This week on Some Families, Lotte and Stu are joined by Annabelle Avis, a foster parent from Swindon. Annabelle and her wife have been fostering since 2013. They currently have 3 children in their care. Annabelle is a big advocate for LGBTQ+ fostering. She discusses the training you receive as a foster carer, changing mindsets and myths, and the importance of the first night in a new home for a child.
Five Rivers Fostering Agency: https://five-rivers.org/
Albert Kennedy Trust: https://www.akt.org.uk/
The Fostering Network: https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/
Full Transcript Below
Annabelle: I think a foster parent is a great title to have. Our situation, it’s just so rewarding that we can’t now imagine our lives without these children in them. So some families have two foster moms, three children, and two dogs.
Stu Oakley: Hello listener. Welcome to some families. I am Stu Oakley, a dad of three
Lotte Jeffs: And I am Lotte Jeff’s a mum of a little girl who is about to turn two, and we’re here to talk about all sorts of LGBTQ plus parenting issues. And to invite some parents who are parents by all sorts of different means, to talk to us about their experiences.
Stu Oakley: And if you’re a new, very, very warm welcome to you, but if you’re an old timer, it’s lovely to see you. So Lotte, how have you been this week?
Lotte Jeffs: I just feel like weeks are merging into weeks. And I don’t know if I know who I am anymore. it’s funny not having the normal signifiers of my daily life around me. I’m a mum, a home and I’ve not left my local area for three months.
How are you?
Stu Oakley: I am very good. I completely hear you, days
just, fall into one, we escaped to the beach this week, as the, as the lockdown rules did get relaxed slightly, but even the day out of the house could not take away from the fact that the kids are just so intense sometimes. And I think they get into the age now, especially as my middle son is now two and a half.
And his eldest sister is four, they just destroyed the house. Like the amount of things they have broken over the past few weeks, or it’s just, it just becomes just, just a normal everyday thing now. And I think that’s something maybe I’ve got to get used to for, from here until they’re in their teenagers and maybe beyond, but, you know, New pairs of lovely sunglasses I bought for them or, or pieces of photography we have on the wall or appliances, you name it, they smash it, they break it.
But I’m not going to complain because this week we are speaking to someone who is used to the ups and downs I’m really excited that we get to speak to a foster carer. And so we spoke to Annabel Avis, who is a foster carer that lives in Swindon.
Lotte Jeffs: We spoke to Annabel who, along with her wife, Sally had been fostering since 2013 and they have had 10 children in their care during that time, all different ages, all different backgrounds, life experiences, personalities. I mean, can you imagine what it takes?
Stu Oakley: We got a really good sense of what life must be like as a foster carer and life as an LGBTQ plus foster carer, when we speak to Annabelle.
So we really hope you enjoy.
Lotte Jeffs: Talk to us about, what it’s like being in lockdown at the moment with them.
Annabelle: It’s definitely interesting. More than normal, but we’ve actually got, we found we’ve got quite a nice mix of. The schoolwork and the family time and the exercise and the activities. So, so far nobody’s complaining about being bored, which is great. everybody’s managed to, you know, stay in one piece.
So we’re going to call it a win
Lotte Jeffs: How many kids do you have living with you at the moment and what are their ages?
Annabelle: So the oldest is 15 and we have two younger siblings who are 10 and nine.
Stu Oakley: How long have they been with you?
Annabelle: So the oldest is just coming up for five years now and the younger two are three and a half years.
Lotte Jeffs: Let’s, let’s rewind and start back at the, at the beginning. maybe we could even start with how, and when you met your wife and the first conversations you had about parenting.
Annabelle: We used to work together a long time ago. got back in contact, in 2011 and She was at a residential school for children and young people with autism. few conversations later, and we sort of talked about the fact that it’s something that I would like to do.
So I ended up applying for the same job that she was doing. and I went to work at the same school and then the rest, as they say is history. we really, really enjoyed what we did at the residential school. but we found that we had more to give, the children that we were looking after.
