"Foster Mum... What happens when you die?"
When you foster, and a new child arrives, you have to pick up a bunch of key life issues and work them along. Your new child has had some sex education, somehow, but what? And how do you advance it?
If you’ve had children of your own, it’s been a continuous thing, so you’ve always known roughly where they’re at.
Maybe your foster child knows something about drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Pornography, violence and the criminal justice system.
They probably think the police are the enemy. And that Social Workers and fostering agencies are some dark force.
These things aren’t so hard; you can inform them of all the positive truths, although you’ll have to do it often and consistently and with vigilance – if a police car pulls up behind you at the lights you have to say “Oh good, the police are around” Not; “Oh blimey there’s a police car behind and I think my brake light is knackered.”
The really, really difficult one is “What happens when you die?”
It’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question. And children want a good answer.
So do I, actually. Which makes the question even harder.
Some foster carers are lucky enough to have solid religious philosophies and are comfortable, commanding even, in explaining Heaven and God and that a good life leads to an everlasting one.
If your child is young this can be comforting for the child, and rewarding in that it may improve lots of behaviours.
If your child is older, and has heard about the size of the Universe, and has already begun a worldwise adventure into science and street sense, that child will think you’re not in the groove.
When I was nine years old I was sent to live for a week with a family whose fourteen year old son had cerebral palsy. One day he said to me “My dad is in that room with the door locked. Know why? He’s praying. What a prat!”
So here’s what I do, and I’m not saying it’s right, just what I do. If they’re young I tell them about Heaven, and God being a friend and a helper. They will get this at most schools, so you might as well sign on.
But I judge the moment when they begin to develop their own philosophy, and try to come alongside, because my own belief is: we just don’t know. If they want to join a church, brilliant.
Eternal nothingness is not what they need to get their heads around when they’ve been through hell already. But I’m not going to hold out on supporting Heaven and eternal life with them once they’re ready for their own opinions, because looked-after children are more robust and perceptive than most of us and if they think you’re spouting Bulls**t you could lose them, and they need to go with your credible views on… sex, drugs, violence, the criminal justice system, love and goodness.
I think it’s what Jesus would do. And Mohammed, Budddha and the rest of them.
Mind, they never fostered.
The Secret Foster Carer