I’VE made two firm friends since I started fostering, both of whom are also foster carers. Before I fostered I had not made any real friends since my schooldays, to be honest. Once you get onto the merry-go-round of dating and having a family there doesn’t seem to be much of a place for making friends. I was close to a number of other young mums when my first baby came along, and I made a few new acquaintances at the school railings too, but they were flash in the pan.
I’M still in regular contact with several lifelong friends from school (Facebook!), and my new fostering friendships have a similarly good feeling about them. Basically, we share all our experiences in fostering which is more than just very enjoyable – it helps, big time.
HERE’S a classic example.
WHEN IT ALL GOES QUIET
IT’S always a big day when a new child arrives. You’ve gone through the process - the call from Blue Sky’s placement team outlining the child’s situation, the email with all their background and their likes and dislikes, you hoover the spare bedroom, get it looking neat but homely, put on a nice outfit (neat but homely again!) then sit looking out of the front window, waiting.
THE car pulls up, the social worker gets out, and you get your first glimpse of the new member of your family. They always look so vulnerable and frightened, your heart goes out to them.
THEN you usually have a meeting of about an hour or so going through more background stuff, showing them their room and the bathroom, and explaining a few rules.
THEN the social worker leaves! And it’s just you, your family, and this young stranger. You eat tea together, usually very quietly, and watch a bit of TV together, always a bit awkward for example if Eastenders is on and there’s a shouting match, or the news comes on and there’s an unpleasant story. Then they go to bed. It all goes quiet.
THEN for some reason you just get desperate to TELL SOMEONE.
YOU can’t call Blue Sky’s Out Of Hours service, that’s for emergencies.
YOU can’t phone any old friend because you can’t discuss your fostering placement outside fostering out of respect for the child’s privacy.
SO I phone a fostering friend, and basically have a good long natter. When the shoe is on the other foot, and they call me, I know how much good it does them to offload all the grief they’ve built up inside, hearing about what’s happened to the child that’s ended them up in fostering. Every story is totally, totally unique, and it’s more gripping than Eastenders, and more relevant than the news. It’s your own real life.
THE watchword is confidentiality, and Blue Sky know the value of the carer network, they often quietly say to carers “You get on well with x don’t you, why not meet up for coffee?”
SHARING the ups and downs of fostering with someone who also fosters is priceless. No offence to all the professionals I’ve met in fostering (let me see, that would be social workers, health and safety, local authority officials, nurses, guardians, teachers, solicitors, policemen and women, doctors, maybe others too many mention!), but it’s only when you are with a friend who also fosters that you feel you are with someone who’s been there and got the T shirt.
HAVING said that, it’s horses for courses, and I know a few Blue Sky foster carers who keep themselves to themselves, there’s even one who I call the mystery carer because I only ever met this person once at my First Aid training session (which is compulsory, every three years), and she told me it would probably be the only time we’d meet (ie every 3 years!) because she liked a low profile, and didn’t like talking about fostering.
SO each to their own.
I personally would talk about nothing else but fostering if I could, as long as walls don’t have ears.
BYE for today, and happy fostering.
The Secret Foster Carer