And even though some of the children at the school were there for 52 weeks at beginning, never went home. And they didn’t have, some of them didn’t have a huge amount of visitors. So we felt that maybe we could do it in our home and be able to give that little bit more. So that’s kind of, sort of snowballed quite quickly from there. First had the conversation that we could have children in our home and do similar to what we do at the school, but maybe do it better.
Stu Oakley: Was there ever a conversation between you and your wife about having children of your own via any form of means such as adoption or even donor conception or surrogacy?
Annabelle: Yeah, we did have the conversation. my wife was, she was very clear that if we, if we wanted to have a baby, that was fine, but I was going to be the one that had to carry it. we had the conversation that. We thought there were enough children out there that probably needed a loving home.
And actually the position we were in was that we could do that. There were enough children that needed it. So we, we just started to look at the adoption and the fostering rather than I think having our own at that point.
Lotte Jeffs: What was the first step?
Annabelle: So we did a lot of, we tried to do a lot of research, so we were doing a lot of research on the internet. and we did look at adoption. We were looking at what was the best, but we felt. What was coming through from the internet. And what we found a lot was around the training that you get for foster mum.
And we felt that, you know, adoption and foster and the children have so many needs, so many differences that, we were kind of wondering how good we would be. We were quite well trained in the autism area, but we were wondering how our skill will be, would be with other difficulties. So we decided that actually, and just go in with adoption and.
So, like, we didn’t know enough. we went down the fostering route. We knew there was a lot of training and support and help. we ended up going with an independent fostering agency that we felt gave a really good amount of support and training to the, to the carers in our area. and they rung us Five Rivers agency with the first ones doing this. And it just, that was it, everything they said, cemented what we thought. we felt it was the right thing for us to do, and we just ran with it.
Stu Oakley: So how long was the process then from applying to the agencies to then being fully approved as foster carers?
Annabelle: The process of application was about Six. and then there was a couple of months after to get into approval. we had a couple of best flight placements before we went to a full time placement. So it was about eight months from beginning to end.
So, Plenty of time, too. get our heads around it and be prepared enough for when the first child.
Lotte Jeffs: How does that compare to adoption Stu? Is that about the same timeline?
Stu Oakley: I think that it sounds quite similar you know, the training process you go through is, fairly rigorous. I’m curious to know for fostering, what kind of, training processes you go through,
Annabelle: We’re very lucky to have a training and our agency that. basically most things we ask for, we get, so if there’s a specific need comes up, that hasn’t arose before we can generally put it forward as a good idea, but yeah, a lot around the trauma.
Mmm. last one of the more significant training we do, we do a lot of PACE training. like therapeutic training and things which always help. A lot of things are enablers and give us the skills that we need to do.
The role that we do.
Lotte Jeffs: Have you found that that kind of training and all those things you’ve learned have helped you as people and in your relationship as much as it’s helped you as foster parents?
Annabelle: Definitely. Yes. I often feel, and I often feel that other parents don’t get this, that the parents don’t have this help and support. And this 24 hour person on the end of a phone that can help us with when a really difficult situation arises that no one’s expecting, you know, everybody gets them, but we have people that help us and not everybody has that today.
Stu Oakley: Without putting you on the spot and about, could you explain what PACE is?
Annabelle: So it’s all about the therapeutic parenting. So we’re talking about, turning everything around so that we don’t get in those standoffs and those difficult situations where I’ve said, you’re going to do something and we’re not moving until you do. It’s about turning it around and it’s back play for one of them is playful. And the curiosity of trying to figure out why the child is doing what they’re doing.
And trying to get to a point where we can make sure that we don’t come to this situation again. it’s very different to normal parenting therapeutic parents, and it just turns everything around and we find it it’s much more mindful. it. Doesn’t get into the heated discussions and I’ve said, you must.
