Cheryl (37) and her husband, Richard (38) from Aberdeenshire, discussed fostering at a very early stage in their relationship and both agreed it was something they would like to do.

Cheryl and Richard, foster carers

During her childhood Cheryl was part of a foster family – her mother and father fostered children while she growing up, she said being in a foster family had a great positive impact on her life.

“From an early age I was aware of the need for foster carers and the extra support children and families need out with the more residential type of homes.

“I recall one foster child who moved into a residential home after leaving our family and seeing the change in her life, and not for the good, being in a family home had a positive impact on her life, I realised how being part of a family can make a huge difference to someone’s life.”

The couple first enquired about fostering around 2007/08, but quite early in to the conversation they found out they were expecting their first child, so decided to put fostering on hold and return to it at a later date.

It was during a traumatic time in the couple’s life that they decided it was the right time to look at fostering again. While they were in the local hospital with their son waiting for a diagnosis, they were acutely aware of other children around them and their circumstances.  When they returned home Richard said he thought “it was the right time to look at fostering again” he felt they could offer something to children like those they had seen in the hospital who were in need of extra support.

The couple made enquiries about fostering with agencies and through the local authority in April 2018.  They decided Barnardo’s Scotland fostering was the best fit for their family, and after deciding this, were keen to get the process underway.

The couple chose Barnardo’s Scotland fostering for a number of reasons, primarily it was the support offered to foster carers, and the focus on fostering, that, and that Barnardo’s is a trustworthy name.  They were approved as ‘short term’ foster carers in November 2018, which means they can foster a child continually for up to two years.

Cheryl and her family opened their doors to their first foster placement in April 2019, a baby only one week old.  Cheryl recalls: “The whole family have been involved with caring for the baby; it meant so much to be able to give the baby a safe loving home when she needed it.”

She continued: “No foster carer does the job because of what it gives them, but it meant a lot to me and my family to know we were able to give the baby a safe loving home; to be there for her when there was no one else; to give her the cuddles, love and attachment a new born needs. 

“It brings out such a positive feeling that you can do something for someone else – it’s a very good lesson for our children, to be able to give something back.”

The family originally said they didn’t want to foster a baby as they were worried it might not work, but Cheryl said: “Actually it worked out just fine, it was very easy to adapt to having a baby in the house, and with the children being older they were able to help out.”

Their daughter had said she ‘wanted to be a big sister’, Cheryl recalls after the baby returned to her birth parents their daughter said: “Our first foster child taught me how to be a big sister. It was a lovely thing to hear, it was a very positive experience for her.”

Cheryl has found the experience of fostering with Barnardo’s Scotland a very positive one, she said: “Barnardo’s Fostering has the flexibility to work around the family to make sure the placement works for the carers and the child or young person joining the family.

“What Barnardo’s Fostering does is so invaluable in making the right match, even if it takes longer.”

One of the most common things Cheryl and Richard hear when they say they foster is ‘I would love to do that, but I would get too attached and it would be too difficult to say goodbye to them.’

Cheryl’s response is “Yes, I do get attached, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be doing my job properly.

“While that child is with you, you’re trying to make their life the best it can be.  It was hard, very hard to say goodbye to the baby after living with her for seven weeks – but it’s about that child, and what’s best for them.”

Cheryl agreed fostering the baby for a longer time would have been lovely, but continued: “That’s not necessarily what’s in the best interest for that child, we’re not in control of life – only the part of the child’s life while they’re with us, so we have to make it the best it can be.”

Although the baby has returned to her birth parents, Cheryl and her family have agreed to remain on standby for a while to provide a stable foster placement, if the baby should need it at again. 

Cheryl’s recommendations for anyone looking for more information about fostering and to prospective foster carers is to make enquiries with a few different agencies and the local authority; to see which one best suits you and speak to anyone they know who has fostered – whatever they do they should definitely make that first call.

One of Cheryl’s memories which made her realise how much of a difference her parents made as foster parents happened one Christmas morning, Cheryl asked the 11-year-old girl who was staying with them at the time, if she was going to get out of bed and go down stairs with her to see what presents there were?

Cheryl said: “I woke her up, but she refused to come downstairs, she said there was ‘no point I won’t have any presents.’

I convinced her to come down stairs with me and when we walked into the sitting room there was a big pile of presents for her, a bigger pile than mine or my brothers - what we didn’t know was my mum, dad, aunts and uncles had all bought Christmas presents for her.  Cheryl said: “I can still remember the look on her face that morning, it was a picture.  All she wanted was a Furbie, she got that and lots of other gifts that Christmas. 

“It seemed such a little act but it’s the little things that can make the world of a difference to a child in foster care.”