the story of

Kerrie: Building connections in fostering is vital

Kerrie and her husband have been foster carers and special guardians in Monmouthshire since 2018. They are currently looking after 2 little girls and are also raising their two teenage birth children.

“I wanted to make a more personal difference.”  

Kerrie said she always wanted to have children, and their journey to have birth children wasn’t an easy one. She recalls saying to her husband that when their birth children were grown up a bit, she would like to foster.

Her background is in education, and she worked as a teaching assistant for 11 years. She remembers:

“I could see all these children and had quite a lot of experience of working with children looked after through school. And I could see how different situations affected them. And I just felt like I wanted to make a more personal difference.

I don’t want to be the teaching assistant, in the background. I want to be that person that can be there for them all the time.”

Around the same time, Kerrie’s brother was going through the adoption process. She remembers the joy that it brought to her whole family because her daughters never had cousins until then. Kerrie’s husband is an only child, so at that time, there were no other children in the family.

“So, to us, that was kind of like a hit. I could see the positives from that side as well. How much family could expand and the joy it brings.

I had been thinking about it for quite a while, but just had not had the courage to take that final step. It was the right time for us. Our girls were a little bit older too, to the point where we could sit down and discuss it with them and that they would understand.”

For Kerrie the time felt right when her birth children reached teenagers and became more independent, felt secure, and could understand the reasons behind fostering.

“We are a team.”

Becoming a foster parent is a choice you make with your loved ones. It’s about growing your family unit by accepting children into your home. Supporting them and caring for them. Your family is involved at every step and offers support and care too. It’s not something you do on your own – you’re in it together. For Kerrie, it’s important that they are a fostering family. It’s not just her who is a foster carer.

“I am the main caregiver, but if my social worker rings me about a placement we sit down as a family and we discuss it, and if anybody’s not happy we know it’s not the right decision. Ultimately it has to be right for the whole family. Otherwise, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to be invested as a couple or a family. It’s got to be all of you. Because if it’s not all of you, you can’t carry it on your own.”

“It’s all a learning process.”

Most people already have skills and characteristics that would make them great foster carers; some of them don’t know that for example patience, empathy, or the ability to organise things are already enough. Fostering is a process and a never-ending learning curve. It rewards you and it changes you. Kerrie said,

“Every child teaches you something new as well, no two children are the same, each child is different.

I know I should have done some things differently with my children too. For instance, my 17-year-old is saying, ‘Well, why is Jenny (foster child, not her real name) is getting away with that? I’m sure I didn’t when I was little.’ And you’re trying to explain that as you get older, you mellow a little bit. As the years go on, you’ve got more life experience.”

Fostering can be challenging on occasion, but it shows you that nearly every problem has a solution, and you grow as you go along. Kerrie also said it teaches you how to build relationships and connections, not only in your household but also with people involved in caring for the child and the biological parents too.

“I think building connections is extremely important.”

Kerrie is a special guardian (SGO) to a 4-year-old girl who has been with her family since she was 10 months old. She said that she never wanted to be a foster carer to have another child; she wanted to help children who need stability and security while they are in care. The special circumstances made her, and her family, choose to do what they believed was best for the child:

“Jenny (not her real name) had been with us since she was ten months old, and she just felt part of the family; she’d done all her growing here. When the time came it wasn’t fair on this little girl to pluck her out of this situation and us and put her with people she didn’t know. We wanted what’s best for her.

Foster care didn’t give her the security that we felt she needed, whereas a special guardianship means that we have the parental responsibility so we can do all the boring stuff, you know, registering her for school, taking her for vaccinations. Her day-to-day care.”

Kerrie believes that whenever possible it’s important that a child maintains a good relationship with their biological parents and family. 

“She gets to go to soft play with daddy and daddy takes her to swimming lessons. Mummy sees her, and she gets to spend time with both parents, but then she comes back to us where her security is, and this is her home.

I’m hoping that the security and the level-headedness of our family will mean that she’s happy here. I hope that she’ll always be part of our life.”

Kerrie and her husband are also foster carers for an 11-week-old baby girl. Kerrie said that the ability to build a good relationship with her parents from the early days when she was born was extremely important. She built a connection with a mother who understood the fact that the baby couldn’t stay with her, but she wanted the best for her.

“There is a reason she is where she is. But we work it out together. I listen to what she says. She listens to what I say. I get on really well with her birth mum and dad, and it’s really important that we do days out together. I’m always there with her. We have family pictures together. We do birthday parties. We do everything a normal family does. But we all do it together.

You can’t do that with everybody. There are people you can’t do it with, but we’ve been really lucky so far that we’ve been able to do it with the parents of the children that we fostered.”

“I couldn’t ask for better support.”