So you must. It gives us a different view on things so that we can deal with the strange and bizarre situations in a different way, I guess.
Lotte Jeffs: Do you think that the very fact that you’re not the parents, you’re the foster parents of these kids creates a bit of emotional distance. That means it’s easier to do that. Kind of, very mindful and thoughtful parenting rather than reacting emotionally to things.
Annabelle: Yeah, I suppose it must do in a, in a sense. I mean, you know, when we’ve had children with us for. Five years that, you know, the bond is it’s very good. And it’s probably different for everybody depending on how don’t you have the child and what kind of connection you have with them. we are, we are very fortunate that three children, we have, we have an incredible bond with, because they will stay with us and we don’t have to. worry about them leaving or others come in and it just, we’re just a family unit and that makes it easier for us.
Stu Oakley: Yeah. So could you talk a little about your family unit being a same sex couple and potentially how that’s affected or not affected your role as a foster carer?
Annabelle: Everything I do, everybody always asks, has it ever hindered us? You know, does it ever get in the way? And I want to answer as it’s never, never hindered us at all. If anything, it’s actually given us a leg up on as a people. we had a situation at the beginning with our first placement, our first child that came to this full time.
She didn’t want to live with a man. She, she had really bad relationships and she wants, she didn’t want to. And there we were up against, there was another couple. A male and female couple up against us. And, obviously we were doubt as the better match because she wanted to live with women and not a man.
So in some circumstances, I think we are, we were given the better circumstance. So we, we got the child, so it made life easier. And I think the other couple, it didn’t have the same situation we did. So I think they’re different, children, different situations. And I think we can actually sometimes be the right match.
Well in a same sex couple, which is the spectrum, I guess.
Lotte Jeffs: I suppose there’s a number of LGBTQ kids that need fostering, have you experienced of taking gay and BI trans kids into your, into your home?
Annabelle: None up til now. and we won’t be for the few years cause we’re full now for the next three years. we have got other canvas in our local area that have, uh, have, often reach out to us if they, I have an issue or some, they want some support or just somebody to speak to. So it kind of works around even if it’s not in our home.
Stu Oakley: That’s really, that’s really nice that you’ve got that support network that they can lean on you and you can lean on them. I know there are many other LGBTQ plus foster carers in your area that you know of.
Annabelle: With our agency, we’ve got three sets in Swindon in our area. There are many more further a-field, but yes three sets in our area.
Lotte Jeffs: And when the kids first come to you, do they, what do they know about you before they move in? What’s the process?
Annabelle: So ideally on a popper move, they are given like a welcome booklet with our photos and a picture of our dogs and our house. it’s supposed to be done where we meet the children. so we have one child that was here. We did get to meet them several times and we got to know them before they moved in and it was lovely.
And then with the younger siblings that we had, it was classed as an emergency. It was phone call at lunch time. Can you have them there by tea time? There’s no time for photos so it was just a, here they are. and you just straight in,
Lotte Jeffs: Were any of them surprised that you’re two women married to each other? Does that, is that kind of a question that comes up from the kids?
Annabelle: It’s never come up yet. It’s more their friends. So we’ve had a couple of the playground questions of. ‘Are your marriage?’ ‘Yes, we’re married.’ and you know, the sort of the quizzical look and then they just go, okay. And skip off the place. But our children themselves haven’t, I haven’t questioned it. They just accept it is what it is.
And, one of the children will often say that she’s going to marry a woman and we make a point of saying, you know, you marry whoever you want to mommy. Um, but they’ve already got it in their heads that they can marry a man or a woman. So I think that’s a nice thing.
Stu Oakley: And how do you divide up the kind of work with the children between you? Do you find that you’ve got defined roles
Annabelle: I think we kind of have, I do the pink jobs and Sally tends to do the blue jobs. I do the personal care. I’m doing all the schoolwork at the moment. Sally tends to do gardening sort of does the outside jobs. I would call it within the, you know, pumping up the bike tires. so we have just our normal goals, what, how we are. And I do the more motherly stuff. So it kind of, it just works with
Stu Oakley: Do they, what do the children call you? So your eldest sometimes refers to you as mom, how do they refer to your wife as well?
