HELPING is the most important thing. But it’s not the main thing. And I realise that what I just said doesn’t make sense. I remember having to explain to my children the difference between big and tall, that a giraffe was the tallest but an elephant was the biggest, and that’s what I’m talking about. The most important thing is helping the child, and knowing how to help and when not to help, and what the rights and wrongs of fostering are (which is where training comes in).
HOWEVER, it’s not the thing that fills your mind and your time all day long, and that’s how I’d define the “main thing”. No, the main thing about fostering is all the little things. The little jobs.
WHATEVER your family set-up was before you start fostering, it’s familiar to every family member, and there’s a routine. You all know each other, and everybody’s personalities and quirks. Their likes and dislikes, who needs reminding about what and how best to do it.
FOR example, before fostering, we always had a regular routine on Sundays. Mum and dad go back to bed with a cup of tea and the children would come in with us and watch TV or generally play, then I’d get up and lay the kitchen table for a family breakfast which used to be quite late but then our son started Sunday morning football so we adjusted, and everybody sorted themselves out, and I’d get on with a few jobs because the next thing would be lunchtime, and we had a roast which went on the table at 2.00pm. After that everyone would either sit and watch TV or finish homework, then when Songs of Praise came on I’d start getting people thinking about the morning, and clothes and satchels and so on. We were always ready to adjust the routine, but everyone liked knowing how the day ahead looked.
ENTER A STRANGER
THEN someone from outside your family joins your family. Blue Sky get you as much information as they can about the child. They also get information about you and your family to the child in advance, which is a useful thing.
BUT no matter how much planning and forethought there is, nothing prevents you having to examine all over again your family routine, and how to draw the child into it, and, most time consuming of all, how to adjust the millions of little jobs that make up your day. Jobs like staying on top of the bathroom (you’re got to explain it all to someone new), going round the supermarket picking out the usual favourites (what flavour crisps?) getting the usual arguments about not wanting to help with the washing up, who chooses what TV programmes, and the ever-present test of your good temper, bedtime routine.
WHEN I was first approved, and found myself waiting for the phone to ring, I tried to imagine myself doing counselling work with a child, talking and listening about their problems, as if that’s what fostering is about. It happens, of course. But most of the time fostering is all about making endless little judgements about how to help them feel welcome and at ease, and a part of your family.
THAT’S the main thing, for me anyway.