Give the gift of love this Christmas
Regardless of your circumstances, you could change a child’s life for the better
Foster carers provide a solid foundation for some of the city’s most vulnerable children.
Carers can have a huge impact on a child’s life, improving their confidence and helping them to a happy future.
Carers can be single, living with a partner or married – whatever your circumstances, the Council has a scheme of care to suit you whether it is full-time foster care, day care or respite.
The Council is urging people from across the city to consider foster care and give these children the life that other young people take for granted.
Outlook spoke to three carers about the realities and rewards of fostering and adoption.
FOR Brian Herron, forces life was the perfect preparation for becoming a foster carer.
“The army is essentially a family where everyone supports one another,” said the former full corporal, who left the First Battalion the Royal Scots in 1991.
“It also teaches you not just discipline, but also self-discipline and patience which are invaluable qualities when you are raising children.”
Brian, and his former staff nurse wife Roselyn, started fostering eight years ago. The first children to come into their care were a brother and sister aged two and three.
The children were not meeting their developmental milestones and Brian and Roselyn soon realised it was due to special needs.
The couple were persistent with the professionals and eventually the children were diagnosed with cerebral palsy and Asperger’s syndrome. Brian and his wife then set about organising vital support services such as speech therapy.
The two children, now aged 11 and 12, are still fostered by the Herrons and – along with their own 13-year-old daughter, children from previous relationships who live nearby and two dogs – they are very much part of the family.
Brian and Roselyn also provide respite foster care for other carers and, for short periods, for babies with special needs.
The skills acquired in their former careers have proved very useful but they have developed new proficiencies too.
When they had to look after three traumatised young children who had just witnessed their father’s death, Roselyn read bereavement counselling books to help the children cope until they could be reunited with their grandmother in Australia.
Brian, who works with the Council’s criminal justice system, admitted life can be hectic, but said that he would not change a thing.
“The best thing I ever did was to come into fostering,” he said. “When you see my children playing together or getting on with their music or karate, it’s all worth it.
“It would be a lie if I said things were always great and didn’t get on top of you, but that’s family life.”
Brian said that, at such times, it is important to have your own respite. For him that means getting out and about on his motorbike. Six years ago he raised money for fostering through a motorcycle marathon around Scottish towns whose initial letters spelt the word F-O-S-T-E-R.
Brian stressed the importance of going into fostering with your eyes open.
“You really have to look into it to make sure it is the thing for you,” he said.
“We prepared ourselves for nine months so we knew exactly what we were going into. Even so, I would 100 per cent recommend it to anyone.”
Guiding people through the ups and downs of adoption has become a career for Fiona Strachan – based on a decade of her own experience.
Fiona and her husband adopted their sons, aged 12 and 11, over nine years ago and their seven-year-old daughter was adopted five years ago.
While Fiona wholeheartedly endorses adoption, she also stresses the importance of recognising the challenges ahead.
That is why in 2009 she formed the company Adopt Resources to give first-hand advice to adoptive parents.
Fiona started as a respite carer for the Council 12 years ago. She said that her respite care experience had helped her and her husband better understand and negotiate the sometimes complex adoption process.
“The whole process took a very long time,” she recalled, “But looking back on it now, it was probably for the right reasons.”
Fiona urged parents to do their research before embarking on adoption.
“You have to make sure adoption is the right choice for you,” she said.
“You also have to help your children make sense of the fact they are adopted as they grow through life.
“But it has been an amazing experience for us and I would not turn the clock back for anything.”
Providing a safe start for vulnerable babies has officially made Julie Coghill the Pride of Britain.
Julie, from Gilmerton, has fostered more than 40 babies over the past 15 years, most of them suffering from withdrawal due to their mothers’ drugs or alcohol use.
In October, at a star-studded event in London, Julie’s dedication was recognised with a Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Award – presented by the cast of Downton Abbey and Carol Vorderman.
“I was absolutely blown away,” Julie admitted. “When I found out I had been nominated I was waiting for a knock on my door to tell me it was all a joke!
“I am very honoured to have received the award, but it is also important recognition of the work that each and every carer does to improve young people’s lives.”
Julie decided to try respite care when she saw an advert in the paper. She enjoyed the experience of looking after two neglected little girls from Craigmillar so much that she became a full-time carer.
She and husband, Philip, have since adopted one of their charges, now aged 14.
The withdrawing babies are often distressed and averse to being touched but with patient care, around a year later, they are happy, healthy children ready to either be adopted or returned to their parents.
Julie would wholeheartedly recommend fostering and points out that, unfortunately, the numbers of babies suffering from withdrawal is increasing.
“The best moment for me is when the baby is finally happy to be picked up and cuddled.
“It is a gift to be able to look after a child for someone who cannot cope, but is a gift which it is nice to pass on.”
Need to know
Find our more about Adopt Resources at www.adoptresources.co.uk