A new picture: Adam and Kate's story

Adam* and Kate* are just beginning to think about what their family might look like one day. They’ve shared with us some reflections after attending a fostering information session.

Growing up, the word ‘family’ drew a pretty stereotypical, nuclear picture in my mind. There was me, my mum and dad, my brother and my sister, and we were pretty well connected to our wider family too. Even though some of them lived quite far away, we were in regular contact with them all, and would see them often at family gatherings. We were many in number, but we also were finite. With the clear boundary of a shared last name, the family only grew if someone got married or gave birth. For a long time, I thought that that was normal for everyone – I couldn’t imagine it any other way. For a long time, when I pictured what my own family might look like one day, when I was an adult, I was sure that it would look exactly the same.

Kate and I got married last year. Her family is different to mine. She would tell you that for her, as a child, the word ‘family’ was confined to her parents, her younger brother and herself. There were disagreements and divisions among both sides of her wider family that meant each household tended to stick to their own. “I always hoped that any family I might be part of one day would look different,” she says.

We met at university, and I suppose it was then that I really started to understand that some families weren’t like mine. While we were studying, Kate spent some time working in prisons, and she had the opportunity to hear the stories of some of the women she got to know there. Kate found it really striking that the care system was something that came up again and again in these stories. Some had been in care as children or teenagers; some of the women shared that they had been loved and cared for by foster families, others shared that that had been a really difficult time for them. A number of the women shared stories of their birth children who were in care. The stories were complex, nuanced and unique, but they stuck with Kate even after she moved on from that role, and she began to think about whether caring for children in care might be something she – and subsequently, we – could do one day.

Your understanding of ‘family’ has to change quite significantly when you get married. You’re weaving two stories together. You can’t help but compare the differences in how people communicate with one another, how you celebrate special occasions, how often you visit and speak with relatives. In the same year as our wedding, my well-connected family became a little less connected as we felt the impact of a marriage ending between two family members. Kate and I entered our marriage with a shared hope and vision for what ‘family’ would mean for us; we wanted it to be one that others are invited into, whether that’s relatives who may be a little disconnected, or others outside of our biological family.

We were a few months from our first wedding anniversary when a friend of ours took part in the Home for Good Foundations course, and that really caught our interest. We felt that learning a little more could be a really good thing for us at this point; we had no solid plans or ideas or timelines about when and how we might start thinking about starting a family, but we thought, “We’re married now, you’re open to it, I’m open to it – let's see.” We felt it could give us an opportunity to think about family together, to learn, process and to discuss.

We decided to attend a Home for Good fostering information session. We did feel a little like we were at a different stage on our journey than others in the meeting. We were definitely the youngest there, and some of the others had been married for a long time or had birth children already. But we found that really interesting; we gained a lot of insight from the others on the call as they shared their own experience and asked questions that we mightn’t have thought to ask.

We definitely came away with a better idea of what fostering is. I hadn’t quite realised before just how many different types of foster care there were; I think I’d only heard of three of them before. We have a much better understanding now of the process of becoming foster carers, and that information is really valuable, but I think the most helpful part for us was hearing stories from those who were leading the session. Both the Home for Good staff member and the Champion had personal experience of fostering. Both Kate and I were so inspired by their stories, by the love and commitment they showed towards the children they had cared for and by the fact that while they had faced some challenges, they don’t regret their decision at all. Those stories made things seem less like a rose-tinted dream, and more like something we really could consider for our own future.

We would definitely recommend that others join one of Home for Good’s information sessions, particularly individuals and couples like ourselves who perhaps are just beginning to think about what their family might look like one day. We felt really reassured that we weren’t committing to anything by attending; we didn’t have to make any decisions there and then. There was no pressure to take a next step. We just went along to learn and to begin a conversation.

We still don’t know what our family will look like in the future, but we feel a lot more open to the fact that there are a number of different paths we could walk down. We recognise that we have more control over some things than we do others. But I'm so aware now that we’re in a pretty stable position with our home and our jobs, and we have space and love to offer. I would hate to know that our spare bedroom was empty when there are people in our community who could benefit from it.

I think our understanding of family is still evolving – it probably will continue to do so for the rest of our lives. But as we were reflecting on how that understanding has changed so far, Kate summarised it beautifully. We used to see a bubble; being ‘in’ or ‘out’ was clearly defined by a boundary. Now, family is much more fluid; it’s like a river, constantly moving and changing. People might join you for a time before drifting on. Others might flow alongside you for longer. Each relationship is meaningful, each has an impact. It’s not the picture either of us would have drawn for you as children, but we’re excited about what this new picture will mean both for us, and for others around us.

*Names have been changed for anonymity

Author:
Home for Good


Date published:
August 2022


Tags:
Stories


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