Elaine’s experience in foster care
My name is Elaine* and this is my story…
I was fostered by my foster carers (I refer to them as my ‘mum’ and ‘dad’) when I was two years old. Mum and dad had also fostered my older sister. Another sister and brother had been fostered by two other families who both lived very close by.
When I look back on my childhood I am reminded of a mobile home in Ballycastle. We had many summer holidays there and we would save our summer pocket money to spend at the Lammas fair at the end of August.
Growing up, I had a love for animals. Mum greatly encouraged this and so I have been the proud owner of dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, birds and the odd caterpillar or ladybird I could find in the garden.
Over the years I was able to keep in close contact with my brothers and sister due to visits arranged by social services and because we lived so close to each other. My brother and sister’s parents were both very friendly with my mum and dad. I was able to sleep over at my sister’s house and she was able to sleep over at mine also.
When I was nine years old, dad unfortunately passed away after being unwell for some time. I remember feeling very upset by this as was the rest of the family. I was very worried that maybe mum would die too. Mum spent a lot of time talking with me and assuring me that this would not be the case and mum also helped me to accept dad’s death. We all became close as a family as we learned to adapt to life without dad.
I was accepted into the same secondary school as my two sisters. Whilst in school I found that I was good at Maths and Science but I wasn’t too great or interested in P.E. I had lots of friends in school and had always managed to have a good laugh even during exam time. I was always encouraged to do my best in school. I got good marks in my GCSEs and went on to complete my A Levels.
My mum’s son and my older brother had gone to University in Belfast. I really admired my older brother (and still do) and so I wanted to go to the same Uni as him. I also did not want to go too far from home. I got the results I needed and got into my chosen course. I went to Belfast and had the best three years of my life. I received a lot of support from the After Care Team. I also had part time jobs so I could save and travel with friends. I remember mum worrying to death when I told her I was travelling to Africa to teach during our summer holidays. I told the After Care Team where I was going and they were kind enough to pay for my Malaria tablets.
When I finished Uni, job opportunities were few and far between. I thought it would be best if I came home and applied for a Master’s Course in Coleraine. I am now in my dream job as a Biomedical Scientist within the Belfast Trust. I come home most weeks for catch ups with family and friends as well as home cooked dinners!
I have had a very happy childhood as every child should have. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it were not for the support of each and every person in my family. I love them all dearly and I and grateful and very lucky to have them.
(*name has been changed)