Foster Care Fortnight: Kettering-based charity's foster families share how pets can help a child feel at home
Research has shown that pets improve children's physical and mental health
Being placed in foster care can be daunting for children and young people, but pets in a foster home can have a positive impact and help the child feel at home.
During Foster Care Fortnight which runs until May 23, foster carers from Kettering-based fostering charity TACT East Midlands have shared their experiences of caring for young people alongside their four- legged friends.
Gemma and her partner Stephen began fostering in October last year.
She said: “We decided to foster so that we could share our home and lifestyle to provide a secure and loving home for those that need it.”
Gemma and Stephen live on a farm just across the county border in Rutland, and have four pets, along with 47 non-domesticated animals.
“Along with our own four children, we have two dogs, a nine-year-old Cocker Spaniel called Daisy and a three-year-old Lakeland Terrier called Lottie, a nine-year-old cat called Piggy and a three-year-old tortoise called Shelby.
“In our experience, pets bring comfort, companionship, structure and responsibility.
"All of ours are all well loved by the children in our care.
"The care of the pets is collectively shared between all of the family.
“All of the pets have a really positive influence in their own unique way.
"Dogs, for example, encourage you to get more exercise and see more of the outdoors.
“Cats are independent and mostly self-sufficient, so they generally only respond favorably to those who are gentle, kind and trustworthy and so that promotes such behaviour In the children who care for them.
“A tortoise is totally dependent on its carer and the correct living environment encouraging routine and commitment.
"Shelby is our most troublesome pet.
"Much to the dismay of the children she has a huge desire for escape and freedom.
"She has gone ‘missing’ on several occasions!
“Caring for the pets enables a child new to the placement to join in without having to interact verbally too much until they feel more comfortable.
"Initially, it can often be easier for a child to give and accept affection from the animals rather than the new family.”
Nicky and Darren first started fostering with TACT back in 2006, and in that time have provided a home to 11 children and young people.
Nicky said: “We originally wanted to be foster carers because we wanted to provide vulnerable children who’d had a difficult start a happy, safe home environment.”
In July 2020 they began caring for a nine-year-old boy, alongside the 17-year-old girl that they have cared for the past seven years.
“He settled in really well but he kept asking us if we could have a pet as he had dogs and cats at his previous placement that he really loved.
“One day we got a WhatsApp message from my nephew and his girlfriend who live in Cyprus and volunteer at a dog rescue centre there.
"They showed us a picture of this puppy that had been found abandoned in a bin bag and we immediately fell in love.
“We decided to take him in and when he was old enough to fly, he joined our house in October.
"The boy was absolutely chuffed, I think bringing in the puppy really cemented his feeling of being part of the family.
“We decided to call him Logan, he’s a Mini Pinscher mix, though we're not sure what the mix is!
"The first day was really manic, with everyone wanting to hold, cuddle and walk him.
“He is a lot of fun and loves lots of cuddles and fuss from all the children (as well as the adults) and is very spoiled.
"We had to say no to the young man in regards to the puppy sleeping in his bed with him!
“Logan has had a really positive effect, not just on the boy but the young lady we care for too.
"She loves a good cuddle with him whenever she is feeling down or had a bad day at school or work.
"It has also given her a reason to get out the house and walk the dog which has been really great for her.”
TACT is the UK’s largest dedicated fostering charity and it has been helping to provide loving families for vulnerable children for more than 25 years.
If you are interested in learning more about fostering click here.
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