A Foster Carer’s Story: Pauline

It was late one evening when Sasha arrived. She was just a year-old, dressed in a pink padded coat and carried through the door. ‘She looked so scared and dirty,’ says Pauline who was there to open her heart and give her a home.

Later as Pauline gently placed her in a warm bubble bath, Sasha smiled at her for the first time. For the next few months, she clung to Pauline, never wanting to be put down. Pauline was determined to give her as much love as she needed.

She bought her a pink coat and pink blankets, and at night she read stories and sang songs to her as she drifted off to sleep.

‘I just wanted to look after and protect her. She was absolutely beautiful,’ Pauline recalls.

For almost a year Sasha slept in the corner of the cot on all fours, and Pauline slept in a bed in the same room watching over her. Then one morning she found Sasha sleeping on her back, it was almost as if she had finally relaxed.

Gradually as she grew, Sasha became more confident, playing in the garden or running around in the park. When she was three, she was adopted by Pauline’s sister, and she became Pauline’s niece. There was a happy ending for all of them.

Pauline started fostering seven years ago and has already welcomed five children into her home.

She knew it was what she wanted to do when she was a young child, brought up by her grandmother in the countryside in Jamaica. ‘I used to say that I was going to have a child from every nation,’ she says.

When the first of her two daughters went to university, there was space in Pauline’s three bedroom house, so she gave up her job as a beautician to become a foster carer.

‘I wanted to give a child a chance, to give them support and love,’ she says.

She admits she has a big heart, that she is kind and loving and caring.

Pauline says the rewards come from seeing a child gaining in confidence ‘knowing they can be loved and there’s nothing wrong with them,’ she says.

When Pauline first met Tom, he was less than a year old and being looked after in a children’s hospital. Every day for months she went to visit him before he was allowed to come and live with her. ‘From the time he came home he was happy,’ she says. ‘It was just as if he had been here all the time.’

Tom suffered from a condition which meant he had to wear a mask and was attached to monitors when he was asleep because of the risk he could stop breathing. Carers came into her home to stay with him during the night, and at times Pauline stayed with him instead, sitting in a chair next to his bed or lying in a sleeping bag on the floor.

‘He was always loving,’ says Pauline. He called her ‘mum’ and ran up to sit on her knee if she was watching television. It was hard for her when he left to be adopted two years later, but Pauline knew he was going to a good home with people who loved him. He was adopted by two nurses. ‘I was happy for him,’ she says. ‘I loved him to bits.’

Another little boy arrived when he was six, and Pauline had a big party for his seventh birthday. She hired a room in a soft play centre and gave him a “Spiderman” party so that he could celebrate with his school friends. ‘He had never had a birthday party,’ says Pauline. ‘He said it was the best day of his life.’

Pauline, who is a Fostering Ambassador for Progress, is keen to encourage other people to become foster carers.  ‘I think everyone should have a home,’ she says.  ‘There are loads of children out there that need help, and I can’t have them all.’

If this story resonates with you, perhaps you could be the next carer to make a positive difference in children’s lives. Get in touch to find out more about being a foster carer.

A Foster Carer’s Story: Gail


Fostering with Progress
Gail with Tina (Progress Operations Manager)

Foster carers are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Opening up your home and heart to children is not easy, but as Gail explains, it’s a rewarding experience.

Gail, a foster carer, was in the kitchen when Amy received the telephone call to say she had passed her GCSEs.  Amy was a teenager who had no confidence in herself. ‘Why do you bother with me?’ she used to say. ‘I’m useless. I’m no good.’  But Gail believed in her. And she was there to throw her arms around Amy when she heard the good news. ‘She couldn’t believe that she had achieved those results. I was just pleased for her,’ Gail recalls. ‘And that’s when you think this is worth it.’

Gail, who is divorced, has been fostering as a single parent since 2010. She enjoys long term fostering and looking after teenagers. Her house was always full of teenagers as her own two children were growing up and when they left to go to university it seemed quiet. Gail, who also used to run the local Brownies, decided to start fostering.

‘I have a big house,’ she says. ‘I felt quite privileged and I wanted to put something back. I like to be busy and to have people around me.

‘Sometimes I find it hard work and a challenge but I also find it a pleasure. It enriches your life.’

She says it is the challenges that make fostering worthwhile and also the difference she can make to the lives of young people.

‘They come with all their worldly goods, and sometimes it is not a lot, which is quite sad,’ she says.

One twelve-year-old boy was smoking 60 cigarettes a day and wouldn’t go to school when Gail gave him a home.  ‘He had tantrum after tantrum,’ she recalls. ‘He was quite a challenge.’ Gail showed him that she cared. ‘I would sit for hours talking to him,’ she says. He had a hood over his head and his arms folded. ‘When he left here he wasn’t smoking, he was a smart young man, he was at college, he was doing really well, and he was really proud of himself that he had turned his life around’ she says.

Gail knows that Progress are always on the other end of the phone, day or night, whenever she needs help. She has received training and been on the courses they offer and also goes to regular support group meetings where she meets other foster carers.

She has held open days at her house to recruit more foster carers. ‘I believe it is important,’ she says.  ‘I think it is better for a child to be brought up in a family environment. There are lots of children who need homes.

‘I want to recruit foster carers who want to give a child a home, not just a room to live in.

‘I don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t fostering. It has given me purpose.’

In the evening Gail and the two teenagers who live with her eat together in the kitchen at the heart of her home. Amy gives her a goodnight kiss every night and says: ‘love you.’ Sarah gave her a card with a heartfelt message inside: ‘Thank you for everything you do.’ Gail cried when she read it.

She tells the girls: ‘I know I am not your mum but you are part of my family.’

‘I love them dearly,’ she says.

If this story resonates with you, perhaps you could be the next carer to make a positive difference in children’s lives. Get in touch to find out more about being a foster carer.