Annie Shafi left a successful career in the hospitality industry to pursue her dream of providing a loving home to a needy child. But the path to foster carer status is not an easy one – as she was to find out…
Q. Tell us a little about yourself (background, family, work)
A. I am a wife, mother, people person and all round go-getter. I’m from an Indo-Pak background and I’m married to a revert from the Caribbean – we’ve been together for more than 22 years, alhamdulillah! I have four children under my care. I have had a long and successful career in the hospitality industry, masha’Allah. From being hired as a receptionist over 20 years ago, to winning multiple awards and being featured in The Guardian, I have had a great time setting up hotels, managing hotels, and working hard to deliver positive results.
Q. How did your journey with fostering begin? What inspired you to apply?
A. Having reached the pinnacle of my career in the hospitality industry, I decided to seek other challenges in life; to make the world a better place and to improve the lives of others. At the same time, there was a large influx of Syrian children. Their plight was advertised all over the London area and I was deeply moved by the tragedy of their situation. That’s when my interest in becoming a foster carer grew.
Q. So, you were interested. What did you do next?
A. Well, I searched online to find ways to foster a Syrian refugee child. Then I contacted the agency who took my details and, after a brief interview over the phone, they advised me that an assessor would contact me in due course to inspect our household. The initial visit by the assessor lasted for about an hour. She wanted to meet me, my husband, as well as our son. She inspected our home and the bedroom in which we had planned to accommodate the foster child (at the time of the initial visit the bedroom was being used as a storage room).
During this initial meeting it was explained that, although our preference would be for a Syrian or Muslim child, we were equally happy to love and look after a child of any persuasion, based on the greatest need. This is a requirement for your application to be processed.
Q. What are your thoughts on the process? How did you feel while you were going through it?
A. After this visit, our family was invited to attend a weekend course called “Skill to Foster” based at the agency’s office. During the course we were left in no doubt about some of the challenges we were likely to face during our fostering journey: they made clear to us the stark possibilities of the troubled nature and damaging experiences foster children have been through and that may arise and influence the behavioural and emotional context. I believe the trainers wanted to make sure that we understood the worst case scenarios and possible ramifications so we did not underestimate how difficult it may be. Although it was a bit daunting, this helped balance our uninformed preconceptions and made us feel more prepared for whatever would come our way.
Q. Was that the end of the assessment? Or were there more steps?
A. No, that wasn’t the end of it! An external assessor made 6 visits, each lasting 3 to 4 hours, to compile a detailed case file including;
DBS checks for everyone in our household,
work and personal references for myself and husband,
a DBS check for our network support person,
comprehensive interviews and medical checks for myself and my husband,
our son’s school report,
financial and utility statements,
day to day costs,
gas and electrical certification,
certificate for our home insurance,
MOT for our car,
holiday frequencies and costs and our social life.Phew!
During this visit, the assessor also carried out a Health and Safety check of our home, and pointed out the things which we needed to adjust and/or install to make our home safe for a foster child. Once the “Form F” was completed by the assessor, a copy was sent to us for our approval. We were
then invited to attend a panel meeting where each person on the panel had a question to ask both of us. After this meeting, the agency confirmed that our application had been approved, and I was now the
main foster carer. That was such a relief!
Q. You are now an approved foster carer: how does that feel?
A. It feels great, alhamdulillah!