This month is the Fostering Network's annual campaign to honour the children of foster carers and the part they play in fostering.
We carers know that our children are probably fostering's greatest unsung heroes and we should all take a moment to reflect on how much they contribute to everything we do.
That's not to say the presence of one's own children is make or break, plenty of childless carers do a fantastic job.
If you are or were once a child whose parents fostered, this is for you:
YOU PAVED THE WAY FOR THE FOSTER CHILDREN
All the countless little things that your parents had to think about consciously with their first-born child were easier with their second, and therefore easier with a foster child. You helped them discover their parenting.
The presence of you in the house means your house is ready-made for children. Not only that, thanks to you being around the foster child isn't in the line of sight every waking minute; children like to drop off the radar in the house from time to time. You got the home into shape for children, and keep it there.
YOUR BIGGEST CONTRIBUTIONS
The above are comparatively minor reasons why we honour you.
Your biggest contributions are all the tolerances and sacrifices you make. As parents we try to be vigilant, supportive and rewarding in case fostering gets to you, because we know you are often reluctant to come on out and say "Hey mum, I've got a bit of a problem".
The family home we all made together should be a sanctuary for you. It's home to your most precious posessions, hopefully, your family members. The people you grew up with, linked by blood and genes and a whole lifetime of memories.
You should feel 100% safe. That front door closes out the sometimes big bad world. Inside our four walls the family's rhythm is as comforting as a mother's heartbeat in the womb. The harmony of everybody's routine coming-and-going is re-assuring because everyone knows everyone intimately. There are seldom any big surprises. Each family member knows their own place and space and everybody else's. Bliss.
ENTER A FOSTER CHILD
Enter a new child. Somebody else's child. Not a newborn baby, most likely, but a child. A child who is far from fully formed, but with plenty of character and personality already, and maybe their own views about certain things. Maybe some mistaken views, some misguided ones.
The dynamic changes. You have to make adjustments, give up a little space and time so there's the right role for the newcomer, someone who your parents will have to work that little bit harder with, give that bit more attention to at first, and maybe concentrate on a lot on a permanent basis.
YOU DO YOUR SHARE OF CARING
We carers know how to put the hoover nozzle together, but it's you who knows the router's quirks. You know to walk back one stop and get on the bus before everyone else so you can get upstairs at the back and keep away from the annoying kid. You know the X Men franchise has lost its mojo and protect the foster child from being taken to see the latest one at half-term.
More than that you sit side-by-side with them in the back of the car having a matter-of-fact discussion about what neglect and abuse is like, in ways which carers and social workers can't quite match, sometimes.
YOU SHOW THE WAY
You drag your feet at bedtime, but don't kick up a stink. You don't want to get going on a school morning, but you make it on time (just). You don't want green veg on your plate but have valuable knowledge that long-stem brocolli is preferable the floret type. You know all the bad words, but use them appropriately.
All these examples of your excellent role modelling beat the living daylights out of the carer trying to coach these things into a foster child.
You help our fostering by helping the foster children by setting good examples. Then again, you aren't perfect and nor are we. And when the family slips we try to help each other in the constructive positive ways that the foster child might be new to. It all adds up.
YOU ARE EQUAL PARTNERS
Any foster carer will tell you that when you have a foster child in the home, everything else shrinks a little in importance. The way in which you, our wonderful children deal with this is by stepping up to the plate with your own perceptions and suggestions for the fostering. By giving you shared ownership over some decisions and practices we hope you grow and strengthen.
THE DARK THINGS YOU DEAL WITH
Do you feel jealous of your mum and dad giving so much to a complete stranger? I think the answer is Yes, much of the time, in a small way. Ocassionally Yes in a big way. Every fostering family has their own way of dealing with this. I tell my chidren that no matter what it looks like, I could not love a foster child - somebody else's child - as much as I love them. The job of fostering is to get the child back to their own home, and while they're with us I'll give them every love except the love that exists between a real parent and child. An inexpressably powerful yet intangible force for good. I'm not Meryl Streep, I can't fake something so huge, so real.
I honestly don't know if I'd develop that love for a long-term placement or an adopted child, I'm pretty sure the relationship would deepen, and I accept it's possible, but it's not for regular fostering and I try to make sure my children know.
Foster children don't want our love anyway, they want the love of their real parents.
You may have to deal with fears for your parents. Fears they are in over their heads sometimes. Fears that fostering is draining them. You feel these fears because fostering is demanding and you want everything to be right for your parents. So, you decide, if fostering is what they want to do, you'll swing behind them and do your bit.
THE SQUEAKY WHEEL GETS THE OIL
And because you keep quiet half the time, about the challenges you face being childen in a family which fosters, you don't always get the recognition you deserve. I know how hard it must be for you because I've met hundreds of foster carers and you know what? I don't think I've met one who was a child in a family that fostered.
Maybe that tells us something about how much you have to deal with.
Maybe you're going to break the mould and be the first of a long family line who all go into fostering, what a dynasty!
Maybe you'll use the skills and depths that you're acquiring in other ways. Whatever you do good luck.
And thank you for everything you've done for your fellow man before you were old enough to vote.
Maybe even before you were old enough to go to the shops on your own.