Annabelle: So it tends to be mum one, a mum too.
Stu Oakley: Numerical mums.
Stu Oakley: How did you decide who was going to be one and who was going to be two?
Annabelle: They came up with it. So I think we based it more on the maternal side that I tend to do the mothering stuff. So that’s how they’d go move in.
Stu Oakley: When it comes to children moving on, from your house and it’s something that I’m particularly interested in as an adoptive parent I feel must be such a huge challenge is the time you have to say goodbye to them.
Annabelle: I think that the difference we’re fostering is that the ones that have left is have. One wanted to leave. So I think that was a very different situation. She was at a point where she just wanted, she kept running away to go home. She really wants to be at home. And we were quite far from home. So the decision was made that she needed to be toasted to home really for her safety.
So it was what she wanted. So that kind of made the decision a little bit easier. Um, and the other one was easier in the sense that we knew he wasn’t staying longterm. He was always going home. We were always trying to get him back home. That was the goal. So we worked file to. To do that. So actually it was a happy ending too.
In fact, for both of them, it was happy ending because they both got what they wanted at the end of the day. So it makes our jobs a little bit easier if they’re on board and it’s what they want. I’m sure. Moving a child that doesn’t want to be moved a whole nother ball game, but we haven’t such words. We haven’t got to that point and had to do that at all yet.
Stu Oakley: And have you ever had children in your care that have gone on to adoption?
Annabelle: No, we haven’t. No, but we’re looking at adopting our younger two siblings. we’re hoping to start later this year. We’re just starting the process again. It’s not a quick process. Yes. Hopefully
Lotte Jeffs: Sounds like a big, a big kind of decision did that just feel like a natural thing
Annabelle: It did because of their ages, it just, it has felt like the right decision. It’s what they want and it’s what we want.
Lotte Jeffs: So they’re the young ones.
Annabelle: Yeah. And we got the family on board. The family are happy with the decision as well, so that everyone’s happy with it. So it just feels like the most natural way to go.
So we’ve just got to get through, well, the vet tech now.
Lotte Jeffs: Do you think anything will feel different for you emotionally
Annabelle: I don’t think so. I think with fully, as fully invested as we can be at this moment, but who knows, I suppose having that piece of paper, they’re desperate to change their names. They want the name changes what they, what they would like. So, yeah, maybe seeing on paper We’re fully invested and is what we really want.
And we feel like we already did that. We’ve got to just go through the red tape, I guess, to make it official. But we did tell them we would have a, you know, huge celebration when it’s official or make it a big party and do it properly. So we will get to celebrate it.
Lotte Jeffs: And how do you and your wife’s families feel about you being foster carers? my parents are fully thrown into it. There they are grandma and granddad. They take their role very seriously. and they, the children are treated the same as all of the other children and the founders. It’s really nice that they are fully integrated again because they stay with us long term.
Annabelle: They’ve been able to have that connection from the beginning. And not know that the children are coming and go in. And I think that makes it different for extended families to know that these ones are, they didn’t treat the ones that were only staying short term, differently. But I think they got the bond with the ones that stay in longterm, that they can actually have that connection as grandma and granddad
Stu Oakley: Somebody who’s listening to this may be going through the adoption process. I think for a lot of adoptive parents, that is a great sense of anxiety around the process of introductions and going.
Into a foster care home and basically moving in and slowly taking over the care of the children themselves. And it’s a very daunting process. is there a bit of advice from the training you’ve had or from the foster network you, you speak to that you would give to those adoptive parents who might be about to face that situation.
