Starting training in 2016 and approved in 2017, Gail Martin, had not long turned 60 before she decided to embark on a new walk of life as a foster carer.
After working for over 35 years in different areas of social work, Gail shared that fostering was always destined to be a part of her life. Gail said: “I think it was always there in the back of my head, I always had wondered ‘What if?’.
“Once I had a family of my own, I did think it was less of a possibility. Later on in life after my children had grown up, flown the nest, I had actually retired before I seriously considered fostering.”
Opening up about a difficult yet pivotal moment in her life that made Gail re-evaluate her working career, Gail said: “I couldn’t get out of the house or get in my car and fortunately I got an appointment with my doctors, and I was diagnosed with depression.
“While I was off from work, I spent a lot of my time talking to my animals and one day it just hit me that I was finally feeling well enough to make a difference to someone’s life again.
“I don’t fully remember making the conscious decision, but I just remember Googling and FCA Scotland were one of the first agencies that popped up during my search. I completed a straightforward questionnaire on their website, and I would’ve been 60 at the time of filling that out but I genuinely thought it would come back saying I was too old - I didn’t get any of that.”
Reflecting on the process, Gail said: “A couple of weeks later after the application went through, someone from the office called and I thought “Oh my, this feels real now”. There was a very gentle introduction, and everybody was so nice and supportive. This just told me more than anything that I could really do this.”
Drawing from her experience in social care, Gail said: “Through social work I had worked with vulnerable children, young people and families which I feel that has not only led me to fostering but helped me greatly along the way.”
“After witnessing many difficult situations throughout my career, it made me appreciate how lucky I was and how shielded my birth children were. It also made me appreciate that not every child has a loving parent which in turn helped my children realise how lucky they were too.”
Gail added: “Despite starting later than some other foster carers, I feel with the training that comes with fostering and just by meeting other people who have their own experiences helps greatly. I have never felt that fostering was ever the wrong decision.
“Selfishly, I would say it is very rewarding, particularly the last two years with my darling daughter. Our match has been absolutely perfect. Our time together has been so good, and our relationship is so strong. We are currently in the process, but the plan is that she is going to stay with me permanently.”
For Gail, the most challenging part of fostering has been learning to not take things personally. Reflecting upon one of her first placements, Gail said: “You have to try and not take it personally, especially when things don’t go to plan.”
“After I did my training, I had been matched with this young boy who was 10 at the time. I don’t think it dawned on me until we were sat at a dinner table that I knew nothing about him, not even what he liked to eat.
“He had a very difficult past and had been very traumatised which ultimately led to what probably was those most difficult four weeks of that entire experience. Due to his past trauma, it had really impacted who he was, and he’d often forget his physical and verbal outbursts.
“After trying to make it work, it was for the best that he lived in residential housing. I checked in with how he was doing, and it sounded like he was struggling a bit, but overall, he was in a better place. I do find criticism hard and despite the whole experience being difficult, it didn’t put me off fostering.”
“FCA Scotland were really supportive and reminded me not to take things personally if it didn’t work out. Blaming is not what goes on at FCA Scotland, it is about understanding that these things happen and learning how to move on. It was that positive feeling and support from the agency that really helped me get going again.”
In terms of advice, Gail said: “I haven’t been particularly great at taking my own advice but looking back I would say, ask for help. If you need it, ask. Asking for help comes from a place of strength rather than defeat. It does take a while to build up that confidence but trust your social worker, they are there to help you.
“At FCA Scotland, there is excellent and ongoing training, and the support group of other foster carers has been truly invaluable.”
Adding to this, Gail said: “I have never felt abandoned with FCA Scotland. I have always felt supported even at times when I felt I didn’t need it, but they have helped me to become the foster carer I am today.”