No two experiences of fostering are the same. Every foster carer’s story is different, and there are no two children who are the same. For many carers this is what makes fostering so appealing and keeps it interesting – you never know what challenge it will bring you and what it will teach you. No matter the challenges,

Foster Wales Monmouthshire provides excellent support when you need it and Kerrie agreed:

“I couldn’t ask for a better supervising social worker. She is amazing. She listens when we do supervision, she comes, and she has a chat, and she gets all the information she wants and probably more. But we just have a chat, very informal, we have a really good relationship. I feel that if I had an issue or a problem, I could just send her a message, ring her, or e-mail her, and she would come back to me the same day. Or if she can’t, she’ll get someone else to come back to me. She is very good.”

Kerrie said that the longer you’re into your fostering journey you become more confident in your own ability.

Foster Wales Monmouthshire also provides learning opportunities to foster carers so they can develop understanding and knowledge about certain issues. Kerrie is glad that more training is now done face-to-face again, which gives the chance to see other foster carers and have some interaction. She also values online training opportunities, which suit her schedule while she is looking after a baby.

She said that fostering taught her children a lot, but also taught her about different issues.

“I’m very naive when it comes to drugs and alcohol. For example, I’ve had to learn quickly about the extracurricular activities of some parents.

I think our girls have learned a lot from it knowing that not everybody comes from a family where things are stable and nurturing, I think they’ve learned a lot. We all have learned along the way.”

Kerrie emphasised how important it is to have a supportive family. Her older daughter helps her care for foster babies when she’s visiting home during university breaks. Kerrie described her as a ‘baby whisperer’ and appreciates all the help she gives her.

“Having a supportive family is also very helpful. My older daughter has always been amazing. She’s 21 now and she’s training to be a paramedic, I do rely on her a lot when she’s here.”

“When I want to make a difference, I really can make a difference.”

Kerrie recalls sometimes being asked how she can deal with letting foster children go. Some people say to her they would like to foster, but they wouldn’t be able to give children back. Kerrie usually answers:

“They’re not ever yours to keep. They’re yours to love and care for and nurture. But at some point, you have to send them on their way for their journey to begin somewhere else. It’s like a mission.”

She compares it to teaching at school where a teacher has a class and gives them their absolute everything. Then when July comes, children walk out and they’re nearly a whole year older and they’re stronger and they’re brighter and they’re more knowledgeable. Then they come back in September and they’re with someone else. And it’s their turn then to take them forward on that journey. They might say ‘hello’ to you in the corridor, they might acknowledge you.

“I see children out and about now that I’ve taught over the years. Sometimes I hear, ’Hello, Mrs G. You were always our fave, you know?’ And you think to yourself – yeah, I did make a difference.

You’ve got to be straight. You’ve got to be strong. Yes, it does hurt when they leave, but I always try to think that I did something good for them and I prepared them for what comes next.”

“The rewards are immense.”

If you’re thinking about fostering, just contact your local authority fostering team Foster Wales Monmouthshire. That’s the first and the easiest step you can take.

The team will be able to talk to you about fostering and answer any questions you have. There is no obligation to process into application, but you will know if fostering fits your lifestyle and circumstances.

Kerrie said,

“You can do it, talk to people who’ve gone through the process, find out exactly what’s involved. Because it is an invasive process, it’s hard work. You have to show a certain amount of resilience going through it because there are difficult questions you’ve got to answer. It’s learning about yourself, but if you really want to do it, you’ll find a way, and the rewards are immense when you get there. But if you want to foster you need to be selfless. You need to have lots of patience.”

“I think about them all the time.”

This year’s Foster Care Fortnight theme is Fostering Moments. I asked Kerrie if she could remember any particular moment from her fostering journey that stuck with her. She told me a story that sums up so much about fostering.

“One of our foster children, a little boy, went to adoption. It was the first adoption I’d done, and I hope every other adoption is the same. It was just such a positive magical experience… Getting to know his new adoptive mother and spending a lot of time with her. And when you start to see that bond developing and you start to see that child going to that person rather than you, you just know you did well… he’d successfully transferred that attachment, and that’s his forever mummy now.

I’m lucky with caring for babies because I get to see all the special milestones – the first smile, the rolling over, the crawling. There are just so many moments. Or when I take Jenny to preschool and pick her up, she just runs at you smiling… just the lovely bits.”

Asked what she thinks the future will bring, Kerrie said:

“While they live under your roof, they are a member of your family, and you would go to the ends of the earth for your own family. I don’t stop caring about them when they leave. I think about them all the time.

I will continue to foster for as long as I can. Until I want to retire and go and spend some time in the Maldives (laugh) and read a book from start to finish!”.

Thinking of becoming a foster carer like Kerrie and her husband?

If you live in Wales, visit the Foster Wales website where you can find all the information and contact your local authority service.

Living in Monmouthshire, Wales? Send us a message or give us a call on 01291 635682 and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Story Time

Stories From Our Carers

Woman and young girl using computer to make video call

become a foster carer

get in touch