Abigail grew up in a fostering household and is now a passionate advocate for fostering and the benefits that can be felt for the entire family. She told us about her experience growing up in a family that fostered:
My parents started fostering when I was seven years old. I’m now 46, but I still hold special memories from those times. I remember being very excited at the thought of being part of a foster family – both in our family and friendship circle it seemed as though I was the only one without brothers or sisters!
Initially I know my parents were worried about whether they would be approved as foster carers - they were both diabetic, and my dad was a smoker. Also, dad was a little older and we had a pet dog, too. I remember feeling anxious in case we weren’t allowed to foster, or adopt.
Our first fostering placement was for Kay, a little girl of two - she arrived just the day before her second birthday. I was so excited - I referred to her as ‘mine’ from that point on!
We had visited Kay where she lived with her short term foster family several times. The family were unable to continue fostering her as they were due to have another child of their own. On our last visit to them, there was a birthday party for Kay, and then afterwards she came home with us. I adored her from the very beginning and luckily we were able to turn that foster placement into adoption. I had a sister at the grand old age of 10! She was tiny, blonde and blue eyed. I felt the need to love and protect her straight away.
Over the years, my parents continued to offer respite, short and long term foster placements. We had many children who came to us on a short term basis. I remember some amazing sleepovers with our bedroom full of girls of different ages!
There were recurrent stays with some of the children on a respite basis. I will always remember the joy on their faces as they arrived and I greeted them. They saw me as their special person, and it made me feel good about myself, as well as creating a connection with each child.
We always seemed to foster sibling groups, sometimes having groups of three children at a time. Some of the funniest times were when it went a bit wrong! Once a feather duvet in a play fight showered the room, curtains came off their rails and the fringe on the sofa got torn off. My parents were always very chilled out and didn’t lose their cool when this sort of thing happened, thankfully. They just shook their heads and got us to help with the tidying up. These episodes have become family legends - my sister and I still laugh about them!
Fostering is not always easy – some of the children who come through your door may be struggling, upset, and have experienced difficult times and situations. If you can work with and help them through the emotionally difficult times, then you can impact a child's life massively - and you can certainly impact on your own family, too.
When I hit my early teens I did share with my parents that I had felt some jealousy at having to share them. However, I did get over that and would not change my family life in any way as overall the experience has been so overwhelmingly positive.
My parents ensured that we were always involved in any decision making. We had a very open relationship where we shared our thoughts and feelings without worrying about being dismissed or told off for anything we were feeling.
I have learnt to be patient, to be compassionate and to understand that not everyone had what I had. My skills in dealing with people and being empathetic come from this time in my life.
Children who were displaced, who were in need of love and attention, made me realise the importance of the kind word, a hug and the giving of your time. As we grew up my sister and I would occasionally see some of the children that my parents had fostered and they often shared with us how much they had felt welcome and loved in our home and how they wished they could have been brought up with us as a family.
I have benefited so much from having a sibling and foster siblings, my ability to interact with people is enhanced because of the experience I gained interacting with the children who came to stay with us.
My current career is based on the negotiating and problem solving skills that I developed as being part of a fostering family. Previous roles were also based around caring, empathy, understanding and, importantly, helping others to reach their full potential.
Now, as an adult, I have a sister and two nieces that I adore – thanks to having parents who wished to foster and adopt - and in doing so, provided me with such inspirational role models for life.