There are lots of little things in fostering that mount up. Tiny things, minute details.
Take for example, going upstairs to check they're okay.
Every evening many if not most foster children retreat to their room. Sometimes they like to spend most of the weekend in there. It can be a battle to get some of them downstairs, one worth winning, but not if it means hostility.
They come downstairs to eat then scoot back upstairs.
Never used to be the case with my children because the telly was in the living room and so were the parents and the fire. Nowadays the internet beats all, and try as we might, by a certain age they have their phone and and even if they don't there's bigger reasons why they want to go back to their room.
First off, it's theirs. Maybe the first time they've had a bit of turf that belongs to them. Bliss.
Second, it takes a long time before they feel comfortable and confident about their foster carer's family to want to hang around us when we're doing our family stuff.
Third. And this is the one. For most of the poor mites, all their lives they've be exiled upstairs to get them out of the way. They were shunted upstairs so their needs could be ignored; needs such as engagement, support, intimacy, kindness; those things. Being in their own room meant they were out of harm's way. It was lonely but it was the safest place to avoid stuff.
So. It might seem like a nothing thing, but what I've learned to do, after they've gone upstairs is to leave it a bit then go up and see if they're okay. I expect if you're a foster parent too, you do it too, but it's worth stressing how much it's appreciated.
It comes naturally really, so much so that we scarcely notice we're doing it.
I noticed the importance of this little thing when a foster child had a couple of days off school with a nasty sore throat. I put him back to bed, boofed his pillows, opened his window a tad and made to leave.
"Will you keep coming up to see if I'm alright?" he whispered.
They hear your feet on the stairs through the door. Foster children usually have heightened senses, they can hear anything. I often wonder what feet on the stairs meant at their own home.
I knock, obviously.
I ask if they're okay, if they need anything, a bag of crisps or a cup of apple juice.
The answer's usually 'Yes". I bring them up a snacky titbit.
Then maybe they tell me a medical thing. A pain somewhere. Not just a sore throat, a sore knee. A slight headache. A small cut where they fell over.
Buckets of sympathy.
The art here is to ask next time you go up; "How's the knee/head/cut?"
We have to turn on the care, plus the professional awareness in case there is a health issue, but usually it's a case of a parallel need; the need for someone who cares enough to ask and show concern.
A bit later you go up again.
"I hate someone at school"
"When's my next contact?"
"When am I going home?"
You can't fix these thing, but you can listen and sympathise.
It means the world to looked after children, and it can lead to them wanting to come down and watch X Factor or Match of the Day or just stewing around in your company. This is quite a thing if it happens.