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Real Life: The story of Anne Mitchell, who has fostered almost 40 children

Anne Mitchell, 46, has fostered almost 40 children over the past decade alongside caring for her biological daughter and son. To mark Foster Care Fortnight this month, Anne, who lives in Ely, tells Louise Cummings her story

How we began

My husband Alan and I have been fostering for Cambridgeshire County Council since 2012. Our biological children were only just in full-time school when we started, and now our daughter is at university and our son is sitting his GCSEs. We started off taking in one young child at a time. Now we tend to welcome sibling groups.

Foster carer Anne Mitchell
Foster carer Anne Mitchell

Why foster?

Before fostering I childminded and I remember thinking that these kids had so many people to look after them and love them. But there are so many children out there that don’t have a circle of reliable family and friends to support them so I wanted to step up and be their grown-up.

Our first foster child

She was 12 weeks old and came from a mother and baby placement which hadn’t worked out. She stayed with us for a year and went on to be adopted and is now about to turn 13! We still keep in touch with her. We like to keep in touch with the children once they’ve moved on; I send them chocolate advent calendars in November each year to remind them we’re here and we will always remember them and love them.

The fostering journey

Over the years we have welcomed nearly 40 children, some for only a night, and some for over a year. Many go on to live with adoptive families. We’ve also supported several to return to birth parents, or move to extended family on Special Guardianship Orders.

We sometimes cover the emergency list where if there has been an incident putting children at risk of immediate harm, police may need to remove them from their home.

Often these children arrive in the back of a squad car in the middle of the night with nothing, so we have big emergency boxes filled with essentials, from PJs and sleepsuits to nappies and formula. We feel honoured to be able to help these children and keep siblings together who might otherwise have been split up whilst suffering an already traumatic situation.

How our own children adapted

They are so empathetic and it’s been an incredibly positive experience for them. Because I childminded before fostering, they were so used to me having other children in the house that my son has never called me Mum as everyone calls me Anne!

We currently have a 10-year-old girl, who is in long-term foster care with us, and siblings that are preschool and primary school aged, awaiting adoption. When our daughter is back from university, she loves to play with the kids, which is so lovely, and our son has been helping the littlest one learn to ride a bike!

Saying goodbye

It is heartbreaking to say goodbye to a child when they leave, but it is more heartbreaking to think of the children coming into care who don’t have anyone who can love them and keep them safe. It is a privilege to be a young person’s grown-up when they are at their most vulnerable. We all have our own coping strategies; I tend to clean and reorganise around the house. Alan usually builds something; last time he built a shed!

The rewards of fostering

Fostering is incredibly rewarding. Many children arrive so frightened that they sleep facing the door and are hyper vigilant, listening in to conversations. But as they settle into a pattern, over time, they begin to sleep easier and physically grow in height because they are finally relaxed. It’s wonderful to see them flourish!

Breaking the cycle

A lot of these little human beings have come from homes where there is alcohol misuse, drug misuse and domestic violence. We can help to break that cycle, help children to believe in themselves, and have aspirations for the future. There is nothing more rewarding!

Could you foster?

If you are over the age of 21, have a spare bedroom and can offer a child or young person a secure and caring home, then we want to hear from you! You can be married, single or in a same sex relationship, but need to be resilient, dedicated and ready to open your hearts and homes to those who need it most. Cambridgeshire County Council’s Fostering Service offer training, generous fostering allowances and carer support groups and events. Visit cambridgeshire.gov.uk, call 0800 052 0078 or email fostering@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

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