the story of

julie, hayley and zoe

Foster carers, Julie, Hayley and Zoe have all been friends for over eight years. Zoe and Hayley met each other when Zoe provided respite for Hayley and then Hayley met Julie in a specialist play group. They then started going to a play group together and soon enough, they became firm friends.

Having a good network of support is so important for foster carers, whether that’s made up of family or friends, or other foster carers to call upon.

Friends and family can be great support for emergencies or for a much needed break, whilst having friendships with other foster carers can be invaluable because they’ve been there and got the t-shirt – they get it.

Julie, Hayley and Zoe talk about how they got into fostering, the importance of having each other for support and the rewards.

how did you get into fostering?

Zoe: “My husband and I went through loads of IVF. We had our daughter Ava. When she was one years old, I decided that I wanted another baby. I spoke to my husband and we decided that we didn’t want to go through the whole IVF process again. I loved kids so much and knew that I wanted to do something that involved them. I knew that I didn’t want to adopt so we decided to foster because it meant that I could spend time with my daughter and be around lots of kids. It also meant that for periods at a time, Ava wasn’t an only child. Another deciding factor was that my mum fostered so I had experience of it.”

Hayley: “My girls were getting older and I wasn’t working at the time. I really didn’t fancy an office job. I talked to my husband and we discussed fostering. Initially we thought about fostering for a few years and then look at the options of adopting. However, 10 years on we are still fostering.”

Julie: “There are two main reasons why I decided to look into fostering. Ultimately, the main one was because my mum grew up in foster care and had her life positively changed by her foster carers. I wanted to be able to do the same for someone else. The second reason was that when I was younger, my friend was in foster care. One day I went to call for her at her foster carer’s home and I was told that she had left. I was devastated and never saw her again. I knew I had the love to give, a warm house to welcome children and the resilience needed.”

support is key

Zoe: “I think we became such good friends because we are similar in our fostering thoughts. A good support network is so important. Having Julie and Hayley is a god send. There have been times when I have been ill and the girls have stepped in to help with contact or have the kids for a couple of hours. It’s just knowing that they are there for me, especially as my husband works away.”

Julie: “We always say that if there’s ever a problem, no matter what time in the night, we can all ring each other for support. It’s a great comfort. Everyone needs someone.”

Hayley: “Honestly, if I was fostering without the support of the girls, I don’t think I would have stuck with it for so long. The team at Foster Wales Swansea are really supportive but it’s not the same when you talk with other foster carers because they are doing it, they get it. It’s important to know that you can speak to somebody who has been through it and can provide advice.

“At the moment, we’ve all got babies who have suffered with feeding so it’s nice to be able to compare and help each other.

“Having a foster baby is a completely different scenario to having a baby of your own and you just can’t talk to other people about it because they won’t get it.”

Julie: “I’ve recently had a baby placed with me but it’s been years since I last had one.  She wasn’t feeding so I spoke to Zoe and she gave me specific bottles to try. The baby took to them straight away. It really is about having someone who knows what you are going through and can provide helpful advice.” 

Zoe: “Sometimes when I think that I’m at the end of my tether, I’ll ring the girls and then I soon realise that they are having a worse day so I end up thinking that my day isn’t actually that bad – everything is okay.”

Julie: “If we need to have a moan, then we can call upon each other without being judged. There’s nothing better than someone getting how you are feeling.”

Hayley: “We can say it as it is with each other, there’s no judgement. We all know the boundaries so therefore can trust each other with all the children. When we’ve all had children in placement and they’ve been settled, the three of us has had holidays and nights out together which is. But you need a good support network to do that, like family and friends.” 

Their friendships have also extended to their husbands.

Hayley: “The husbands are friends too. As they work full time, they don’t get a chance to get involved in many of the activities so when we all go out together, the men get a chance to speak about fostering and have a chat between themselves which is really beneficial for them.”

coping with covid

The pandemic affected everyone, particularly children in care who couldn’t see their family. But it was also hard on foster carers.

Hayley: “During Covid, we video called each other all the time and talked through things, plus we were sending each other messages of support via WhatsApp.”

Zoe: “We all bought each other gifts as a gesture of support.”

not every day is brilliant

Zoe: “It can be quite isolating so having other friends who foster is so beneficial.”

Hayley: “Not every day is brilliant, there are some days when it’s tough but when I have those days, I send a message to the girls. We are on WhatsApp every day, checking in with each other – especially after tough days.”

benefits of fostering with foster wales swansea

Hayley: “I’ve never felt unsupported by Foster Wales Swansea ever. I always feel listened to and I genuinely can’t say anything negative about the service.”

Zoe: “I’ve been fostering for nearly 10 years and there’s a lot more on offer for foster carers, especially so that our voices are heard. We have foster carer groups, weekly coffee mornings and monthly catch up with staff and management. The team are very open and always listen to us. They always ask for our feelings and views to find out ways to improve the service. It’s really good. It’s really nice going to the support groups and coffee mornings and meeting new people, especially foster carers that we haven’t met. It’s really nice having different places to go which are organised for us.”

Hayley: “I have a fantastic relationship with my social worker, she’s great. I feel that I can talk to her about anything but equally, if she disagrees with me then she’s confident to talk to me and discuss why.”

Zoe: “I too have a fantastic relationship with my social worker. I know that I can say anything to her because she knows me, she know my strengths, she knows my weaknesses and she doesn’t judge me. But I think we’re really lucky because the whole team is so visible so we feel like we know everyone, they are familiar to us and we know that there is always someone available to speak to.”

Hayley: “For me, I consider us as foster carers and the social workers as one big team. We are all Foster Wales Swansea.”

the rewards of fostering

Hayley: “It’s always nice to attend my annual review where staff members from Foster Wales Swansea go through my previous year of fostering. It highlights what I have achieved for the children, as well as myself. It’s so rewarding to hear the milestones the babies have reached through my support. It makes me realise that I’m doing a good job.”

Zoe: “For me, it’s really rewarding when the babies who have been withdrawing and been so poorly, come on leaps and bounds, and the GP says it’s down to me. It’s amazing when a consultant says that a baby is so bad in terms of withdrawing, that they might not recover and then months or years down the line, they are happy, smiling and trying to talk. It makes me feel ‘I did that, the baby is okay because of what I did for them’. You’ve just got to be there for them and ride out any pain they are experiencing.”

Julie: “I absolutely thrive on seeing each and every child who has lived with me develop and reach milestones, no matter how big or small they are. They are unique to that child. I also enjoy learning new skills and developing my knowledge so I’m able to help the children with what they need from me.”

Zoe: “It’s also really rewarding helping the babies move on successfully, either back home, to friends or family, or to adopters. If I didn’t have a house full of kids, I would be bored.”

what advice would you give to anyone considering fostering?

Hayley: “If you considering fostering then make sure you have a good support network, it’s a 24/7 role so be prepared. You need to put in hard work to get the best outcomes. I genuinely love fostering. There’s definitely some years left for us in fostering.”

Julie: “You need to be committed and be open minded. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I would recommend Foster Wales Swansea to anyone.”

Zoe: “You should do research so you know what fostering entails. I would recommend people to attend one of the information events and speak to foster carers. I love fostering, I just can’t imagine not doing it.”

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