Most children have lots of ups and downs with friendships, adults less so.
Children change schools and classes, maybe move to new neighbourhoods, lots of transitions.
One of the things that happens to us when adulthood finally arrives is that we know who we like and who likes us. We know why, instinctively. As grown-ups we don't waste so much time experimenting with different sorts. We experience less rejection, less need to sidestep others; we know who loves us in the friends way, and who we love back.
But for children it's really hard work. If they are lucky they attend the same primary school throughout and get comfortable among a set of about 30 contemporaries. They might be lucky and belong to a family who has permanent family friends and they strike friendships with mum or dad's friend's children. Then there's relatives; cousins and the like, and neighbouring children.
Ordinary kids get a lot of exposure to other children and lots of chances to make friends. And enemies, come to think of it, which is all part of it. They get to learn what works and what doesn't, which sort of person they click with and which sort to give a wide berth to.
Children who come into care have often had so much on their minds they've had to neglect learning how to be friends. It's always struck me how far short of the norm foster children fall with the friendship skills, but it's not surprising.
The chaos which is common in their home can give a hard edge to their personalities which ordinary children often find difficult to work with.
Looked-after children have often lived in homes where the relationships were abrasive rather than connective, hardly surprising they don't click with anybody outside their family.
Their family was unlikely to be extended: grandparents, uncles and aunts, visited rarely if ever, depriving the children of learning experiences.
They get filled with anger and a need to control, so if they do fall into a group of same-age youngsters at the skatepark or the playing field they go for confrontation and control and that doesn't win friends.
So what's the foster parent to do?
I don't think we can do much, sad to say.
Social skills are almost musical. Most of us know how to create some kind of melody with the people we are attached to, it's definitely not a science, there's no formula for how to make friends. You cannot teach it.
And the longer they go being outsiders and loners, the harder it gets. They get noticed by other pupils in the playground mooching around on their own, and get singled out for comments and derision, which they don't need or deserve.
We do what we can, don't we?
We invite their classmates to tea after school. Maybe we set up cinema visits or tenpin bowling.
I've found looked-after children having more success with internet friends than face-to-face people, which leads me to a nice quick story.
My looked-after-child B had never had a 'bestie'. Then, just before Christmas child B hit it off with a kid in Seattle. I don't know the American kid's full story but it seems likely that American kid has had to deal with some stuff too.
Looked-after child B has grown and grown in this relationship with American kid. I listen to their chat (we've got all the controls in place, our iPads are twinned with all the other PCs in the house, but best of all; looked-after WANTS us to know what's going on. Plus, we can SEE the American kid; kid is who kid claims to be and deffo not some smutty adult).
So. Here's the thing. After a long, long period of coaxing, encouraging, hoping and praying that looked-after- kid B will hook a friend, this happened:
We pulled away on the school run heading for home today at 3.20 and I got this;
"I don't know what to do. Karl has asked me to go to the skatepark, but Libby has asked me to play with her at the playground."
Wanted advice about which friend OF TWO to play with.
I can't find words to express how much this meant for the child, and for me and the rest of our family.
This fostering thing, it can be a best friend you'll ever have once you learn how to love it, because it loves you straight back.