PRINCE HARRY AND FOSTERED CHILDREN
Prince Harry's problem photos is a news story that touches three big fostering things: Nudity, Mobile Phones and the News itself.
Nowadays, all parents have to be John Craven (the original children's news man). Up comes the six o'clock news; a child is murdered by a parent, figures show the number of children in care is rising, someone who worked in a children's home is arrested.
So how do we explain why it's such a big deal that a man called Prince Harry has had his photo taken with no clothes on. I told mine this:
"Harry has had a hard time. His mummy was killed in a car crash, and his daddy married another lady, who was his girlfriend all the time he was married to Harry's mummy. Harry's mummy was sad about this and had boyfriends too, which Harry probably knew about. Some cruel people have teased Harry that he's not even the son of his daddy. Harry's uncle and aunt have both had unhappy marriages, and his grandad keeps being taken to hospital. Harry is a brave soldier, but from time to time goes a bit off the rails, but he's getting better as he gets older."
I waited for someone to say "Shouldn't he have been taken into care then?" But they just shrugged and watched the next story about the man who was desperate to die...
For Carers, our upstairs landing becomes a No-Man's land. We and our children can no longer, ever, zip across from bedroom to bathroom half dressed. We have to ensure our looked-afters are fully dressed or wearing full PJ's and dressing gown on the landing, and get fully dressed before coming downstairs. But it gets more complicated: they get the flu and are off school. I used to tuck our own children up on the sofa downstairs with a blanket so they can watch cartoons. Is this okay? Try explaining to a 6 year old why girls have to wear a top and boys don't. A No-Man's land? More like a minefield.
I once spent four months going to bed dressed. The child had a tendency to leave the house, and my best chance of getting to the front gate in time was to be togged up and set for the off: track suit trousers, running socks, T shirt, training shoes unlaced and wide open at the bedside.
A few years ago the only technology us fosterers had to worry about was laptops, and life was a doddle. "No laptops in the bedroom". Easy. If in doubt turn off the router! Happy days.
Now their mobile phones can get on the internet, their real parents are prone to topping it up, the message sites are cheap as chips, they can send and receive instant photos, even home made videos. At a support meeting one carer said "I put a bowl on the telephone table and made a rule that his phone should be there all night. It was. What I didn't know was he'd bought a second phone and would switch the Sim card to his secret one and use that all night!"
The Secret Foster Carer