Ordinary children go through their phases in fairly orderly fashion.
With each phase the relationship between the child and their parents moves to a more sophisticated level. During the first stages we supply the basic needs to survive, but as they move up our responsibilities graduate towards emotional needs and spiritual support, not that they stop expecting a full fridge and a lift home at midnight; "Only please don't come in mum, wait at the end of the road."
The phases with a new foster child are the same only at Warp Speed.
Romeo has ben with us 6 months now. When he arrived it was about meeting his basic needs; food, liquid, a good night's sleep, a good balance between his different physical requirements.
I always wish I could get closer to the distressed child more quickly, but it takes time; you have to get to know them to meet their individual emotional needs, and they need to build up trust in their foster family. You can't rush it.
Before they can achieve a loving friendship with us, they need to be properly fed and watered, then given a sense of security and territory and possessions.
Then they move on to being kind to others out of a sense of confidence and pride in who they are.
In ordinary children those processes take ten years.
In foster children it takes about six months, give or take.
In many ways when Romeo arrived he was like a newborn baby, so dependent on us for everything.
Now that six months have passed he has reached perhaps an even higher level than the average child his age. He turns out to be an 'enhanced' child. Certain parts of his brain developed quicker when he was small to help him cope with challenges that other children are spared.
He still struggles with basics at school, but he's catching up.
But when it comes to raw emotional intelligence he's 8 going on 28.
He's asked for a dog of his own.
This won't be likely, but it's a profound request. It's underpinned by a desire to move up the pecking order in the house, a belief that he can care for a complicated organism. These facets he's totally self-aware of, he breaks his own emotions down into their components;
"It'd give me someone to boss around. Everyone else has someone below them."
"I'm ready to look after a dog, I'll do it all, don't worry, what you don't think I can?"
Most interesting is his take on his big reason to have a dog of his own;
"It'll mean I have to stay here because my mum doesn't allow pets."
Naturally as a foster parent I'm working on re-uniting him with his natural home. But that's beginning to look like a long shot, and he knows it.
I think his worry is he might get moved to another foster home, and the dog is his insurance.
Imagine. In six months he's gone from being helpless to being able to conceive a scheme which flatters his foster family - which he wishes to do out of mutual respect. Not only that he has a grasp of the subtleties of himself and the rest of humanity that are beyond the man who might be the next President of the United States.