Anne Tranmer: Foster parent 200 times over

In our People Are Amazing series, we seek out great stories from the people who make and receive our books, applying just a little bit of word wizardry and beautiful illustration to bring them to life.

We print out and send over a poster of their original design, and publish their story right here in this blog. Because everyone deserves to have a book written about them… or at least a blog post.

Anne Tranmer has fostered over 200 children.

You read that right. In the course of the past 37 years, well over 200 children needing a safe space to stay have passed through Anne’s home.

Many of us at The Book of Everyone are parents, but of one or two little ones, max.

So when I caught wind of Anne’s incredible story, I called her up right away with all kinds of questions.

“The obvious question: how did you end up fostering so many children?”

When she was 10 years old, Anne’s neighbours were foster parents. She used to babysit for them, and tells me that “certain children have a way of sticking in your mind.”

Fast-forward years later to when Anne had two children of her own. The original plan was to have six total – but after bringing two healthy babies into the world, Anne and her husband felt it was time to give back.

The first child that they fostered was just two years old and in quite critical condition. He wasn’t expected to live past five. But he lived to 33 – all the while under Anne’s roof, happy, well-fed, and in no pain.

Anne found the experience so rewarding that she opened up her doors to more and more children over the following decades. Most of them didn’t stay quite so long as the first (the shortest lasted about 45 minutes! It was a misunderstanding – they told her that mum wasn’t going to be angry with her and sent her home), but memories of all of them have manifested in stories that Anne can’t stop telling.

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“What makes fostering so rewarding for you?”

For “Aunty Anne,” it’s always been about sharing the simple joys of life with children – “like going on the beach, eating candy floss, donuts. These kids have never seen things like that, and they didn’t know what this strange stuff was.”

She told me of a small boy that they bought new clothes for, including a pair of wellies. He loved them so much that he wouldn’t take them off, not ever, not even to go to bed. Eventually he was persuaded to place them under his pillow while he slept.

For another, she knitted a sweater with a snowman on the front, then stood the three-year-old in front of the mirror so he could see himself. He was so bewildered by the sight of the well-dressed little boy in the glass that he went around the back to find out who it was.

“It’s about making memories for these kids, very simple ones,” Anne tells me.

“What’s the one thing about being a foster parent that would surprise people?”

When people hear that Anne’s fostered over 200 children, they often figure she’s some kind of saint.

“A lot of people tell me, oh, I could never do that,” says Anne, “but we are just ordinary people. Yes, we are given training along the way, but mainly we just live, love, laugh, learn, cry, and grow together.”

“We are just a different kind of family.”

“How do you say goodbye?”

The first thing I think about when trying to conceptualise caring for so many children is the sheer quantity of goodbyes. And Anne says that – although “some of the difficult teenagers are quite lovely to wave off” – many fare-thee-wells do break her heart.

One of the ways she makes the goodbyes meaningful is by making each child a keepsake photo book. It’s full of pictures, certificates, birds’ feathers they’ve found, medals they’ve won, and, above all, memories – their life with Aunty Anne in a book.

So each and every one of those hundreds of children takes a little piece of Anne with them. And she says a little piece of each of them stays with her, too: “You never forget.”

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