Read more about our carers as well as the children and young people who we have had the pleasure of getting to know over the years.
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Dawn and Stephen
Dawn and Stephen have been married for 46 years and have been fostering for over 20. They joined Tutis in 2018 and since then have fostered a mother and baby placement and two sets of siblings with our agency.
Before fostering, Dawn and Stephen had experience in looking after and working with both children and adults. Dawn had previously been a child minder and support worker as well as helping the elderly with needs at home. Stephen has experience as a Civilian Instructor where he oversaw and aided the rehabilitation process of prisoners.
They started fostering in 1998 and were inspired to ‘make a difference to children that weren’t as fortunate. To give them a stable family’. Dawn and Stephen adopted their foster son years ago but when he went away to university they felt as though they could still help other children like they did with him.
‘We had seen what we could do, and we just wanted to put it back into practice again.’
Dawn and Stephen initially started fostering children just under the age of five and were only short term. They eased into life as foster parents smoothly and said their experience was positive. They currently have two children in their care.
‘With them being siblings, male and female with a bit of an age gap, they don’t clash as much. They just blend in with everything that’s going on, obviously they’ve got their own little things that they do, but as a foster family it works well.’
When asked what challenges they had faced with when they first started fostering their current placement, they noted that the adjustment process for the children had been difficult.
‘The eldest child had previously had a lot of responsibility to parent his younger sister. So, trying to break him free from that habit was challenging and to make him feel as though not all the responsibility was on his head. I think because it was the first time these children had been in a foster placement; everything was new to them.
Now, they don’t want anything to do with their past lives, it’s strange the way it has worked out. When they first came, they wanted to but now they’re happy the way that they are. They have adapted to our life. But obviously with them being new to fostering, they didn’t know what to expect from us as foster parents.’
Dawn and Stephen found that settling them into school and encouraging them to do extracurricular activities has been the most effective ways to help their current foster children adapt to their new lives and integrate them with other young people.
‘The main thing we did with the eldest was getting him involved in the local football team. He was a bit apprehensive when we first took him down to training to meet the other kids and the coach but he soon adapted and fit in. He actually went from being apprehensive about joining to being the captain of the first team, which is a huge honour for him as he’s only been with the team for eighteen months! So, within less than two years of joining the club he’s now the first team captain!
We got his sister involved in all sorts. We sent her to dance class because our granddaughter goes, she went a couple of times but didn’t like it as much. We got her swimming lessons once a week, so she was enjoying that. She started doing athletics, which she’s still doing now. When she first started going there, she was also apprehensive but now she’s part of the local team and she enters lots of competitions and she’s doing very well! She got coach’s Athlete of the Year, so she got an award for that.
She does acro-dancing which is dancing with gymnastics, and she’s also started football, so we now have both siblings playing for the same club. She played her first competitive match yesterday and she scored a goal! So, it’s all about football now… and athletics… and dancing.
Dawn and Stephen have learned so much from being foster parents, they said it has taught them ‘Patience. A lot of patience, a lot of understanding, listening and care. It’s taught us a lot of care. Ways of encouragement and confidence building.‘
When the foster children come here it’s like a strange world to them, you’ve got to help them adapt to your way of living and make sure they’re safe and secure. We haven’t had many problems but when we have, we have always overcome them. In general, we’ve really enjoyed doing it and we have got some good results out of it.’
They find getting involved with their children and making them feel safe the most rewarding aspect of fostering.
‘What I like to see is when the children get in from the day, they go to sleep. They’re happy. They’re just happy when they’re going to bed and they’re not up through the night. If we sense that there are any problems, we sit down, all four of us sit around the table and discuss what’s going on. We always achieve a result from it because we sit and talk with them about the issue.’
Dawn’s best advice to those considering or new to fostering would be to ‘go into it with an open mind’ and ‘just be yourself.’ She says that ‘You’ve just got to understand them. You have to make sure they’re on your page and you’re on their page.’
Stephen advises to ‘Just treat every day as it comes and don’t look too far ahead because every day is different. If anything is seriously wrong, there’s always somebody there. There’s always support from the agency or the supervisor. They’re always there for a phone call if you ever have any problems. So, there’s plenty of support if you need
A fostering agency, is only as good as it’s carers and Tutis are very proud of work with such dedicated, caring and selfless people.