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Happy International Women’s Day!

International Women's Day 2023
International Women’s Day is here, and this year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity

Calon Cymru Fostering would not be what it is without all our incredible and strong female staff, carers and children who are looked after.

To showcase their incredible and selfless work, we’d like to shine a spotlight on one of our lovely female carers. One such person is Dawn Cousins.

We spoke to Dawn to find out more about her experience as a foster carer…


Hi, Dawn! Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Dawn, and I am 54 years old. I live in the Bridgend area with my husband. We have five children in total. My husband has three from a previous marriage, I have one from a previous marriage, and we have one between us. All our children have now left home, and we have been fostering for 20 years.

What made you become a foster carer?

There were a few reasons behind our decision to foster. We were guardians for Cantonese children that came over from Hong Kong to go to school here and I had done private childminding followed by community childminding for the local authority, so it seemed a natural process to go on to fostering and caring for children 24/7.


Can you tell us about some of the unique skills you need to become a foster carer?

There are many unique skills you need to become a foster carer, such as being a good listener and having patience.

These skills come with time and experience, and you learn a lot of them from the children and young people you are looking after. This includes being able to stay calm in heated moments. Being able to calm a child or young person down when their mood is really heightened, no matter how long it takes. I have had children screaming in my face, telling me they don’t like living here. You cannot react because they don’t mean it really, and an hour later they are giving you a hug and apologising. You learn to read between the lines and understand that their anger is just coming out and is not necessarily aimed at you.  

If a child or young person discloses abuse it can make you feel really upset inside and you want to shout or cry, you must wait until you have made the child feel okay before you can go and talk to someone, like your supervising social worker.

I have had babies from the age of three months old until they were about two years old, and then they have been adopted. This is hard because you have treated them like your own. Suddenly, you have to give up this small child without really being able to explain to them what is happening in a way that they understand. But you manage to go through with it, even though you are hurting, and you just have to think to yourself, ‘right I have helped this one and given them a good start; now I have to help the next’.

You often feel like giving up and think ‘I can’t go through this again’, but then you hear the awful story of the next one and that changes your mind because you know you can give them a better place to be in the world.


What does a typical day look like for you as a foster carer?

My days are quite challenging as I currently have three children with autism at different levels. I start by running a bath for the 15 year old who needs quite a high level of care. I then wake him, and he has his bath while I go and make his bed and open his curtains. He can’t go downstairs if this is not done. I put his clothes ready on his bed, and I then go back to the bathroom and wash his hair for him and put soap on the flannel and tell him where to wash. I then dry him, and he goes and puts his clothes on and corrects any mistakes in his room I may have made, like if I’ve accidentally nudged one of his toy lorries that are on the floor or if a pillow isn’t quite straight on his bed. He then puts on his trousers; if they don’t feel right, he takes them off and gets a different pair out of his wardrobe. By this time, I go downstairs and tell him I’ll meet him down there as I have to do his toast. On the way past, I check if the other young lad is up; he’s usually downstairs having his breakfast.

I go down and do the packed lunches. One has a standard packed lunch of sandwiches, but the other has a restricted diet so takes jacket potato, sausages and beans. Then, once they’ve gone off to school, I wake the third young person for college. He has a shower, I make sure he takes his medication with his breakfast, and then I drop him at college.

I come home, clean the kitchen and have my breakfast. I do laundry and have meetings. The first child comes home at 2.10pm, as he isn’t doing full days, we play some games or do an activity together. Sometimes we just got to the shop as he enjoys this. The other young lad is home at 3.45pm for his toast, and my husband then comes in from work. Sometimes I will take the 15-year-old and sit on the side of the dual carriageway for an hour to count cars, as he enjoys this. The other lad stays with my husband, and the third young person makes his own way home from college.

I come home and do three different meal plans for them all as they don’t eat the same, then it’s play and tv time before supper and bedtime stories. We hang the washing out and do the dishes, before sitting down at about 9.30pm.


What has been your favourite memory as a foster carer?

The smiles you get from the children!

I remember sitting with a little girl who had been through so much emotionally and physically. She lived in her own little emotional bubble where no one else was allowed, and she refused to let anyone in or get attached to anyone. We had a day of difficult therapy sessions, and I took her out to McDonald’s for lunch in the middle of it. We were sitting there quietly, just eating and not talking, and I remember looking up at her and seeing her looking at me and smiling. It was only for a split second, but it was as though the bubble had burst for a minute. It was the prettiest smile I had ever seen.


What has your time been like with Calon Cymru Fostering?

They are like a family. I have stayed with Calon Cymru throughout, as I have always felt supported and never felt like the company was too big to approach when I was worried about anything. They always make you feel welcome when you go into the office.


Do you have any advice for any new foster carers?

My advice for new foster carers would be to enjoy the children and fostering. Don’t put any expectations on the children or young people, and don’t push them. They will come to you when they need to. Go with the saying – from small acorns grow big oak trees- any little thing you do in their lives will help them grow tall.

Want to find out more about what fostering involves? Perhaps you have a specific question about the fostering process? Our friendly team are here to help with any queries. Simply get in touch today.




  • Advice
  • Foster Carer

Date published

08 March 2023

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