Liz has been Sarah’s foster carer for under a year. Together they share their journey, the ups, the downs and their exciting plans for the future.
Liz begins by explaining why she wanted to become a foster carer: “About three years ago I started looking into fostering. I wanted to support a teenage girl around 13 to 15 years old on the cusp of becoming an adult, to help her navigate all the challenges and opportunities that brings with it. I thought I had something to offer, given my background as a youth worker and more recently my work on violence against women and girls.”
“Although I Initially explored the possibility of fostering an unaccompanied asylum-seeking young woman, I ended up fostering with Aberlour due to a chance discussion with one of their assistant directors, Maxine. Maxine asked if I had thought about fostering a Glaswegian young person and after some discussion, I realised I’d still be able to help a teenage girl.”
“The process to become a foster carer is very thorough and interesting. It really does prepare you for the commitment you are making to a young person and for the associated changes to your life. It took around seven months from beginning to end for me. We covered lots of things from my own experience of childhood to how I respond to life situations as an adult. Basically, how well do you know yourself? And how aware are you of how you deal with issues and situations?”
“The Aberlour team are very supportive. I have met the whole team, which is great as they are all there to support both Sarah and me. I love the fact that it isn’t a remote, distant service. When I call for any reason, I know who I am talking to and they know me. I am really impressed by it; it’s a very forward-thinking model which provides reassurance.”
“Back in June, only a short time after I became an approved foster carer, I received a call from Kerryanne to say a possible match had arisen. Then two to three weeks later Sarah came for her first visit. It all happened really fast.”
“Now Sarah has been living with me for nearly a year.”
“Before I met Liz, I met with foster carers living in Ayr,” said Sarah. “I went for the weekend but that didn’t go has planned so my social worker started to look for a new permanent foster carer for me. Before moving in with Liz I had been living with an emergency foster care family. What was meant to be 28 days turned into 10 months while we found the right home for me.”
Liz goes on to explain: “The good thing about the matching process is you get to meet with the young person. I thought Sarah was a good match for me on paper, but the written word felt a bit one dimensional. Meeting with Sarah made it real and spending time together made it more of a mutual, two-way thing. If Sarah didn’t think I was a match for her as well then it wouldn’t work.”
“After we had our first meeting I then came to stay with Liz for a weekend. The weather was great, we got to go out and do loads of things. I was only meant to bring a few of my own personal things but I ended up bringing half my stuff that weekend, we were surrounded by boxes! We planned how we were going to decorate my room and what furniture we needed to buy. I knew I wanted to move here and live with Liz, I just felt comfortable from the beginning,” said Sarah.
Liz goes on: “It hasn’t all been easy. There have been lots of discussions and boundary setting. Sarah’s previous foster carers restricted her quite a lot, especially with the use of her mobile phone and going out with friends. However, as she is nearly 16 years old, I have been supporting her to become more independent and given her a fair amount of responsibility and trust.”
“She has responded brilliantly! Now she gets the train on her own and goes out with her friends at the weekend. We have only been able to do this through talking openly and honestly, with Sarah learning to take responsibility for her actions.”
“It has been amazing to see Sarah grow in confidence over the past few months.”
“I feel really positive about what we have achieved so far together. After only a few months, Sarah is doing well at school. She has very supportive teachers and has made a great group of friends. She is getting involved in all of school life from helping the P7s with their transition to signing in visitors at parents evening. Now we are getting a plan in place to help Sarah with her exams. But it isn’t just academic goals we are focusing on.”
Sarah explains: “I would like to get a job when I turn 16, so I can start earning a wee bit of my own money. I am very busy though, I volunteer with Aberlour as I love working with younger kids, I have dancing at school and go to singing lessons, so we just need to see where I could fit it in. Also, Liz is helping me to get back in touch with my family. My sister, niece, auntie and cousins don’t live far away from here. And she has started to speak with my auntie who lives up North too. It is really important to me to get to know my family better and it’s good that Liz is helping me to do it.”
“If anyone is thinking of becoming a foster carer, I would definitely encourage them to do it.”
“It is important for me to be here with Liz. Apart from the time with my dad, my past experiences with my family weren’t always so good. But here I can start a new life and forget about the past. I have the opportunity to forget about what has happened and start fresh and do new things. I can be me. And I know I am staying here until I am at least 18. I have a choice.”
“And I’ll be there every step of the way to support Sarah – no matter what she wants to do,” says Liz, smiling.