It's easy to get the wrong view about foster children. It's easy to assume that they are different from children who aren't in care.
Yes, they can try your patience at times, no question.
But they're not a separate breed. They are normal kids, dealing with life as best they can.
If you ever think they are somehow unusual, then do what I did the other day and help out at a local school and see what today's 'normal' kids are like.
When I say 'normal' I mean kids who live at home with their own parent(s).
I have often talked about children I have fostered, being careful to protect their privacy, let me have a word about just one of the half a dozen children I was asked to look after on a recent school trip.
One to six is roughly the ratio of adult-to-schoolchild they have to have nowadays when they go out and about, so the trip is dependent on enough parents being available to wear a fluorescent bib and chant "Stop that. Come here. Be quiet. Leave him alone. Get off that".
This lad was aged ten, undersized and over-energised. He wore a smart sky blue v neck pullover over a clean white shirt, pressed grey trousers and scuff-free shoes. His hair was blond and trimmed in an old-fashioned style with almost a parting. In fostering you notice all these things, they are clues.
His parents were probably house-proud types, paid attention to outward appearances. I'm thinking a smart semi-detached with a gleaming two-year old Toyota on the driveway. Lots of dust-free porcelain ornaments on the window sill, and nothing out of place.
The boy had a spare frame and clear complexion, was fed properly and not indulged with biscuits crisps and coke. Three square meals a day, clean plate please, and no extra helpings.
But boy, was he starved of loving attention.
Everything he said and did was driven by his urgent need to be noticed, and, as is often the case with youngsters, they learn the only surefire way to get an adult's attention is to misbehave.
So, knowing that he is required to walk along the pavement side by side with a partner he breaks rank continually to tweak other boys two or three ahead of him which meant overtaking, which is a problem because of traffic.
He knows this means an adult has to walk next to him for safety which is what he wants. Proximity. An adult who is devoted to him. Let your attention wander from him onto other children and he is off.
When we arrive at the museum he immediately climbs onto a sofa in reception and puts his feet up on the cushion. This probably apes something he does at home either to be noticed or as an act of rebellion when he's alone. I have no option but to fuel his attention-seeking because the museum staff are agitated about feet-on-furniture. In the 45 minutes we are in the building he returns to the sofa to put his feet up at least a dozen times.
His eyes, wide and unblinking, followed me everywhere, only darting away to identify the next piece of behaviour which would pull me into his orbit to say "Don't do that".
I tried being fierce to get a quick result. No chance.
I tried my fallback practice of rewarding the children who were focussed on what the museum had to offer (not a lot, by the way), but one of the museum staff would draw my attention to the fact that I shouldn't allow children to run/shout/wrestle/touch the exhibits/climb on the exhibits.
The boy's friends had learned that they could get me to notice them by putting their feet on the furniture, running, wrestling and the rest. This meant he had to escalate his 'misbehaviour' to higher levels to be the winner (the winner of my attention). This meant doing something dangerous, so he climbed over the bannisters and began going up the wrong side.
So he won. I left the children who wanted to learn and the half a dozen who wanted the corrupt love of scolding to give my devotion to this boy, who needed coaxing down from a perilous position. And all the while I was policing him, he felt that he existed.
He existed. He meant more to an adult than porcelain ornaments, or museum pieces.
Poor lonely boy from a 'normal' home.
I often think that private boarding schools are a necessity because any parent who wants to send their child away to be parented by a paid stranger isn't fit to be a parent, so the children are probably better off than in their own home.
It's a pity that some parents keep their child at home but think that as long as their child is well turned out he'll turn out well.