Action for Children protects and supports children and young people, providing practical and emotional care and support, ensuring their voices are heard, and campaigning to bring lasting improvements to their lives.

Nicola and Chris Butler are foster parents from Swansea, after their children left the home.

“We have five grown up children of our own and we started our fostering with Action For Children 24 years ago. Most of our children then were grown up. We initially decided we wanted to offer respite care for children with additional needs, we ourselves are parents of a son with additional needs. We knew how important it was for families to have that break from their caring roles and a bit of quality time to focus on other children within the family.

Barry And District News:

“When our respite placement was coming to an end in 2009, as a family we decided that we had the room, time, love and commitment to consider fostering with AFC full time. We felt it was important to stay with AFC as we felt the support we had while respite fostering was outstanding. We live in Swansea, and AFC run the respite services in our area. I felt that the whole ethos of AFC, a non profit charity, etc was very grounded and good.”

Action For Children practice therapeutic fostering, a concept Nicola has found to be very helpful.

“Action For Children train all of their foster parents to ‘parent with PACE’, which means playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy. Focussing on attachment and connection, and understanding the child’s past history. Our current child, we have with us at the moment, we had to take him back, to meet all his nurturing milestones that he had missed out on as a baby and toddler. That then enabled him to move forward. We had to understand the reasons and triggers for all of his behaviours and remain calm and offer him unconditional acceptance and love.”

Barry And District News:

Action For Children provide regular support for their foster parents and children, including one on one sessions and group outings.

“Action For Children offer regular attachment clinics, both for schools and any other organisations the child is part of. They do therapeutic life story work which they feel is really important, as most children’s life story work is on an A4 sheet of paper. I think by doing it therapeutically the children really get a handle on how things panned out in their lives. It also doesn’t re traumatise them by giving them the hard facts. It is done in the third person. They also have in house therapeutic practitioners, offering 1-1 work with the children and also advise the carers on how to support the child that they have. We have weekly phone calls from our supervising social worker and monthly supervision visits. I feel like whenever I ring them, every member of staff knows what is going on, so I never feel like I have to repeat myself. They also organise regular trips, activities, get togethers and we  have a really good support network enabling us to have some really well deserved breaks.”

Barry And District News:

Nicola would recommend fostering to anyone, and says that doing it with Action For Children has made her journey a lot easier.

“We have no regrets since embarking on our fostering journey. We feel the children that we have cared for over the years have really enriched our lives and we still have regular contact with them, even today. Being a fostering family with Action For Children is amazing, they support us to do the most rewarding job in the world. Together we transform the lives of the children, enabling them to lead happy and fulfilling lives.”

When it comes to fostering families, Nicola would like to see Wales adapt the same principles as other parts of the U.K. such as Scotland where fostering is seen as a permanent option for children whose own birth families are unable to care for them. She feels that often children are moved in care far too many times and validating fostering families as ‘permanent family’ early on for children could really ensure children's security.

"It would be giving them stable, loving families to support them throughout their childhood and beyond. To give them a sense of security, commitment, identity and belonging. It doesn’t help any child, being moved from place to place. Giving them that stability and permanency is really important.

"I feel like foster parents should have a higher status within Wales and be seen both as professionals and the ones that know the child best. We are part of a team of people around the child, the ones that accept the children for who they are and welcome them with open hearts into our families.”

To learn more about foster care, or apply through Action for Children, browse their website here.