Belfast Trust foster carer
People from all walks of life do foster
Rachel Smith is a single foster carer in her thirties living in Belfast. Having wanted to become a foster carer since she was very young, Rachel was “used to children coming and going” throughout her own childhood as her own parents were foster carers and went onto to adopt a 5 year old boy. In her own words, Rachel “comes from a loving family who always believed there was space for more”.
Rachel herself began by offering respite care at weekends three years ago and in summer 2014 became long term foster carer to a little boy, David * (now aged 8 ) and his sister Sophie* (now 5).
As a single woman with a successful career and a variety of interests including outdoor swimming and sport, Rachel felt she was “in an ideal position to give a child opportunities – to live a good life.” She explains, “I don’t believe you need to give birth to a child to be a parent. I also have a strong belief that as a society we need to look out for those people who aren’t as fortunate as ourselves.
Given Rachel’s busy full time career and the fact that she had no immediate family living nearby, it was a big decision to undertake the fostering task full time for two siblings. However, along with the fostering social workers, Rachel considered very seriously the commitment required and believed that it was something she could do.
“I am seeing first hand that it really does take a community to raise a child. I live in a world where people can help me out. As a single foster carer you need to have the help of friends, family, babysitters. I have an incredible support network of friends here – we call them ‘the children’s army’.”
Aside from the practical considerations, Rachel embodies many qualities needed to be a good foster carer. She describes herself as open-minded, accepting, empathetic and patient. The older of the siblings recently recalled the period when he and his sister came to live with Rachel concluding, “You were calm even when I was angry”.
Rachel is there for the school runs, the nights when the children are unwell, and all the bits in between where she gets to experience a real sense of pride in the children’s achievements. It is a difficult situation to manage but one which she does with the input of social workers from Belfast Trust. When she describes a picture recently drawn by David of Rachel and his birth mum holding hands, it is with a deserved sense of pride that she is doing a good job.
When asked about the importance of long term foster homes for children who need a family where they can stay until adulthood, Rachel is very clear. “If a child is moved around between foster families it can reopen the wound of rejection every time. To be continually moved is destructive. We all need somewhere to call home otherwise how can you lay down roots and create positive attachments?
With David and Sophie I know they are here for the long-haul. I will continue to invest in the children and I want to see them have incredible lives. I am willing to stand up and fight for them as if they are my own. I am here to guide them through their past and help them to build their future.”
To find out more about becoming a valued HSC foster carer, call Regional Adoption and Fostering Service on 0800 0720 137 who will put you in touch with your local HSC Trust. Alternatively you can enquire online.
Photo courtesy of Belfast Media Group