If there's one little thing that stands our about children in care it's their need for sympathy.
Every two minutes sometimes.
You hear them in the hall, going to put their shoes on. There's a bump and you hear "Ow!'. Then, if you're not quick enough with the 'Are you okay' you get it again, louder:
'Ow! Ow! Ow!'
It's one of the easiest, most satisfying, most productive things in fostering. Giving sympathy for the slight (or sometimes totally imaginary) 'injury'.
Even if you're up to your elbows in potato peelings, you dry your hands and rush over with a look of massive concern and say;
'Are you alright? What happened?'
You get a detailed description of how an ankle turned over, a knee got skinned, an elbow got knocked, a shoulder is going to have a bruise in the morning.
Every single time you do the whole doctor act. It's rewarding for both parties;
'Let's have a look. Oh dear that must really hurt. Let's get the First Aid kit. Now let me see...Arnica is good for a bruise. Maybe some Savlon if you've broken the skin...'
The best, the very best thing, always, I find is a plaster. Carefully place a plaster on the 'wound', it covers up the fact there's nothing much there and means people will go 'What happened to you?' and they can re-tell the story. A plaster is like a medal.
They all deserve a medal these children.
Three or four times a year old Queenie doles out her honours to the OBE-ers who wish they were MBE-ers who dream of being knighted. A handful of celebs for services to charity, post office mistresses, retiring civil servants.
The huge list is very diverse, as Lenny Henry and Ainsley Harriot will tell you.
But no children.
Help for Heroes quite rightly raises money and awareness for those who are damaged defending us. Their recognition is assured, at least among their countrymen and women.
I suppose there are enough children's charities doing a good job.
But when it comes to the idea that a great many children deserve to have their heroism applauded out loud, celebrated in a big way, with an MBE or TV programmes dedicated to 'How this child is coping with terrible emotional injuries', forget it.
I've pondered a lot about why fostered children are ignored. Their suffering, their wounds are as debilitating as anybody else's.
Is it because the cause of their suffering is right on everybody's doorstep rather than five thousand miles away, or else caused by a random disease we don't know enough about. We know what causes suffering in children who have to be taken into care; it's parents who shouldn't have had children in the first place.
Is it because the world in general prefers to say 'Well they're alright now, they're in care, they'll sort themselves out'.
I sometimes wonder if many adults are secretly jealous of children who they think "don't know they're born, have it easy compared to my generation, are wrapped in cotton wool". Are there adults who think; 'I'm not wasting any sympathy on children, they're going to live longer than me so what are they moaning about?'
Children don't have a loud enough voice for their suffering, and when they grow up will probably do denial themselves about their early years.
In the meantime the begging for simple kindnesses and sympathy, sympathy, sympathy go on and on and on.
'Are you alright?'
The 'Ow!' does not mean a bump on the knee. The 'Ow!' means 'My mum is unloving, cruel and selfish, my dad is dodgy sometimes dangerous, my brothers and sisters are chaotic, bullying and angry. I'm terrified, I'm angry myself but try not to let it out, I don't know what is happening to me, I'm so sad and confused'.
The 'Are you alright?' from us means 'I'm coming, I'll listen while you explain your 'pain'. I'll tell you how much you must hurt, I'll meet every need you have to be fussed over, to be cared for. To be loved'.
I'll put a plaster on your knee to show how much I care, and how brave you are.
Because brave they are, very brave.
We foster parents sympathise.