“I didn’t want to go into a high-powered job straight after university, so opted to do some volunteer mentoring with teenagers. My husband and I – we’d only just got married – ended up taking in a 15-year-old girl whose mum had kicked her out.
Just being with us, part of our regular life, made such a difference to her. So we started looking into fostering.
I was 23 when we started, and we’ve fostered 15 children so far. It can be exhausting and it’s daunting, especially when you hear about the children’s experiences.
What I feel I can do is bring them into a safe place, and I can love them, and I can give them a positive routine.
There are so many positives to balance those times. I can’t imagine not fostering.
There are the awful situations faced by children whose stories end tragically, and I just rejoice to be a part of the stories we won’t hear, because these children, the ones we look after, have been rescued and will have a better life.”
‘The rewards are huge’ - Carole Kloss, social worker
“Potential adopters quite often come with expectations: they want a baby, as young as possible. But the children we see are not given up for adoption at birth; generally they’ve been through care proceedings and suffered things like neglect or abuse.
You have to do a robust assessment to ensure an adopter can manage, whatever might come along. It can be hard, but adoption is a commitment for life: the stakes are so high for these children. Our professional skill is to encourage people to be really honest, instead of just saying what they think we want to hear.
All social workers are credible, but when you’re able to say to someone that you’ve been looking after these sorts of children for the past 28 years, I think that’s invaluable. I can see the social work practice theory, but also how that plays out in children’s lives.
The rewards are huge. Children who come into care will have experienced horrible things. When you put them with an adoptive family who really care about them, you actually see a physical change in them, and in how happy they are.
Children are amazingly resilient. If you put them in the right environment, with the right people, they can absolutely soar. I love being part of making their lives better.”
‘She’s perfect for me and I’m perfect for her’ - Karen McKellar, adoptive parent
Karen McKellar has always been upfront with her little girl about her adoption. Six-year-old Grace will happily tell people she comes “from her mummy’s heart not her tummy.” But McKellar knows that could change in the future – and so the fact that her daughter looks like she comes from the same ethnic background is an advantage. “People only know my daughter is adopted when I tell them – if you see us together you wouldn’t know,” she says. “For me, I didn’t care if she looked like me or not. I remember there was one little girl who was matched with another lady because they said she looked more like her and at the time I thought: ‘How can you expect us to look like the children we want to adopt when we didn’t give birth to them?‘ It seemed unfair.”
Now, however, she appreciates the fact her daughter will not feel she as if she does not belong in family photos. “I want her to grow up very confident and very comfortable with things and so this is one less issue for her to have to deal with. When she’s older, she’ll have the power to decide who she wants to let know and who she doesn’t.”
In fact, McKellar does not know Grace’s ethnic background – her little girl was a foundling adopted at just 11 months old. She is being brought up to love her mother’s Jamaican heritage. “I’m proud of where I come from and for me bringing her up with that culture and heritage is very important,” says McKellar.
It was almost three years from the start of McKellar’s assessment as a would-be adopter to the point where she could take her daughter home. She is now a passionate advocate for adoption and has begun fostering babies to help give them the best start in life. “As long as the adoption process may be, as hard as it may be, as intrusive as it may be, don’t give up and quit. Once you are matched with your child it’s all worth it. If it had gone any faster I wouldn’t have had my daughter. She’s the perfect child for me and I am perfect for her.”