Jade is 21 and has lived in Somerset pretty much her whole life. She was 14 when she went into foster care, after an incident at home meant she couldn’t stay with her family any longer. Today she is an energetic apprentice at Somerset County Council, helping improve outcomes for young people leaving care.
Below, Jade explains how her foster mum really helped her, and she hopes to inspire others to follow suit…
“I was removed from my family when I was 14 with my brothers and sisters, and I’m the eldest. I’m quite lucky to have not been moved around very often. My only reason for moving on was for not getting on with carers. They couldn’t handle my behaviour. I wasn’t naughty, we just didn’t get on.
“Being fostered was really hard. I had pretty much brought up my brothers and sisters. I started to get really bad anxiety after we had to go into foster care, and felt quite alone. It took me a while to come to terms with what had happened. But our home life wasn’t right.
“My third placement was with a foster carer who was a reflexologist in Lyme Regis.
“It rescued me really. It was supposed to be for 72 hours and ended up being for two years. After three days they’d given me a set of keys; something they’d never done before in 15 years of fostering.
“Everything I do now is because of what my foster mum taught me. She just made me feel connected to her. I did things with them as a family where normally I would have been put into respite. They took me to the airport to say goodbye to their son who was going away; they took me on my first holiday. I felt like I was part of their family. I felt wanted, and I felt equal to my foster brothers and sisters, even though they were their birth children.
“They would ask me what I wanted and not make decisions for me. When I did something wrong, my foster mum wouldn’t punish me, or tell me off. She would sit me down to explain how my actions would make people feel, and how I would make myself feel inside. With her help, I began to understand my behaviour, and I became a ray of sunshine.
“My foster carer made me the person I am today. It was like an instant connection, and I sort of felt like I was part of their family. They didn’t punish me for running away from school. My foster mum knew that I wasn’t running away to be naughty, I was just running away to be with my mum. She helped me understand how certain things had happened in my family because of people’s behaviour. They never tried to put a barrier between me and my family, they just tried to help me, and help me understand behaviours.
“I have now taken my experience into my work with young people at the Council. I want to make a difference to young people’s lives. I think it’s fascinating how since I started here, I have never taken up so much information. I never took up this much information at school.
“It’s new beginnings.”
Jade’s advice for fostering a young person
- “I would say, have open arms with young people. Everyone deserves a chance. Sometimes these really high risk, ‘naughty’ young people don’t understand their behaviour; it’s not their fault. But when given the opportunity, that really naughty person goes, ‘Why are they being so nice?’ Then they grow to realise that that can be their ‘normal’.”
- “I have heard people saying they don’t want to foster 14 to 17 year-olds, because they’re really naughty. But their behaviour reflects their situation. It’s also that child’s most vulnerable time. They need to be shown life skills, such as cooking their own meals.”
- “The worst thing you can do with a foster child in a new placement is hit them with a lot of rules or 99 per cent of them will be broken.”
- “Don’t criticise their birth parents or families, because they will defend them all day long, no matter what they’ve been through. Help the child or young person understand their and their loved one’s behaviour.”
- “Listening is a big one. Pay attention to a young person’s body language.”
Click here to start your Fostering journey with Somerset in 2016, or phone 0800 587 9900 to make an enquiry today.