"To me, they are my sisters." Two young people, Amelie and Theo from Essex, have shared their stories of growing up in a fostering family.
October is ‘Sons and Daughter’s Month’, recognising and celebrating the vital contribution of children whose parents foster other children into the family. Two young people, Amelie and Theo from Essex, have shared their stories of growing up with foster children.
For 15-year-old Amelie from Clacton, her mum has been fostering for over five years, “I've always supported my mum’s dream to foster children. I remember the moment she asked me how I would feel about her fostering; I was 10 years old, and mum picked me up from school, and she was telling me I would have lots of siblings, and I was on board from that moment.”
Amelie’s mum Vanessa was drawn to helping vulnerable children when she worked as a reporter, telling stories about the children in Syria. She now fosters four teenage girls, three of which are siblings, alongside her two daughters.
Vanessa said, “Reporting on the children in Syria was life changing to me, and I wanted to help. I started fostering children who needed a home in an emergency and offering respite care, this was perfect because it meant I could be at home with my children, earn a living and give back to children who are more vulnerable.
“Offering respite care and supporting children in emergencies meant that I could build my confidence as a new foster carer, until I was ready to foster children full-time. All my girls have been with me for 5 years now and I can’t believe how quickly time has gone, we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Vanessa fosters mostly teenagers. Fostering can come in all shapes and forms, and sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference to children in care.
Vanessa said, “One of my fondest memories was when all my girls gave me a Mother’s Day card with the most heartfelt messages inside. They wrote that they weren’t worried anymore, and they weren’t hungry anymore. I was so choked up I couldn’t speak and that’s when I realised how much of a difference I'd made to these girls. It is such a gift to feel like you are doing something right.”
Amelie said, “One really special memory for me was when we went on our first holiday together in Spain, all seven of us. My sisters hadn’t been out of the country before, so giving them that experience was lovely. We taught them how to swim and I felt so happy to see them having so much fun and I was having so much fun with them. We have a lovely bond and have become a great family unit.”
Amelie said, “My sister and I are so proud of our mum, and she always does everything to support us. We’ve had a great upbringing and mum is giving that to other children who haven’t necessarily had the same opportunities.”
Vanessa said, “I was surprised by my girls’ reactions to fostering and how much they loved it. We had siblings stay with us and the girls all got on so well my daughters asked if they could stay. That’s when I began fostering full-time, and we’ve never looked back.”
Vanessa said, “It must be a fit for you, your family, and foster children. Fostering is my job and I have a responsibility to my foster children, but I found that I became a better, more consistent parent because I was setting boundaries, so all the children knew where they stood. At the end of the day, I am a mother to all these children, and I love them all.”
With over a thousand children currently in care across the county, Essex County Council is urging more people to consider a fostering role either part-time or full-time. Fostering can be very flexible and carers are welcome from any background, including single, married, LGBTQ+ or retired.
Essex County Council offers all foster carers excellent local training with an active network of support groups providing opportunities to meet and learn from other foster carers. It also offers 24/7 local support, a dedicated social worker and access to a clinical psychologist and mental health coordinators.
For 14-year-old Theo from Colchester, his family have been fostering for over ten years. “I have fostered my whole life so it’s the default for me and it’s a part of my identity that I cherish.”
Theo’s mum Sylvie said, “My husband and I are both teachers and I could see how some families and children struggle and I wanted to help.”
Theo said, “It’s an honour to share my parents with the children we foster, and they become my older brother or older sister.
“There are so many things I love about fostering, but what I love the most is seeing how you help people. When you see barriers come down and they trust you that’s the difference.”
Sylvie said, “When you foster, you will have worries and concerns, but there is always support available. To begin with we had an assessment, and all questions, worries and assumptions we had were put to rest. We had training and we had meetings with our supervising social worker as a whole family.
“If I have any worries, I know my social worker is always at the other end of the phone.”
Cllr Beverley Egan, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Early Years at Essex County Council, said: “We recognise the crucial role foster carers and their children play in providing safe, nurturing and stable homes to hundreds of our children across Essex every year.
“The role their children can often play in those young people’s lives shouldn’t be taken for granted and you can foster whether you have children or not.
“We need more people like Vanessa and Sylvia to consider fostering, so our children in care can have the same support and opportunities to reach their potential.
“The support provided by Essex County Council enables our foster carers to follow their passion and make a real difference to a young person’s life.”
Amelie and Theo want to encourage people in Essex to get in touch with Essex County Council if they are considering fostering.
Amelie said, “If you’re thinking about fostering and want to help children then just do it. When they open up to you, you can see what difference you can make just by being there for them. I wouldn’t have it any other way; I would so lonely if they all left now.
“They’re not foster children, they’re just children, they just want a family, and to be treated like any other child. They deserve a home, they deserve happiness and the same opportunities as anybody else.”
Find out more by visiting https://bit.ly/3dM4dHy or call 0800 801 530.