I think the thing I find hardest to keep in mind is that the job is to get your foster children back to their real home.
It's what fostering is all about. Looking after someone else's child while the someone elses' of this world get their act together. Then when they are straightened out, ease their child back to them.
The thing that ought to make it easy to remember is that foster children want to go home. I mean they really, really want to go home. Big time. As a foster parent you try not to dwell on the fact that this young person, living in your house as family, desperately wants to leave.
They eat your hearty home cooked food, dip into the biscuit barrel without a please or thank you, do the washing up so badly it has to be done all over again, mess up the bathroom and hitch rides here there and everywhere arriving half-an-hour late at the pickup point with a scowl if we so much as hint we've been getting worried.
They hop off school, turn up at home smelling of smoke. Sometimes you're lucky if they turn up at home, sometimes you have to go and collect them at the local police station.
I'm on first names terms with the woman PC who run the desk at our nearest nick, true fact. Okay it was only the one of our many foster children who 'came to their attention', but I've left their phone number on my phone, you never know.
But back to my point; I need to keep reminding myself that I'm supposed to want them to go home.
When you've put yourself through the often harrowing ordeal of learning what the foster child's life was like at home before they came into care, it's going to be hard to trust they'll be okay.
Yet if you ever ask a foster child "Is there anything you want to ask?"
The answer is always "When am I going home?"
Isn't love amazing? It triumphs over the worst violation; parental neglect, abuse, cruelty, abandonment, assault.
The child's love for their parent even triumphs over the glaring fact that sometimes the parent has no love at all for the child.
Care is amazing too. There's more to caring for some poor mite than home cooked food and clean sheets. When you learn about their story you feel for them how could you not? They often sense this in you, that you are giving them more than a roof over their head. That you are giving them what all children deserve, a kind, strong parent who wants them to be okay, better than okay, who wants them to make it to the top of the world.
And when you feel for someone, that feeling is there for life, and you always want to know they're alright.
How do you work towards getting them to leave? You have to be clear what the plan is, that's where your social workers are crucial. Once you know, you find ways of letting the child know, using what they call age-and-stage appropriate language and concepts. No point reading a Court Order verbatim to a five year old.
If foster carers want to spare themselves from worrying they better toughen up.
But it looks like that doesn't happen, not in my case. I want to feel for our foster children, I want to be hopeful yet sad when they go. I want to long to know how they are doing, but I don't take any steps to find out.
Mainly because I'm getting busy with the next placement.