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One year on...

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Anna Whitaker and her husband Greg have been foster carers with Fostering Solutions for 5 years. In that time they have helped care for 10 children. They currently have two long-term placements and in January 2014, Anna decided to write a blog about her fostering experience. She shares her story, the ups and downs of being a foster carer, and how she, along with her husband and grown up sons, helped change the lives of the two foster children in their care. What she didn’t realise, was how much they’d change her life too.

One year on…

“On the 10th of December 2012 our lives changed beyond all recognition. On that cold, dark Monday evening our family unit was expanded to include two more children. Although we'd prepared for this for months it was still scary and felt quite unreal. They arrived at our house, having met us briefly for a week’s holiday in November and spending some of the previous weekend with us, with bags and boxes containing all their worldly goods.

Imagine that. Imagine having to pack up your life, leave everything you've known for the past two years, and go to live with virtual strangers. That first evening was hard. The older child sat and cried. Trying to comfort a strange child who is unable to accept physical contact is bloody difficult, but try I did.

The younger of the two became more and more confused as time went on. He didn't understand why we turned left out of the school drive when he used to turn right. He didn't know why the toys in his bedroom weren't in the drawers where they've always been. His confusion and frustration manifested itself in outbursts of anger and violence and even though he was only a very young child, he couldn't half pack a punch! But we struggled on. We coped.

It wasn't easy and those who know me well know that I struggled. I struggled with the children. I struggled with the emotional drain. I struggled with my husband. When I look back I can barely remember anything from December to April. I know now that I was teetering on the edge of depression. What pulled me back? My husband. My friends. The smiles that the children were beginning to have.

Every day I have to write a log for each child in my care. I read back over the early ones the other day. I read about two children I don't recognise any more. I read about a timid, reserved, unsmiling little girl. A little girl unwilling, or perhaps unable, to show her feelings. A little girl who was scared and confused and unsettled. I read about a ball of fury who, at three years old, was still a baby in nappies, unable to walk far without a push chair and reliant on a dummy to get to sleep. I look at these children today, one year on, and I am astounded by their progress. I am constantly amazed by their emotional growth. I am humbled that they have opened their lives to us, and that they have let us in to share their thoughts and feelings.

I now have living with me a funny, bright, ambitious girl whose dream is to be a nurse. A girl who is confident enough to joke around with our birth children. A girl who seems happy. I have a little boy who is bursting with affection, who is so intelligent it scares even me. A boy who knows his own mind but is learning to control it, and I feel truly blessed.

I love listening to them talking about the things we've done, but better still the things we will do in the future. Listening to them putting down their roots. Realising that they accept, and are happy, that they will spend the rest of their childhood with us. I've grown to love these additions to our family and I hope in time they will grow to love us back.

So one year on. Would I do things differently given the chance? Yes. Would I be more cautious if asked to do this knowing what I know now? Yes. Do I regret taking in these wonderful, bright amazing children? Not one little bit.

One year on. Here's to many, many more.”

Anna and her family have continued to care for the two children in their care and there is more to this story. Check back for the second instalment of Anna’s blog next week.

There is a national shortage of foster carers in the UK with over 9,000 more foster carers needed in 2017. Could you help us reduce the shortfall? Contact us on 0808 301 8460 or come and see us at one of our fostering information events.