Annabelle: We’ve seen one of our close friends, did it, as a carer. and we went through the whole process of, you know, we watched it very closely with the new parents coming in and meeting the children and then, stepping it up again and doing meetings at their house. And it was really nice to see them go on to their forever home.
I guess the only advice I would have was the. You know, often the foster carers are just as nervous as the adoptive parents because you know, everybody wants it to work out. We all want it to work and working together to make it work.
Isn’t it? I guess.
Stu Oakley: So if somebody is listening to this and they’re thinking about becoming a foster parent or they’ve, always been in the back of their minds, that they wanted to be a foster parent. Are there any myths out there that you think, uh, not true and that you’d like to see broken down about foster carers?
Annabelle: Yeah. I mean, we were told other initially we were told to expect, I expect to have a windows machine, you know, expect to have our doors broken and expect to have our homes disrupted. And, you know, for some people that is true for some situations, things like that do happen. But actually for majority of people we know.
And in our group, everybody has got what I would call very normal family lives. And I thought from the, if you want to look at the trauma related issues or the attachment issues that the children have, everything else is very normal. No, I don’t. I’ve never had a window smashed I’ll touch with, when I say it never had our house smashed up, you know, we’ve, we’ve got what I’ve called a normal family unit.
And I think. People don’t feel that that happens in fostering people think it’s all the, all the bad stuff, all the negatives that you hear in which, you know, w they do go on, but if it’s the right match, if the child is the right match for you and it’s different. And I think people don’t, I’ve seen carers come in and have the whole match.
So it doesn’t work out very well. And then they get disheartened and lose hope, but actually a year down the line with the right match, they suddenly start to see what we see and that actually we can make a difference.
Lotte Jeffs: Can you talk a bit more about the matching process? Is it the same as it is with adoption where you’re able to choose the children who are right for you and your family?
Annabelle: Yeah. So 99% of the time. So when we get a referral, it’ll come through saying whichever team is looking for foster carers, and it’ll give them a description of the child and the needs. Um, it might say if they need to stay at their local school. And so do, you can look at the geographical logistics of getting them where they need to be, and then you can put yourself forward and say, yes, I think this is a good match.
But what often happens unfortunately, is that it becomes more of an emergency and it’s sometimes a phone call there’s a child needs facing today. and the information you’re getting then is very.
Very sparse. but most carers, I know don’t turn their children away. We take them in any way. And then the information filters through a little bit further down the line. we are supposed to choose. The white matches for us and social workers will often say our supervising social workers will often say, I think this is the right match for your family as well.
Cause they know as well, but sometimes it is just a case of. A child needs a home or bed for the night and you take them in and see what happens.
Stu Oakley: Have you ever had, or known of others that have experienced
challenges from the birth family, having issues with the foster scares, not necessarily under the circumstances they’re in that they have a say, but I was just interested in knowing if there has been anything that has arisen.
Annabelle: I’m the only one in all of our history and everybody, I know only one situation. And I think that was down to religious reasons. and it didn’t, it didn’t massively affect us. We would just let know that it was a problem. and we needed to tread carefully. So we did. And, it was fine. Okay. It didn’t really turn into anything so that wasn’t a problem, but I think it wasn’t, it didn’t seem to be a personal issue.
It was more about the religion, I think, than anything.
Stu Oakley: That’s such a positive thing to hear, because I think part of the reason we want to do this podcast is to break down myths or questions that people may have that. You know, if the, if someone’s wanting to be a foster carer and they’re worried about prejudice out there, it sounds like whilst there is some out there, it doesn’t sound like there is a huge deal of it.
So that’s very, that’s, that’s how it will mean to here.
Lotte Jeffs: Yeah. What is the first day, like when you have a new child in your house?
Annabelle: It’s all very exciting. Everyone’s always a bit nervous. and we always find that children are very hyper. So was this a new setting? Um, but we do everything we can. So we have, we have a very special little cupboard with, um, multiple quilt covers in and, we always have spare to crushes we have it set up.
