We've had a spare bedroom since one of our placements went home. It's ready for a new occupant, bed made up, changed sheets - obviously. I've hung the wall mirror back up; previous child said it was spooky.
Every time the phone rings I run to it, it could be the Blue Sky placement team with;
'Would you consider taking a child who...?'
In all my years I can't remember anything in life giving me quite the same buzz. That's what it is; a tingling. My heart literally quickens. I go up the stairs two at a time, brush my teeth in the middle of the day, knock over my cup of tea.
There's a tiny bit of trepidation in there too; you hope you can cope but what if you can't? Somewhere out there is the most impossible placement in the history of fostering, suppose you get given Everest to climb? Oh well, I tell myself, you start climbing.
Actually we're guessing that maybe the child's social workers are hoping the bed stays vacant for a bit longer; the plan to return the child was well worked out and a conversation was had along the lines of;
"We can't ask you to keep his bed available in case it falls through, but if it breaks down again obviously we'll call you straight away to see what your situation is"
But the bed is there for the first child who needs it.
For us at the moment part of the business of matching is complicated because it's a matter of trying to match our family with an unseen child plus two other foster children. Complicated.
'Matching' is the art of finding a suitable child for a suitable family.
Much is written and said about the impact of fostering on one's own children, but what about the impact of a new foster child on other foster children?
Instinctively one would guess it wouldn't make much difference to them because it's someone else arriving who is in the same boat as them, but of course the fact is it can throw them.
Why? Lots of reasons, all depends on the individual child. And that's the key phrase; individual.
Foster children have nothing in common. Their stories are all so profound and unique. Someone told me once that two dogs are easier than one because they look after each other, but the trouble is the two dogs have a more distant relationship with their owner.
You can't assume that a new foster child will gel with other foster children on the basis of a mutual predicament, at least not at first.
I'd liken it to the vegetarian syndrome. I've noticed that whenever two people discover that they are both vegetarians they have a fleeting celebration of their shared preference, then begin a competition to prove that they are more vegetarian than the other.
A similar thing happens in group counselling if it's not moderated carefully; people compete as to who has the most jaw-dropping set of problems.
I've found that one's long-term foster children have an insecurity that they might be out-fostered. You can imagine their fear; that someone will arrive whose circumstances are worst of all and that child will get prioirty. They even wonder if the fact that you're looking to take a new child means you're not happy with the children you've got.
I've kept the family up to speed that a new child might arrive any day, and that when it happens I might be a bit distracted until the child settles in. I've tried to give everyone a bit of ownership of the situation; asking their advice about what it's like when you arrive at our house as a foster child (that was a VERY revealing kitchen conversation), and asking if any of our rules or practices could be improved (again; VERY revealing).
For example, I learned from them that if they want to ask for anything and they genuinely think it's a fair thing to ask for they ask dad, but if they think it's a big ask, they ask mum. This is because dad likes to say yes, but mum doesn't mind saying no. So their thinking is they don't want to get dad into the no habit by asking things that he'll have to say no to.
I also learned that keeping the kitchen clock ten minutes fast so people are fooled into leaving for school at ten past eight even though it appears to be twenty past is considered a feeble trick, but they don't want it set to the right time because they enjoy the charade that they've caused us to be late in revenge for making them get out of their warm beds.
They ageed that my thing of buying and wrapping a small but appropriate gift for the new arrival (the child's background information usually includes interests and likes) is excellent and must be continued.
I got their drift; starting from now they will all get a tiny pressie when the new arrival arrives.
Come on phone!
Ring, damn you!