We've had an interesting time last couple of weeks, like you do in fostering when you've got a spare bed.
The phone rings from time to time and it's the $64,000 dollar question;
"Would you be willing to take a child who...?"
Our policy is to say yes always, unless there's a really pressing reason not to, as happened once, which I may have touched on before; the child in question was on a charge of murder.
Now, if you're new to fostering, don't freak out. It was a once-in-a-millenium placement. I've never been asked such a big ask before or since, nor heard of any such extreme placement coming up again.
We turned it down on the basis we had another foster child who we felt would have been thrown off balance by the whole thing, mainly because we were told the press might get hold of our address and there could be reporters outside our house.
Thankfully the child was placed with a family which suited him better geographically; he needed to be the right distance from his family.
He wasn't a murderer, we were told all the circumstances; he'd got hotheaded in a confrontation with an older boy and overdid the survival instinct, God it could have been any teenager, frightening thought.
So; a child of ours went home and a bed is going begging. The child, as far as we know is going along okay. One of fostering's frustrations is that when a child leaves that's it. Job done. Human curiosity alone makes you want all the details of the rest of their lives, but a line is drawn underneath.
Saying that, a fostering friend goes all soppy when she recounts the knock on her door late one evening. Standing there was a young person who she took a moment to recognise;
"It's me, Chloe." Came the voice "I just wanted to come and say thank you for everything you did for me".
So they had a cup of tea and a catch-up; it had been four years. Brilliant.
We've had a couple of calls with proposals which were difficult fits for us;
One was for a young person, Sherri, who was having problems fending for herself on the outside world having been chucked out by her family. She wasn't up to life in any kind of hostel or supported accommodation. The term 'learning difficulties' came up in her profile.
When a local authority acts to bring a child into their care they sometimes have scant information about the child, especially if the case has only recently come on their radar.
'Learning difficulties' is such a broad church isn't it? Blue Sky came up with a good bit of wisdom which I've put in my back pocket; when they say 'learning difficulties' it's different from that other broad church; 'mental health issues'.
We said yes.
In case you don't know, when a child comes into care the word goes out to every possible foster home; local authority and agency. It means that several potential homes are asked the question, then the social workers sit down and work out the best one for the child.
They found a home for Sherri where the foster parent had recently had a successful placement with a child who had mosaic Downs Syndrome (partial but not full-blown), so it was felt that experience was key.
The phone rang again last week; I was driving to school for the afternoon run and pulled over. It was an emergency. A child who had made accusations against his stepfather and needed somewhere immediately because he couldn't go home. I left a message for my other half to call me before saying yes. One of the big things in fostering is keeping yourself and your family safe. Before Bill got back to me the phone rang again to apologise that the placement had been withdrawn, the child had apparently made it all up to get back at the stepfather.
Up and down you go. People talk about 'the roller coaster', they don't know nothing unless they've fostered.
So, yesterday the phone rang late.
"Would you be willing to take a child who..."
We said yes. He's coming. I'm up early, pretending I'm being practical about getting things straight, actually I'm buzzing like hell. I told them to bring the child over straight away, they said they couldn't as there was no-one to take him (foster parents don't pick the children up, they have to be brought to you).
I asked where the child was staying the night.
In a police cell. Not because there had been any wrongdoing, but because there was nowhere else. It's not uncommon.
Can you imagine?
I've fished out one of our hot water bottles (foster children LOVE hot water bottles). He's getting the grown-up one. The Thomas the Tank one probably would be wrong after a night in a cell.
I'll keep you posted.