So when, so the two children, the two younger siblings that came the call was at lunchtime. They were there at tea time, but they both had. a bed to meet up with. I want to say one was Lego, man. I think, um, one was, my little pony, so something specific to them that they came into a bed made with their own quilt.
With a Teddy on it. They had their own tooth brush and you know, the thing that they don’t, the things they don’t come with, we make sure that they’ve got the first instance and it was, and late night shopping trip to Asda because we had to quickly. Supply some clothes and some pyjamas and some other bits.
So it was about. Making it special for them. so we, we love that, that first day where we’re, these are your things, this is your room, this is your stuff. And it makes it more special for them. And then when we start to buy them, the things that they need, it’s making sure we get the things that they like.
And it might be, I think it was like Batman pants at one point, somebody left Batman pants. So we went out of our way to make sure we bought Batman pants. we will talk about like how they would like to bring in what colors, what decorating.
And sometimes it might be as simple as just sticking up a poster cause that’s quick and easy and just making it theirs. And we normally do that within the first few days. I think that’s one of the most important bits to making them feel like it’s their home and settled in the men. And then that’s just, that’s the icebreaker for is really once they’ve got their own Teddy, their own room, their own quilts, that, and their own posters on the wall, it feels like it starts to feel like home for
Lotte Jeffs: Oh, it’s so sweet. I just can imagine being that kid and just, maybe it’s even like the first time they’ve ever been given those sort of choices
Annabelle: Possibly those children, those children that I’m talking about had four moves in one week, they were moved four times in one week. They didn’t get to stay anywhere more than one or two nights. So when they came to us, I think they just expect it to move again. The next day it was the norm to just a right sleep move.
So it was nice to break that and say, actually, no, you’re not moving tomorrow. And this is your agreement. This is your staff. And we will be taking you to school and we will be picking you up.
Lotte Jeffs: Yeah. And what do you find are some of the kind of biggest challenges in those first few weeks with the kids and behavior?
Annabelle: It’s not supported. We also have a honeymoon. We have a lovely honeymoon period. So some are longer than ever. So that’s always quite nice. the biggest challenge was will often be the logistics of school ones, clubs. So it might be, I’ve got a bit three schools in the space of 20 minutes and it’s, so I have to, it takes me a couple of weeks to get into the routine and figure out the best place to be drop people off, pick up and, and work out.
So we’re quite, we’ve got very good at it. So if we look, if we was to be looking at a referral to bring a child in, now I would have to be looking at, can I manage that school run in amongst the ones I’ve already got now? So it’s, it’s the logistics of running a household, which I guess every parent has to do, but you certainly have to change your routine in a second.
The whole routine has to change tomorrow morning and it can be quite daunting I guess, but we do it. We get on with it. We figure out a new route. We figure out our new routine and our best way of dropping everybody off where they need to be. And we just do it.
Lotte Jeffs: How do you and your wife, relax and like, look after yourselves and your own relationship.
Annabelle: We like to have, um, we don’t, we don’t use the term respite with the children. We never have. They like to have sleepovers with family. Um, we use that, so we’ve got lots of friends and family that helpers and that we have. They go to the same people each time. So maybe every couple of months they’ll go for a weekend, sleep over.
And they love going for their sleep overs because they like having where there’s three children in the home. Obviously one-on-one time can be a little bit challenging. So they love going and having sleep overs and having that one on one time away from each other, especially the siblings, they love having a night or two away from each other.
So we find that really big help to just make sure that we get they’ll take night in or go into the gym and, you know, going to the spa and doing the things that we like to do. without having to, to worry about the children who know them in good hands when they’re with our family and friends. So that really helps.
Lotte Jeffs: We have a character on our show called Aunt Sally, who is no reflection on, on your wife. She just happens to have the same name. she is basically the person that asks the most, rude, inappropriate. Borderline homophobic, ignorant kind of comments that makes you feel really frustrated, angry, annoyed.
do you have any aunt Sally moments that you could share with us?
