When Brighter Futures for Children look to place a child in foster care, having other children in the house can often be a considerable advantage. But concern about how fostering might impact on their own children can sometimes hold people back from fostering. Speaking from her own experience, local mum Marion says, “If your own children are ready, go for it”.

Marion had long harboured the dream of being a foster carer, but in her own words “I had to wait until the right time”.

“That point,” she says, “was reached when I felt that my two daughters were old enough to have a proper say in the decision, fully able to understand what was involved, and ready to share their home – and to share me.

“When I did ask them, they were all for it… and it turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done – for them as well as myself.”

Marion’s fostering career began eight years ago, when her children were 13 and 19. “I had worked as a nursery nurse and had recently become a single parent. Becoming a foster carer allowed me to be at home for my daughters.

“My eldest daughter actually attended some of the courses with me when I applied, so she was very involved in the application and training process. Our first foster child was seven when she arrived, and originally it was only intended that she would stay for a week – but she was with us for over a year.

“It was quite a learning curve for us all, but my daughters adapted well – it actually helped my youngest to cope when her big sister left home as she had company. And while there were inevitably some up and down moments, my daughter could also see just what a positive experience it was for the girl we fostered.

“I learned a lot, especially as I attended quite a few courses to improve my understanding of children’s behaviours.  One of the really important lessons early on was to recognise that if a child smiles at you when they’re being told off it isn’t necessarily them trying to wind you up… it’s simply their response to try and defuse a situation.”

The second child who came into Marion’s home was nine when she arrived five years ago. “She was a quiet little thing at first, and not always prepared to speak up for herself or share her views. That’s certainly all changed… which shows how far she has come! She even talks at training sessions for prospective foster carers, which is amazingly helpful for them – and for her.”

Now that her youngest daughter is at university, and there is another spare room, Marion is in a position to offer a home to an additional child aged five and over. “They’ll be coming into a busy house filled with other children, as my eldest girl’s two children are often here too!”

And Marion’s advice to prospective foster carers? “Do it! You may have some concerns about certain aspects and perhaps around how you will cope, but Reading provide lots of training courses to give you the tools you need to deal with the situations that crop up. You can reach out to your Supervising Social Worker, and there is a very good network of foster carers there to give you their advice too.

“It has been one of the best things I’ve ever done – my own daughters have been hugely supportive all the way through, it’s given them a sense of achievement… and I know that they are more understanding people as a result.

“On top of that you know you are making a huge difference to a young child’s life, and helping to equip them for what lies ahead.”