Jade’s 2016 Message: Without my foster mum, I wouldn’t be who I am today

A 21 year-old care-leaver who had a life-changing experience in foster care wants to see more people fostering older children and teenagers in Somerset.

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Jade Gillard was fostered at the age of 14 when an incident at home meant she couldn’t stay with her family any longer. Today she is an energetic Somerset County Council apprentice, helping improve outcomes for young people leaving care.

Though “lucky not to have been moved around very often,” it was her third placement with a Lyme Regis foster family which proved the right fit. In her New Year message on www.fosteradoptsomerset.org.uk Jade explains how her foster mum, who was also a reflexologist, really helped her. She hopes to inspire others to follow suit.

“Everything I do now is because of what my foster mum taught me,” says Jade. “She just made me feel connected to her. I did things with them as a family where normally I would have been put into respite. They took me to the airport to say goodbye to their son who was going away; they took me on my first holiday. I felt like I was part of their family. I felt wanted, and I felt equal to my foster brothers and sisters, even though they were their birth children.

“They would ask me what I wanted, and not make decisions for me. When I did something wrong, my foster mum wouldn’t punish me, or tell me off. She would sit me down to explain how my actions would make people feel, and how I would make myself feel inside. With her help, I began to understand my behaviour, and I became a ray of sunshine.”

For Jade, what made the real difference was “definitely the thought of them wanting me there, and not being motivated by money. Them doing things for me because they wanted to; not because they were my foster carers.”

So what would Jade say are the keys to fostering older children and young people, as someone with first-hand experience?

  • “I would say, have open arms with young people. Everyone deserves a chance. Sometimes these really high risk, ‘naughty’ young people don’t understand their behaviour; it’s not their fault. But when given the opportunity, that really naughty person goes, ‘Why are they being so nice?’ Then they grow to realise that that can be their ‘normal’.”
  • “I have heard people saying they don’t want to foster 14 to 17 year-olds, because they’re really naughty. But their behaviour reflects their situation. It’s also that child’s most vulnerable time. They need to be shown life skills, such as cooking their own meals.”
  • “The worst thing you can do with a foster child in a new placement is hit them with a lot of rules or 99 per cent of them will be broken.”
  • “Don’t criticise their birth parents or families, because they will defend them all day long, no matter what they’ve been through. Help the child or young person understand their and their loved one’s behaviour.”
  • “Listening is a big one. Pay attention to a young person’s body language.”

Read Jade’s blog by following this link: http://www.fosteradoptsomerset.org.uk/youve-got-to-have-open-arms-with-young-people/ and watch Jade’s Youtube video message here:

Don’t miss! Fostering events in Spring 2016

  • Interested in becoming a foster carer? Book in for a personal one-to-one fostering chat, 9am-4pm, Monday 11 January, Bridgwater House (TA6 3AR). Phone 0800 587 9900.
  • Our friendly, professional Fostering Service is at Bridgwater’s Angel Place Shopping Centre, 9am-4pm on Friday 29 January
  • Our next information event is on Monday 1 February, 7pm-9pm at Taunton’s Holiday Inn (TA1 2UA). Don’t miss the presentation at 7pm, and speak to social workers and current foster carers.

The Council seeks ordinary people to offer a stable home to a child over 10, or a teenager, who is unable to live with their birth family because of illness, domestic issues, abuse or neglect. They need enthusiastic, resilient and supportive foster carers or foster families to be there for them.

Phone 0800 587 9900 or visit www.fosteradoptsomerset.org.uk to enquire today.