“Foster children are not different from your own children. They maybe just haven’t had the start in life that other children have. But it is our job to give them that life that every child deserves,” says Natalie, a foster parent for the past 13 years.
Natalie and her husband Colin fostered their first child when they were in their mid-twenties. Since then, they have fostered another twenty children, between the ages of 0 and 18. Most have been long-term placements, with the longest being eight years. The couple also have a daughter and two sons of their own, aged fifteen, nine and eight.
The couple, who live in Rosemarket, say that starting fostering at a young age, and bringing up their own children with their foster children, has been a definite plus for them.
“It’s easy. You find the time to look after your own children. It’s exactly the same,” said Natalie. “We treat all our children equally, and the rules are the same for everyone. It’s really important, so that nobody feels any different.”
“All of our friends and family know all our children and treat them all the same,” added Colin, a trained paramedic. “Lots of them come back at Christmas and you can’t move for presents! It’s like one big happy family.”
Many of the children which the couple have welcomed into their home have been teenagers, and Natalie says they are actually much easier to foster than some people think.
“In the beginning, they can be hard and will push their boundaries, but if you connect with them, they are away and independent. It’s all about respecting one another,” she said.
“Trust is a big thing. You have got to build up trust; that you are not going to treat them differently or harm them. Nine times out of ten they are just normal children who need to be shown attention, want to be loved, and need some boundaries.”
The couple foster through Pembrokeshire County Council. ‘We have had fantastic support from the Council,” said Colin. “Any time we have asked for help or needed something, we have had it. The relationship and support we have got is brilliant. It helps knowing that you have got the backing from the team.”
Both are passionate about the huge benefits which fostering can bring to any household, and they urge anyone who thinks that fostering might be for them to give it a go.
“As long as you have got empathy and care about others, and have understanding of how people want to be treated, and respected, it’s well worth it,” said Natalie.
“All the good times outweigh by far the rocky patches in the beginning. If anybody thinks it might be for them, they should give it a try at least. It’s definitely changed our lives for the better.” Said Colin; “You can give a child that environment to flourish and turn their whole life around. Some of the children we have fostered have felt they are worthless. So to see a child grow in confidence, totally change, and do well at school or go on the straight and narrow is fantastic.
“We’ve helped to turn them around, make something of their lives, to get an education, to get a job. “I’ve loved every minute of it.”