Nichol has been a full-time foster carer for the past eight years. She lives in Nottingham with her son and two foster children.
“I felt I had space in my heart and life for more children, and after talking to my family and most importantly, my son, I got in touch with Barnardo’s and have not regretted it since. I’ve done so many different things in my life, but foster caring is by far the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Nichol worked for 17 years for Nottinghamshire Constabulary. After taking a five year career break following the birth of her son and separating from her husband, Nichol decided she needed a more flexible role to fit around her family.
She started two jobs working at a university and a local school and although the jobs fitted well around Nichol and her son, she didn’t love doing them. It wasn’t until a school staff member suggested that she would make an excellent foster carer, that the thought even entered Nichol’s head.
Over the past eight years, Nichol and her son, who is now a teenager, have fostered eight young people, mainly teenagers, most of whom have stayed with them for long periods of time.
Each child's unique circumstances
Nichol believes how you respond to each child and their individual circumstances makes a huge difference. Nichol says: “As well as providing each child with a loving home and that security they need, I teach them good morals and I make them some really happy memories, which is a really positive thing for them.”
Nichol enjoys nothing more than creating memories and new experiences, by going on lots of little mini breaks with her son and foster family, as well as going on walks together, meals out, day trips and annual holidays abroad. She also enjoys making a big effort for events such as birthdays, Christmas and Halloween, which are always eagerly anticipated in their household.
A particular highlight of Nichol’s foster caring experiences was when she took a foster child on holiday. He had never been on an aeroplane before and when Nichol mentioned to cabin crew it was his first time flying, they made a special arrangement for the family to go to the cockpit and meet the pilot.
Dealing with challenges
“Sometimes children may have had difficult experiences and need additional support such as therapy to help them make sense of what they’ve been through, and it’s important for foster carers to support them with this. I identified that one young lad had special needs and got him some additional support he’d never had before, which made a world of difference to him.”
Nichol believes that the constant support and ongoing training offered by Barnardo’s has enabled her to deal with any difficult periods.
“My social worker from Barnardo’s is like a professional friend,” Nichol says. “I meet with her regularly, but if I ever need any advice or support, day or night, there is always someone there to give me everything I need. There is always lots of different training on offer too, and I go on several courses each year.
“When I first got in touch with Barnardo’s, they did so much work with me to make sure that fostering was right for me. The assessments were really in depth, which I thought was brilliant. Even my dogs were assessed and my social worker spoke with my son too. It was quite a long process but I always looked forward to each session and felt I got a lot out of them.”
Nichol’s advice to anyone who is considering fostering, is this: “It’s not always easy, but it is the most rewarding thing you can ever do. For those who already have their own children and may be worried about whether fostering is the right decision for them, in my experience, by keeping my child involved every step of the way, he loves it just as much as I do and we wouldn’t have it any other way now.
“Some of my favourite times are when we all sit outside together chatting around the log burner and I feel really lucky to have them all and love seeing them so happy.”
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