"It was the most life-changing experience"

  • Fostering Stories

Isabelle was in foster care from the age of 9 to 16.  During this time she was with the same foster carer, who she says gave her the stability and freedom to stay at the same school, pursue her education and follow her goals. 

Now as a key member of the Care Experienced Movement, Isabelle aims to provide a voice and connection for care experienced people, to show that being in care doesn’t need to limit your success, 'in your own way'. 

Isabelle and foster carer Phil shared their thoughts and experiences of the rewards and challenges of fostering.


I went into care when I was 9 years old and it sounds strange to say, but I thought I was going on holiday.  My foster carer had a dog, so I was thrilled about that as animals make me feel safe.

I was really lucky I was with my foster carer for the whole time I was in care from the age of 9 until 16.  I would be lying if I said it wasn’t rocky, we butted heads in the same way that parents and their children do, but she was really kind and caring and I had stability that I’ve never had before in my life.  I didn’t have to move schools; my foster mum knew my friends and my friends’ parents so I had that freedom that I could be a normal child.

My foster carer made a difference for me by getting to know me and who I was as a person.  She respected I was a teenager and that I was going to do the things that every teenager does.  She really encouraged me to follow the things I was interested in.  Like encouraging me to go to a local theatre group. 

I struggled to really open up to my foster carer, but she recognised that and so she gave me the freedom to feel comfortable and safe in my own space and encouraged me to go to counselling.

“Just get to know them.  Obviously, they come with a lot of trauma but they are also a person, they have interests and things they love, and those things matter in order to heel all the other stuff”


If I didn’t have the stability I had when I was growing up, I genuinely would not be where I am today.  If I wasn’t able to stay in the same school, I may not have got my GSCE’s and gone on to College and University.  The friends I have from when I was in care are still my friends today. My foster mum allowed me to make those connections and provided that stability for me.  I will never regret being placed in care. It was difficult, but it was the most life-changing experience and the impact my foster Mum had on me will last forever.

Isabelle and Phil

Embrace that you’re not always going to get it right, and that’s OK. You are there to give a child the best life possible for however long you have them, if that’s for a week if that’s for 10 years.  The impact you have on that child, for however long you have them, will impact them for the rest of their life


Phil (Foster Carer): 

Our young person once told us that you need to be in a home where you can be who you want and feel accepted for who you are. He had been with us 6 years and decided at 1am in the morning he was going to come into our room and speak for an hour about his experiences before living with us. When he was finished, he went "and that’s that" and walked out again. We sat in tears thinking thank goodness we were there, and were the safe place for him. I’m really glad that we were there for him when he decided it was time to share that information.

Saying goodbyes is an emotional thing, but our role as a foster carer is to keep that kid safe, and make them feel safe, and set them up for the future.  I hope they look back with fond memories of the times we spent together.

One of the things we’ve had to reiterate is that we’re not trying to be their Mum and Dad, we’re not trying to be your family, we are just trying to fill the gap in a time that we understand is difficult.  You can still be the home where that child experiences love, patience and where you can learn together.  We say we’re teaching them, but all the time we’re learning from them, about how they are learning to manage this vast range of emotions.

Fostering Phil with Stand By Me Artwork in the Palm House

I like being the person who is involved in making a difference.  You don’t know where it's going to lead as every child in care has got their own story with their own hopes and dreams, and being a part of that is genuinely exciting and fulfilling.