My name is Abi-Marie.
I came into care when I was 6 year old, with my brother and sister.
taken into care
I remember stepping through the door and it was terrifying. When you are that little, going somewhere new was scary. It’s an unknown space.
But my foster carers were really good, consistent and loving, right from the start.
They adapted to what we needed as children. Not too strict or rigid but they taught us boundaries.
My brother and sister moved on, to separate foster carers and adoption, but my foster carers supported me to keep in touch with my brother.
My brother is still visiting me now, he’s doing well and has a good job. We have a good bond due to encouragement from my foster carers.
my foster carers never gave up on me
We’ve had our ups and downs, but doesn’t every family?
I struggled with emotions and understanding unconditional love. So they bought me two chickens to raise, I had them in my bedroom as chicks. When they were grown and in the garden they asked me… which I would eat?! And I couldn’t choose between them. I had this realisation that this was unconditional love.
My foster carers never gave up on me. They fought like hell for me to have counselling in my teens, which helped work out multitude of issues for me and enhanced my resilience.
my foster carers had faith in me
I dropped out of doing my A levels in 6th form, because I just wasn’t happy.
My foster carers had faith I would find my way, encouraging me to go to college and supported my change in career direction when I went to university.
I’ve now completed my undergrad degree in advocacy, and they were there every step of the way.
through the good times and bad
We’ve had our rows and battles. We faced a lot of issues, together.
In my second year of uni, life just exploded.
A respite carer, who we considered family, was unwell and sadly passed away. I couldn’t focus on study.
I would have withdrawn from the course entirely, if it hadn’t been for my foster carers.
Throughout Covid-19 I struggled significantly with my mental health, lockdown hit days after my wedding, leaving me floundering.
They supported me through each step of recovery and gave me loving ‘telling offs’ for not telling them of my challenges sooner.
speaking up for other children in care
I’ve had lots of opportunities in recent years to be involved in improving the care system for other children and young people. Due to the way I’ve been raised, they’ve given me agency to speak up.
I am now a strong advocate for children looked after’s rights and am working hard around my masters and job to be actively involved in reform and change.
The biggest thing they taught me was to speak up if things are wrong and tackle it face on, never hide from problems.
Through discovering and studying advocacy, I can now be the person I wanted when I was younger. I can use my experience, to speak up for other children in care.
meeting people who care enough to support children and young people’s lives
I now sit on a supported lodgings panel for the same local authority that my foster carers fostered with when they cared for me.
When I meet new applicants, I listen out for 4 things;
- Can you be flexible or do you have a rigid view of “I want life to look like this”
- Do you have a passion for caring, you can’t fix the world, but will you be there?
- Are you supportive? Will you be someone’s lifeline even in ten years time.
- Will you listen to them, not speak over them, simply listen and focus on what they want or need, not what you want for them?
It’s enlightening meeting a wave of people who care enough to support the improvement of children and young people’s lives. It’s vital they understand how detrimental it can be to do what they think is best for them, rather than listening to what the child needs and then figuring out next steps.
Children looked after are the best experts on their lives, not books or paperwork.
I could be there for my foster carers
My foster carers went on to care for more children after me. Another young person lived with them for 3 years. I found it challenging at first finding the new dynamic within the home.
However, soon it was lovely that I could then be there for my foster carers. The young person would talk to me about things, that they wouldn’t say to them.
They knew I’d been there. I’d lived there.
Something trivial to the foster carers was really annoying to the foster child and I could pick up on this and where appropriate, suggest resolutions.
I could see that things were going wrong, it wasn’t the right fit, and supported them when the young person moved on.
staying in one place
I’m acutely aware that I was lucky to have stayed with one foster carer the whole time I was in care.
I lived there from age 6 to 18, and that’s fundamental to who I am.
Despite everything, I have a family I can call on.
Although I recontacted my birth father when I was 18 and we are very close, my foster dad is my dad. The way I see it I’m lucky to have two dads. Their daughters are my sisters.
That’s my life and that’s normal to me.
Any problems I’ve had, or if I don’t call for a while, they check I’m ok. I have that family base. Even when things are rubbish, or I’ve had a bad day at work, I can just pick up the phone and I have someone to talk to about it.
At the end of the day, no matter what, everyone needs that support base.
Some children who are moved and moved don’t have that family base and people do not realise how detrimental that can be. What may seem minor for a foster carer could impact a child looked after for years to come.
a better future
I’m now 25, married, doing my masters and I’m actually seeing my foster carers later today. Although I moved out after I turned 18, they still stay in touch, and we visit often. They have always been there to talk to.
They’ve now retired from fostering, but they are my family and I love them dearly.