When you have the experience Annie Lane and Samuel Cook have, it only makes sense that you put the knowledge to good work. Each of them has different motivations for supporting foster children, but as a couple, they’re a powerful force for the greater good of the community.
While living in Compton, California, Annie became acquainted with fostering by caring for her two nephews. She said, “I started fostering when I was 24 years old for my two nephews after my mother died in 1991. I had them until they were grown. And when they were with us, kids were always at our house. Kids were always around to hang out; even the neighbors would be there. Because frankly, kids attract kids to hang out with.”
Before meeting Annie, Sam spent nearly 20 years working in the Los Angeles County Probation Department, working with juveniles and later as a drug and alcohol counselor. Later did, he know that his masterful skillset would be helpful in managing some of the challenges that come with raising foster kids.
“So, I've been nicknamed the turtle because I'm very easygoing. I don't give up. I like to work at a steady pace. And I like to think I'm firm, fair, and consistent with what I do. And that's how I deal with children. I help them understand that there are consequences to actions, and I describe those consequences and the possible reward of doing what I suggested. But I leave it up to them to make the decision because they have to learn some choices could lead to their detriment.”
As an example, Sam and Annie described a time when they fostered a five-year-old girl who was placed in their home with more emotional baggage than expected. The couple described her as having multiple emotional problems. However, they seized an opportunity to help her win a small victory to build up her confidence.
“She didn’t know how to tie her shoes. It took the longest time to help her learn how to do it, but it was really satisfying for me as she no longer needed to wear gym shoes with the Velcro on it. She knew how to tie her shoelaces, and that was very satisfying.”
“When you get foster kids coming from various backgrounds, you have to understand that their skill levels are not always going to be the same. There will always be some problems that they're going to bring with them, and you have to be able to reach them in spite of those problems. That's rewarding.”
The Cooks are currently fostering two nine-year-old girls and leveraging their brand of loving discipline to help the girls thrive. Even though the girls can occasionally be a handful, the Cooks are working to help them understand the root of their actions and why they act out to help each of them heal.
Sam explained, “One of our girls refuses to do that. She’s tough because she always had to be one in charge of her [biological] family. She had to pretend that everything was great. I think that’s her way of protecting herself from getting hurt. You have to pull back the veneer and determine their true emotions to understand where they’re coming from.”