Romeo had been with us, what, eight weeks nearly.
I'm getting my head around his schooling, which in fostering there's a lot of onus on us as foster parents to help and support. This doesn't mean you have to know how to do multiple fractions or conjugate irregular verbs, it's more about encouraging book learning in them.
Not easy. I've yet to meet a foster chid who had maximised their potential academically, they always seem to need help. I've heard stories of bright children in care, and somehow they are all bright, in a sharp way, but it doesn't translate into their reading writing and arithmetic.
The first job is to get them there every morning. Romeo never wants to go. Which of us ever really did? You make a nice warm loving home for a damaged child then tell them they've got to go sit on a hard chair and work hard only to be reminded they're unsatisfactory. Then they're turfed out into the playground where they never seem to have much fun.
Still we're stuck with the system and we've a job to do. I lay his school clothes out on his chair the night before, give him a treat if he dresses himself, cleans his teeth and does his shoes (note to self, get him a new pair of shoes WITH VELCRO). He knows that his breakfast, a slice of toast is wrapped in tinfoil keeping warm on his booster seat in the car, a small inducement, every little helps.
He gets there every morning in the end, does it better with each passing week, but there's still a ways to go.
He's due a PEP. This is when the professionals get together with the foster parent and the child's school to work out what extra they need. There's extra money for a school to spend on a looked-after child, they can get private tutorials, guitar lessons, art materials. I always ask what can be done to help their self-esteem as it seems to me to be the biggest thing holding back their desire to do well in life; they don't think they're worth it. Schools aren't much good at self-esteem frankly. One school, I asked them if they could pin one of my foster boy's paintings up in the hall, they had a little gallery and his work wasn't bad. I saw it up and went to look. It had a sign under it saying:
"Inspired by a lesson held by Mr Smith". I kid you not at all.
Mr Smith is a volunteer "art teacher" who comes in and obviously has more self esteem needs than a child in care.
I've managed to persuade the school to hold off giving him homework. It was beating him up and doing harm. I wonder if it ever does any good? But we've started reading. He knows his bedtime, he knows he can get an extra half hour if he lets me read to him. Thank goodness there are writers like Anthony Horowitz, I actually enjoy the story as much as Romeo does.
If, one day, he reads for pleasure himself, it'll be good job done by me and Ant.
Meantime, everything else is okay. The little fella is joining in with family stuff. Last Sunday we all sat around and watched a film with the rain beating down outside. The film was about half an hour in, everyone had popcorn and there was a coal fire. Romeo suddenly got up and ran out. We let him go. Seen this before; he was happy and that made him feel guilty. He crept back later.
I'm going to try to chat with his mother at this week's contact.