‘Don’t just think you will not be suitable’ - calls for more foster carers in Essex

Colchester couple Sylvie and Franck Dambrine, along with Theo (left) and Matthieu, have loved their

Colchester couple Sylvie and Franck Dambrine, along with Theo (left) and Matthieu, have loved their fostering experience with Essex County Council Picture; SYLVIE DAMBRINE - Credit: Archant

A Colchester couple are urging people to get involved with fostering after sharing their own experiences of looking after youngsters.

Sylvie and Franck Dambrine have fostered 10 children through Essex County Council's Fostering Service as well as bringing up their own sons Mattieu, 14, and Theo, 11.

The council are hoping to find more people like the Dambrines in its latest foster caring drive to find 100 more carers.

The drive falls during the national Foster Care Fortnight campaign, which is run by the Fostering Network charity, from May 13-26.

It was an experience that Mrs Dambrine encountered as a school teacher that led the couple to foster.

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One Monday morning she arrived at work to find a distressed, young student.

"She was pregnant," said Mrs Dambrine, "she had a black eye, and had been made homeless. I was pregnant too, at the same crossroads. But I was 33, had a career and a home. And yet I, as a teacher, couldn't even hug her.

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"My heart ached. I had to do more."

Mrs Dambrine left teaching eight years ago and now fosters children full time.

"It is the most demanding and most rewarding thing I've ever done," said Mrs Dambrine.

"When you see the children grow and blossom under your roof; when you see angry, miserable, tormented children become more balanced, happy, and achieving their full potential - it makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing.

"It also makes me feel very sad that some children are put in these circumstances. But we take them on holidays abroad, we go camping in Devon, we go shopping, to the zoo and the cinema.

"It can be traumatic but they learn to make decisions for themselves. It's beautiful to watch. The changes are amazing."

The family have also benefitted from taking part in fostering; one former foster child asked Mrs Dambrine to be the godmother to their first child while another woke up at 6am to bake her a birthday cake.

"I view them as my children," Sylvie said.

"I know they don't belong to me. I'm quite realistic. They view me as family but I never claim to be mum."

She added: "Whatever your background, you can become a foster carer. It is not a box-ticking exercise. There are no stereotypes. It's just the generosity of your soul."

Corrie Castleman, fostering team manager at Essex County Council, said: "We need more people to welcome a child into their family as every vulnerable child in Essex needs and deserves a safe, supportive and fun-loving home to inspire our children to become well-adjusted young adults that can positively contribute to society.

"You could make a difference to a child's life.

"Please contact our friendly team to answer any concerns you may have. Don't just think you will not be suitable or needed."

More information can be found on the council's website.

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