Carly is from Nuneaton in Warwickshire.

I have thought about being a foster carer for the last ten to 15 years but didn’t feel quite ready to take the plunge until now. I was a Probation Officer for 16 years and then I took a secondment working in Youth Justice for two years. I loved this but when my secondment ended I had to make a decision whether to go back into my probation role or fulfil my dream to be a foster carer.

Woman at lake

I decided that this was the time to make a change and so I contacted Barnardo’s about undertaking short term foster placements. I was interested in short term emergency placements and remand placements. I felt my work experience meant I would be able to deal with the challenges this would inevitably bring.

I undertook an in depth assessment with Barnardo’s over a number of months and although it is intense I actually found it very therapeutic. Also, I understand the importance of why they need to scrutinise all aspects of your life.

Once approved, shortly after this I had my first placement who was a 15 year old boy. He stayed with me for four weeks and it went really well. It was quite intense as it was the school holidays and he didn’t like to be alone, so we were together all of the time, however he was happy to be involved in all aspects of my life including visiting my parents for Sunday dinner and going climbing with my friends. It was a positive placement.

My next placement was another 15 year old boy who stayed with me for two and a half weeks. I had been told that he could be quite aggressive towards his carers and other people but I did not experience this during the placement. He was quite challenging in that he wasn’t attending school and was in a very poor routine, sleeping during the day and up at night. He also ran away a couple of times and was returned once by the Police and another time I collected him. However, despite this he was a lovely boy and I enjoyed supporting him as best I could.

Woman crouching down with dog

My last placement was a 15 year old girl who often self harmed as a coping mechanism for the challenges she was facing. Again, she was a really nice girl and I supported her while she stayed with me and we would do things together.

This is a complete lifestyle change and I have given up working to support these young people. I am lucky I have a fantastic support network including my best friends and family who I can talk to and also a sessional worker from Barnardo’s who comes in during the week to give me a break. I also meditate, walk and exercise every day which helps me to relax and I have weekends off if I do not have an ongoing placement.

Fostering through Barnardo’s means I have daily contact with a social worker. They also offer 24 hours out of hours support, monthly meetings with other carers and training.

I was quite nervous about giving up my job and committing myself to fostering. However I love being fully involved in the lives of the young people I look after and making a real difference. I can honestly say it is the best thing I have ever done.