I was at a Blue Sky support meeting, quite recently, and we carers were asked to take it in turns to talk about what we like about fostering.
The comment that stuck in my mind was the lady who was there with her partner, they'd been fostering for some time. "We've had two of ours turn up at the doorstep ages after they've left us, and said 'Thank you'.
Driving home I thought about what she said for quite a bit. Was this lady saying she fosters to hear them say "Thank you"?
There's nothing wrong with doing things in life to make people grateful. It's better than doing things to make people ungrateful, or doing nothing at all.
If a child of mine says "Thank you" when I put beans on toast in front of them, it makes me a bit happy, happier than if they say "I don't like Best of Both bread." or "He's got more beans than me."
But if they say "I like the way you do beans on toast" I'm made up.
Then I ask "What's to like about my beans on toast?" and they reply "Because you cut the toast into little squares before you pour the beans on, so it's easy to make mouthfuls when I'm watching Spongebob." That's when I float back into the kitchen and find myself humming that annoying "Tonight We Are Young" song while I'm scouring out the saucepan. Happy as it gets, actually.
Okay, it's only happened the once, so far. But it happened.
The lady at the support meeting who said she'd had two of her fostered children turn up at the doorstep to say thank you; she doesn't foster to hear "Thank you", though it helps. She fosters because she loves it, and they loved being with her and her partner enough to travel all the way to the lady's house to say thank you.
It wasn't like the robot "Thank you" letter to a distant aunt who'd sent a Christmas card with a £5 cheque inside. It wasn't a phone call or a message passed on by a Social Worker. They took a bus, or got a ride or whatever, travelled across town or county, and turned up at the door.
This lady does it because she gets massive fulfillment from doing something unbelievably rewarding. Not only that, doing it well. Well enough for not only one, but two of her children to make the journey. Pilgrimage almost, I wouldn't be surprised.
This tells her, for certain, she got it right. Confirmation. She's doing the job well, or at least as well as she can, and that's the most any of us can do. It's great when our Social Worker says we're doing a good job. It's nice when our Annual Reviews give us a pat on the back. Sometimes you know it's them being encouraging, nothing wrong with that.
But when you hear it from the horses mouth. Then it's official. After all, they're what matters.
She loves them and she loves fostering. And she's good, very good at it.
The Secret Foster Carer