Nikola and her husband Tony foster two children through Barnardo’s. Tony has two grown up children from a previous marriage and Nikola can’t have children so they decided to be foster carers in 2012. 

Foster care, Nikola

"Foster caring helped me to be a mum which I can’t be on my own. The way I explain it to the children is that their mum's did the bit that I can’t and now I’m helping with the bits that their mum's are struggling with. 

“And it is so rewarding. It’s the most difficult job I’ve ever done, but I can look and say to myself ‘this is how they were when they came and this is how they are now’. Our eldest foster child is doing very well at school which is a great achievement for any child, but especially for a foster child that hasn’t had the same start in life as everybody else.” 

Nikola originally wanted younger children, but the couple were told about an 11 year old as an emergency placement soon after qualifying. 

“We thought ‘well let’s see what we can do to help’ and that child is still with us. The placement was originally just for 28 days but we all wanted it to be made permanent. 

“I was quite nervous to have someone who is basically a stranger come and live with us, but of course it was much harder for the child. I was nervous for them, not knowing us, and they had already been through a lot of placements and so was used to ‘moving on’ - with every move feeling like a rejection on some level. So we were all looking for stability.”

Getting approved

“Barnardo’s need to know you have what it takes and that you can cope for the sake of the children – these are not average children and they don’t come with manuals. You need to be prepared to wear your heart on your sleeve and be open. But Barnardo’s can help you through the process and support you.

“Barnardo’s are brilliant – they are very supportive of you. You can pick up the phone at any time and there’s always someone there to support you. Everybody knows everybody and they all know your family. The training courses that are available are very good and the support groups, made up of other foster carers, meet every month to be able to support each other and talk about the positive and the areas where other people’s experience can help. The last thing you want is to feel you are on your own. You have to learn to talk about things and be open and honest – sometimes just to be able to pick up the phone and have a rant!”

Nikola's advice

“I’d recommend it to anyone – it’s so fulfilling. It’s not like 9-5, you don’t get to leave it at work, it’s there all the time and you have to fight to help your children - for what they need to help them move forward and deal with some of the traumas they’ve had and become a good rounded adult.

“It’s not about the children fitting into your home – it’s about finding a way to live together as a family. You have to fit with them as much as they fit with you.