don’t know until you open that suitcase what you’re going to find. We became carers to be that special person for that child. For as long as can be, we’ll be there – hopefully to see that child move on to better places. I just want them to leave here saying, I enjoyed being with Sandie and Gary. I enjoyed laughing with them. I enjoyed crying with them. I enjoyed playing the silly computer games that we play as a whole family. The card games, or cooking with them, or helping with the animals. Even me dragging them down to the greenhouse to help with the gardening. And I’ll try to help that child as much as I can, because that’s what I want to do.