If there's one thing that helps me most as a foster carer it's food.
Foster children, especially newly-arrived, deserve the food of their dreams. Served right.
I'm not talking about giving in to McDonalds every night. They've eaten enough takeaways on the floor anyway. I'm talking about finding out what they like, how they like it cooked, how they want it arranged on the plate, where they want to sit, who they want to sit next to. Finding out whether they've ever sat at a table or eaten off plates before. Whether they need a discreet cushion on their chair so they aren't looking up at everybody. Whether they need junior knives and forks (top tip). Whether they want their plate made up for them or whether they want to compile their own plate from bowls of chips, beans broccoli or whatever placed on the table (topper tip, they relax when they can choose components and amount).
Of course I promote salad and fruit, but I believe they'll eat a better diet once they've overcome.
Usually we carers get good information about a child's eating habits before they arrive, but it's always down to us in the kitchen to nuance the list of likes and dislikes. Blue Sky make it a priority to get a full menu over to us even before a placement is agreed, but we have to go deeper. Of course they like chips, but crinkle, steak cut or skinny fries?
Sometimes you're floored. We got the call from Blue Sky to take 3 boys who had hitch-hiked from Afghanistan allegedly in fear of the Taliban. They were coming later that night. Google told us the nearest Halal grocer was forty miles away. However, though McDonalds is non-Halal, good old fish and chips is okay. These were boys who would literally rather face a loaded Kalashnikov than a bacon sandwich. And our job is to make sure we let them know we respect and celebrate their preferences.
Yeah yeah, that was a particular case. But the principle is true for all foster children, I think.
Actually it's true for us all. Suppose you pitch up at someone's house for a Come Dine With Me experience and you get served raw fish heads and sheeps eyes. Well shepherds pie and peas can seem just as revolting to some looked afters.
Below is a picture I took of the biggest single plate of food I've ever dished up. He was a 17 year old staying with us on respite. He liked to stay out late, it was all agreed with his Social Workers. We'd get a call from the last train home "What's for tea?" This particular night I said "You can have pork chops or pizza." There was a long pause, which I understood. "Or you can have both". So he did. If I'd applied for planning permission it would have been refused.
It's not a plate, by the way, it's a salad platter it's on. If you want a perspective, that's an entire full size tin of baked beans on there.
Anyhow, why did I start on this one? Because I've just taken our 8 year old her bedtime snack, and as a treat, for no particular reason, I took her up not the usual slice of toast and half an apple, but her favourite English: omelette cut in strips, 4 rashers of crisp streaky bacon, and 4 baby new potatoes cut in half.
She looked up at me and said "Love you". First time she's ever said it first. A very big deal, to me. It wasn't the food, it was the affection that went into it. She got it.
Then she asked where the ice cream was.
The Secret Foster Carer