Annabelle: Do you know what, unfortunately, I don’t. I see. Unfortunately, but that’s probably the thing that everybody was asked, like, but we just haven’t had any. Any situations arise. We’re just so lucky that everybody we know, just accepts us for who we are and supports what we do. And it just, and it just, it just seems so I think that’s why the kids okay.
It just becomes, it’s just normal. It’s so normal for us and it’s normal for the kids. Um, it just, I don’t know. I, I don’t know what we’ll do if anything ever arises, cause it’s never been an issue before in our lives. So, um, we’re very fortunate that I haven’t hard to come across anything.
Lotte Jeffs: When you meet new people, say at schools or clubs and stuff, do you say I’m their foster parent? Or do you say I’m their parent?
Annabelle: We used foster at the moment we use foster parent. that’s the oldest we’re often referred to us as mum to friends. Cause she prefers it that way. So we tend to take on what the kids want. So the younger ones, once the adoption, before we say it, so they’re very much. Foster care for now, but we’re foster parent for now and we’ll be parents.
So they want that clear. When is now when the official paperwork goes through, it’s the NSA, we stuck with it for now. So, um, but I think a foster parent is still a great title to have.
Stu Oakley: Indeed, especially when you’re doing such a smashing job that you both are doing
Lotte Jeffs: That’s amazing, like to just be primed for parenting, like. as I know, it’s like a gradual thing that you’re growing with the child and you’re learning along the way, but it’s like, you could literally have a baby, a teenager an, each of those phases of a child’s life comes complete with its own challenges, right?
I’m just impressed basically that you know how to do that.
Annabelle: We’re lucky to have the support. So I know we’ve got, um, um, a local group of our carers. And if I was to put a message out saying, I got a baby coming tonight, has anyone got any staff I can guarantee you Steph would be flooding our way, say, you know, we’re really lucky to have that mix of carers as well.
And other people that have had babies got babies and have extra. So I know that there was, um, a couple of cots. Well moved around our group recently. Um, and some high chairs and things. So it does happen, you know, that people just help each other, but we’re all in the same boat. We can all get any child at any time.
So you have to be prepared.
Stu Oakley: And will you ever stop?
Annabelle: We talked about it. So when our youngest will be 18, Sally will be close to a time and age. Not that she’ll admit it, but we have talked about whether we would want to stop at that point. We’re happy that we’ve said that actually a lot of people still do the same retirement. It’s one of those, what was it?
You can do as much or as little as you want. So even if we were just doing best fight to help people, um, and doing short term breaks or bridging placements to help children find the right adopters and things, then. It might be something that we can do. So I don’t, I it’s not on the cards yet, and I can’t see it being on the cards for quite some time.
So I fit the moment I have options. Awesome. I’ll keep them fully open.
Lotte Jeffs: No brilliant. And do you have any advice for other LGBTQ plus people thinking about fostering.
Annabelle: just go for it. it’s that simple. I just, we just try and sound people to just, just take the plunge because it’s one of those things that once you do it, you don’t look back and it is very rewarding.
Our situations, it’s just so rewarding that we can’t now imagine our lives without these children in them. And if we haven’t taken that plunge, I don’t, I don’t actually know where we’d be or what we’d be doing. You know, the situation would be very different. So it’s a case of. Can I just do it. It is literally just do it.
Lotte Jeffs: Oh, I found myself getting a little. Emotional surprising me that talking to Annabel Stu it really touched me just thinking about being the child and go going into their home for the first time. Maybe it’s like the middle of the night and you’ve just gone from one chaotic situation to another. And then there’s this room for you with a bed, with a little, my little pony quilts and Teddy on your bed, just for you and your toothbrush.
And like just how. Meaningful and comforting. That must be for these children and just feeling so sad for the kids, for being in that situation, but also so grateful that people like Annabel and her wife exists to take care of them.
