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"They’re really capable of amazing things and all they need is just the right support"

Annabel and James have just completed their first year of fostering. Here, they share their inspiring story so far, including the ups and downs that come with fostering vulnerable children.

August 17 2022 - 5 min read

Annabel and James have just completed their first year of fostering. Here, they share their inspiring story so far, including the ups and downs that come with fostering vulnerable children.

There were a few factors that contributed to Annabel and James’ interest in foster care. Annabel opens up: “​​It was something we always talked about and discussed. I worked with children from a range of backgrounds and I met a particular child who really needed a lot of support. The family did not get much support and as a result of that, I lost contact with her, which made me think, why are we waiting? Let's just do it!”

Taking the first step can feel daunting, but Annabel and James felt prepared after initial conversations with ISP ahead of their fostering journey: “The support from ISP was fantastic, right from the first time when we were just looking at different agencies. They were really brilliant at giving us a lot of impartial advice and giving all of the information to make sure you understand what it means to foster, because, you know, it's very easy in your mind to have all these grand, romanticised ideas about what it is like.”

Annabel continues: “I think it's like any new job when you first start it, it's always a little bit daunting and worrying, but actually once you get started - the support is amazing - you find your feet quickly enough.”

Within a week of being approved, the couple welcomed their first child. Annabel explains: “He was with us for about three months, and that was just amazing. He had recently had an operation, so he was in a wheelchair and that was the reason why he was with us so that he could recover from the operation.  It was kind of in the back of our minds wondering, 'are they all going to be like this?'. But it did allow us to be able to get used to fostering and have those first-time jitters, you know?”

Annabel says the second child they cared for was a little more challenging, but the couple learnt a lot from the experience: “When you have those golden moments and you break down some of those walls with the children, it’s really special.

“One memory that stands out was when one of the children made me brownies as an apology and wrote a little note which they left on the side for me. And it's tiny little things like that where you see you are making a little bit of a difference. Those are the moments that you treasure!”

Annabel continues: ​​”For many of these children, consistency is something that sadly isn't really available as much as it should be, and so where you can keep consistency, I think it's really important that you do.”

Before fostering, Annabel was a class teacher. She explains: “From there I've worked with challenging behaviour. I've worked with children with a high level of special educational needs and that's an area that I really, really loved making a difference within. So I love the challenge with fostering because you actually get to know the children as individuals, build up those relationships and really help that child progress rather than just seeing them in a classroom environment.”

She continues:​​ “What we've learned through this experience is the skills that a lot of these children have are grit and resilience. But unfortunately, without support, it means that they don't put the skills into action in the right ways. But so many of them are intelligent, bright young people with so much tenacity.

“They’re really capable of amazing things and all they need is just the right support and the right guidance to get them on track. That's the hardest thing - finding them and supporting them to shift their mindset, because a lot of the fundamentals are there.”

Annabel believes you can make a real difference in the lives of these children: “I think that in any capacity, working with these children and the whole ISP team around them, you can make a difference. It really doesn't matter about the length of time that you have with these children. It's about what you do with that time, which makes a massive difference.

“One time with our second child, she was poorly one night, and she called me from the other room. She said, ‘can you just come in here?’ And she wasn't very well. And then I was about to go and she was like, ‘can you just stay with me until I fall asleep?’ and for a 15-year-old to ask that was really sweet because it shows that vulnerability. Then just like that they really trust you and really value the safety that you're providing them. It's little moments like that that you hold onto.”

Annabel concludes: “There is no way that we would be able to have done this without the support from ISP and I cannot stress that enough. My advice would be to really research your agencies because it is fundamental throughout your fostering journey.”

The couple are currently relocating for James’ work and so while not currently caring for a child, Annabel said: “We can’t wait to see what the future holds for us and we are eager to continue doing respite fostering for the time being, helping where we can!”

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