We foster parents get loss of support and quality advice. I've benefitted enormously from it. There's one thing that eludes me. We are told a lot about the importance of 'attachment' for children in care. I've struggled to pin down exactly what attachment is.
On the subject of quality advice, parents generally are given lots of rubbish advice right left and centre by all and sundry from well-meaning relatives to complete strangers in the street.
People with no actual qualifications in child development are all over you with tips the minute you go out the front door with the pushchair. It's a signal for people to come up, coo, and pass on some "wisdom".
The daftest tip I ever got was from a man on the pavement who, when I said that my 3 month-old didn't ever want to go to sleep at nightime;
"Drop of Drambuie in the last bottle. Works a treat."
Still don't know whether to laugh or cry, that the bloke was so specific about the brand of liquor. Obviously it's an appalling idea.
Worst example of ignorance: 6am on a Sunday morning, I took the same babe out for a pushchair walk to give my other half a peaceful lie-in. A retired army colonel bent over the pushchair and did some mild cooing.
"Out for a nice bracer eh?" he said.
"Actually he's been keeping us up all night so I'm taking him for a nice jiggly push chair ride, bounce him up and down the kerbs."
I thought everyone knew that some babies find a rickety-rockety ride soothing.
"Madam you are a disgrace!" he barked. "If there were a policeman nearby I would report you!" and with that he strode off.
The old fool thought I was trying to even the score with my baby!
I actually had a T shirt printed out with "NO MORE ADVICE" on it.
When you foster you get the opposite; damn good advice.
Take this one, from a child psychologist:
"We've never had a disturbed child tell us that his problem was that he was loved too much"
I've been thinking about that gem a lot recently, because I've upped my game in that regard.
When I started fostering I wasn't sure what part 'love' played in the whole thing. The reason is simple, it's because love remains the most mysterious thing on earth. Everyone knows it exists but no-one can get a handle on what it is.
I say 'everyone', I suppose there are people who never felt parental love. Many of those poor souls end up being fostered. Many people never have children and never feel the gigantic love that a parent should feel for their young.
I guess plenty of people also miss out on the gut-wrenching love that's out there when you fall hook line and sinker in love with somebody.
Poor souls. But even they can't dispute that love is real and a massive force for good, except in rare and extreme circumstances.
The reason it's high in my mind at the moment is that a foster child said a few weeks ago;
"I didn't know that foster parents could love you."
And you know what? Nor did I.
What I mean is; I didn't know whether you were supposed to love, or not supposed to love, or whether you were on your own to make it up as you go along.
We are, however, advised that we should offer 'attachment' from the moment a foster chid arrives in our home, even if they are only going to be staying a few days.
I now know what 'attachment' means. It means the type of love a foster parent brings to their placements. You are not going to end up loving a foster child as much as your own children - they'd be rightly affronted if you did. But there's something called 'unconditional love', and I think we need to go to about 50% of the unconditional love we give our own children.
A genuine smile first thing in the morning and when picking them up from school. The benefit of the doubt if they come home with a bar of chocolate even though they didn't have any money. A blanket on the sofa when they've got a cold, plus their choice of TV. Genuine interest in their day. Praise. Kindness. Protectiveness.
We can love them while keeping to all the important safety guidelines about physical contact and intimacy, they are set in stone.
It's an easier concept than 'attachment', which doesn't really sing does it?
Can you imagine John and Yoko wailing "Attachment's All You Need"?