Stu Oakley: I think it’s people like them that have just so supportive and means so much to these kids that do come into care and they go through so much trauma and they go through such a huge ordeal. And I mean, and it continues, you know, as I said, a lot of the children that are in foster then go on to adoption.
Our foster carers for our children, they always said the hardest thing that they ever had to say was sometimes the children going back to the birth families when they knew in their hearts, knowing the birth family, knowing the child, that that was not the right.
Circumstance for them. And they knew it was going to be a repetitive situation and the things that they see and the things that they have to deal with and the unknown as well, like she was talking about, their daily routine could be completely different from one day to the next, depending on a call that they get in the middle of the night, which is incredible.
Lotte Jeffs: Again, I’m just bowled over by other people’s resilience. In parenting and just that attitude that we had with our blokes family as well of just like, well, you just do it, don’t you, you just get on and do it I mean, yes, of course there’s moments where it’s like incredibly hard, but just that spirit and that energy. I kind of recognized for them that we’re Bryce family as well, and just I’m so in order of it, and I guess I wonder if I’ve got it in me.
Stu Oakley: My husband’s always wants to foster and yeah, and actually he wants to foster. w we had the conversation about fostering before we went into the conversation about adopting, but it was interesting what Annabel said, cause it’s almost the opposite of what my husband and I did is that she felt that they wanted to, they wanted to get the tray, the more training they could get through fostering to them, be able to look after charge, whereas they didn’t feel they’d get that with adoption.
Whereas my point of view was a ways. I’m tightening up fostering and I would consider it in the future. Although having seen what all foster parents have gone through with our children and the emotional trauma that they felt, I, I that’s where my selfishness comes into it. And I don’t think I could say goodbye to a child that I’ve had, especially an infant.
So it’s definitely something I want to look at in the future. And I’d love to work with somebody like the Albert Kennedy trust in the future who help emergency home teens that have been kicked out of home for LGBT QI related issues.
I think that’s something I’d really be up for in the future, but right now with the children and the ages that they are, it’s not something where we’re exploring. I thought it was interesting what Annabel said about the pace parenting as well. and how actually, how all parents could have that. And it’s not something that’s widely,
Lotte Jeffs: Yeah, it’s funny. Isn’t it? You get NCT classes, which teaches you how to deal with the first few days of birth and the pregnancy and that sort of thing, but like, hello, what about the rest of it?
Stu Oakley: if you, if you’re an adoptive parent, you know, the word pace, but if you’re not, I would recommend having a look at some of the books and articles related to pace.
Lotte Jeffs: Yeah. I’m definitely going to check that out.
Stu Oakley: it stands for playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy, and about how you can have those four pillars of parenting in any situation.
Lotte Jeffs: Oh, that sounds great. Yeah. What did you think about, um, Annabel’s use of, of language and talking about the being a normal family.
Stu Oakley: Well, you know what I think about the word normal, lofty, but. I think everybody has their own definition of normal and normal is whatever works for, for the person in that situation. And quite frankly, when you’re dealing with children in a care system and who had dealing with various trauma issues, a sense of normality is so, so important for them. And so I completely understand why for them normal is such a key thing.
Lotte Jeffs: Yet again, I’ve learned so much from this podcast and from just talking to you, Steve, and finding out your experience of adoption and from all of our amazing guests that we’ve had on. it’s been another great episode.
Stu Oakley: It has. And I’ve been really looking forward to speaking to a, foster carer So thank you Annabelle, for joining us. And if you are thinking about fostering or if you want to know any more information, we’ve whacked off loads of information of links, et cetera, into our show notes this week.
So you can have a look and see if there’s anything that it takes your fancy, but. I think that’s time for us to wrap it up. Lotte,
Lotte Jeffs: Yeah, nice to see. She will see same time, same place, next week.
Stu Oakley: I’ll see you around on zoom later. Bye.