By Patsy and Tony Allen
We were in our early 20s when we first started thinking about foster caring and had our first placement aged 22. We’re now 25 and 26 and have fostered two children and provided short stays (respite care) for three.
Being younger means we have the energy to do activities together with our foster children, especially teenagers. If they want to go paddle-boarding or mountain biking, we’re doing it too! We’re very proactive and love being outdoors, which is great for the children and for us too.
When we first applied to become foster carers, being younger and having less experience than some of our peers was discussed, in particular around managing children with challenging behaviours. Tony worked as a climbing instructor since he was 16 and then as a teaching assistant, and I’ve got nieces and nephews – so we did have experience with children and young people but perhaps not as much as some. However, that didn’t stop us.
Fostering had always been in the back of our minds. Tony grew up in care for a lot of his life and we first met when Tony was in care. We both know his carers and the difference they made to his life, so we always thought it was something we might consider too. We don’t have any children ourselves but when we moved into our flat in 2017 and had a spare room, we started talking about the possibilities of fostering.
Now, as foster cares ourselves, we see the impact we’re having on these children’s lives. It’s always magical to see children grow up, but for these particular children – knowing what they might have gone through and the adversities they have overcome, it is our privilege to play some small part in making a difference to their lives.
We love creating new experiences for the children to enjoy, to see them grow in confidence and come out of their shell – which is good for them but to us too, as we enjoy seeing them benefiting from the new experiences! We also think that being younger and having a different outlook on life is a real benefit for these children – though we might not get as much respect from the teenagers we look after!
Becoming a foster carer is different to having your own children. There’s a lot of meetings, training sessions and networks, but it’s also good because of these things too. We have a really great support network of family and friends, both our own and through the Mockingbird Family Model, and you’ve always got someone to lean on if you’ve had a challenging day. We’d say if you’re thinking about it, just dive straight in.
Think about when you’ve worked with children and young people before, and the positive and challenging times you’ve experienced. This will not only help when you speak to someone about why you want to foster – particularly if you don’t have as much experience like us – but it will also remind you that fostering is like anything in life; you have highs and lows. But, the highs far outweigh the lows.
Patsy (26) is a full-time Mechanical Designer and Tony (25) is a part-time Residential Support Worker. They have been fostering with Portsmouth City Council since 2017 and have also recently joined the Mockingbird Family Model.