Isabel is a foster carer with Scope’s fostering service. She and her husband foster Rosie, aged 12, and Isabel has shared her story as part of Scope’s 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign. We have changed all the names here, as confidentiality is important in foster care.
I grew up with a friend whose mum fostered disabled children. I’d always thought I’d like to do it, but I thought I’d wait until my children were older.
But then one day at the bottom of my payslip was a message: ‘Interested in fostering?’ And for some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
We were in our mid-20s when we started fostering five years ago, younger than most foster carers, and our own children, Anna and Chloe, were still very small.
I’ve worked with adults with learning difficulties ever since I left college, and of course I’m a mum as well – so for me, fostering is both profession and family.
Rosie came to stay with us five years ago, when she was six. She goes to a special school, and she has complex learning difficulties. When she arrived, I think she could say one word – ‘no’ – and that was it.
When you start fostering a child you’re shown reports from the professionals who work with them, and Rosie was described as ‘passive’ and ‘stuck in her own little world’. I was told: ‘She doesn’t really communicate, she just cries’.
Over the first few months she was with us, she just completely changed. Soon she was being described as full of life, confident, sociable.
Apparently a little boy at school asked the teacher, ‘Who’s the new girl?’ and it was, ‘That’s not a new girl, that’s Rosie!’
Rosie still has a birth family who loves her, but she didn’t feel safe with one of her siblings, who also has complex needs. When she came here, I think it just gave her the relief she needed to develop to her full potential.
Mostly she just likes bounding about the place! She loves books and photography, she loves playing in the garden, going on the trampoline. This morning we were playing together, feeding a soft toy monkey a yoghurt.
She gets on really well with my own children. They’re just like sisters now – so they get on each other’s nerves and argue a bit! But they care about each other, and they look after each other really nicely.
We’ve done a lot of work with Rosie to help her learn sign language. She still doesn’t have a lot of speech, but she’s very good at making herself understood now.
But I think the main thing we could do was just make her feel safe and secure, and make sure she feels loved and wanted.
It’s not like a conventional job at all. On a day-to-day basis, I just feel like Rosie is a member of my family – the only time it feels like a job is when you have to go to meetings and reviews and that sort of thing.
But when we’re out at the beach or going to school, it just feels like we’re a family.
After Rosie had been with us for about 18 months, we went through the process that means Rosie can stay with us permanently, through to adulthood.
Scope is still there to support us and nothing has really changed – it just gives us stability and the comfort of knowing Rosie is here to stay. And for us, she’ll always be part of our family, even when she’s grown up.
Deciding to foster was one of the best decisions we ever made. We’ve got so much out of it as a family. There have been lots of high points, but just having Rosie in the family is a high point in itself.
40% of children waiting for a permanent home are disabled. Can you help us be there for them? Please donate to Scope’s Fostering appeal – you can help another disabled child find a safe and loving home where they can thrive.