Natalie was first introduced to Aberlour when she was 7 years old, she was unable to stay with her family anymore and she moved to one of our Aberlour Sycamore houses. There she met her mum and dad who fostered her when she was 16 years old. Find out from Natalie about how her mum and dad changed her life for the better and how others should become foster carers.
When I was 7 years old Aberlour saved my life. I had suffered trauma at the hands of my biological family and my teachers at school reported it for me to be taken into care. I then went to live at an Aberlour Sycamore house.
I lived in the Sycamore house until my first foster placement. Sadly, that didn’t work out and I had to be placed in an emergency foster placement until a place became available in Sycamore again.
My mum and dad were residential workers at Sycamore. It was because of me they decided to become foster carers. I was 16 years old when they fostered me. It wasn’t easy when I first joined their family. Mum and dad had children from previous relationships and then had their own baby at the time I joined. There was a lot of clashing between me and two of my sisters as we were similar in age. But mum and dad never gave up.
I didn’t know what love was, I didn’t know how to trust.
I didn’t know what love was, I didn’t know how to trust. I was a nightmare when I first moved in. I really tested them to their limit to see if they would send me back to the residential unit like the last family. I put them through everything and anything, called them all the names under the sun but they never gave up. Every day I would hear the word love. Eventually I started to realise ‘well if they keep saying it to me, they must mean it.’ I wasn’t a horrible and nasty child, but I did make it hard on mum and dad to make sure they were tough enough to take on a challenging child. They proved to be. They showed me I could trust them and they both showed me what love was, from both sides which I had never had before.
Mum and dad’s biggest asset is to talk. As a family we always talk things through. They always gave me space when I needed it, for example when I was struggling, I used to put my hood up; even mum knew when my hood was up to leave me alone. But I always knew they were there for me to talk when I was ready. I think it is really important for a foster carer to let their child know that they can have their space but that they are there to talk to when the child needs it. They are more likely to come and chat then.
Mum and dad also spoke to my sisters and brother about why I acted the way I did sometimes; that was really important too. My family understand me and never, even when my sisters and I would fight like sisters do, did they once say ‘you don’t belong here, you are in care.’ We are so close. I have never been this close to anyone. We are a family.
Being moved into a family out of the residential unit was life-changing for me. I was able to live a normal life.
Being moved into a family out of the residential unit was life-changing for me. I was able to live a normal life. You can’t have that in a residential unit as there were so many people coming in and out my life. I didn’t like advertising I was in care. At school everyone just thought mum and dad were my mum and dad. I was able to make friends. I used to think I couldn’t do that because I was in care. I was able to have a normal, stable life. Mum and dad had hopes and dreams for me. They encouraged me to get my first job at 16, to have a life and to plan for the future.
Mum and dad are always there for me. I haven’t gotten to a certain age and they stopped helping me. I was under an agreement with social work until I was 22. So, it isn’t like when I turned 22 they said ‘oh right bye’ as the contract is over. I am a part of their family, and I always will be. I have a family.
I moved out when I was 21. I needed my own independence and to stand on my own two feet but with my mum and dad’s support if I need it. I can move back but I have just turned 30 and I haven’t had to yet.
If mum and dad hadn’t fostered me I would have gone down a destructive path.
If mum and dad hadn’t fostered me I would have went down a destructive path. I had a brief spell of it. I would have been worse off if I didn’t leave. I was 15 when me and all my friends were all out drinking and getting into trouble with the Police as we liked a chase. The minute I turned 16 I would have probably been hit with every charge going because I would say ‘you can’t do nothing as I am 15, it will come off my record.’ I was so mouthy and cheeky it was unreal. But by moving in with my family I managed to keep myself and my record clean.
I am really excited as two of my sisters are having a joint wedding this summer and I am going to be a bridesmaid. This will be my second time as a bridesmaid. My first time was bridesmaid to my mum as her and dad didn’t get married until I was living with them for a few years.
I want to help those kids the way mum, dad and Aberlour have helped me.
I am finishing up with college, but I know that I want to progress a career in working with kids in care. I want to help those kids the way mum, dad and Aberlour have helped me. Nicola, from Aberlour, is helping me apply for a job with a local project in Aberdeen which is all about nurturing relationships in the care system.
I am also working with Nicola on joining the fostering panel. As a child, I had to attend a lot of panels. It will be good for me to see the work and process that someone goes through to become a foster carer. With my experience I hope I will be able to help the right people to become foster carers.
I want people to know that becoming a foster carer is one of the most rewarding jobs you could ever do.
I want people who are thinking about becoming a foster carer to know that it is one of the most rewarding jobs you could ever do. To open up your home and to give a child a start in life. Because if you don’t, the child won’t get it. Everyone deserves a chance to have a good life and have a family as well. It isn’t good for a child to feel abandoned; it is a rewarding and worthwhile job.
Can you change a future and become a foster carer?