Wednesday, November 25, 2020

HERE COMES THAT HOLIDAY

Look, the Christmas holiday is complicated enough in fostering without pandemic fears, lockdown confusion, tiers, masks, distancing etc etc etc etc etc .

Imagine; 

You're a ten year-old who's been separated from their real family and installed in a strange new home with people you've never met before in a house with strange rooms, unfamiliar smells and furniture, a toilet and shower you had to learn to use. Everything is new and unusual.

You're in fear. What did you do wrong to have this happen? They keep saying it's not your fault but all your life everything's been your fault.

All you want is to go home, at least you knew where you stood with the conflicts and chaos. 

You desperately need to know that your parents and the rest of your family aren't ill.

And now here comes Christmas, a time when you got given stuff, sometimes not much, sometimes too much (you don't understand the politics of over-compensation). What will happen this year?

Imagine that.

Or, imagine this;

You're a thirty-something adult whose life in in disarry. You can't make ends meet so you have to scheme and struggle to raise the cash to buy your essentials. Plus the dodgepot who supplies your essentials has just been busted.

Your partner is being a total pain and the police didn't understand your side of it they just wanted to nail you both for something you never did.

Then your kids got taken away and everyone thinks you are a bad parent not that you get to see anyone any more when you're meant to spend all day in your tiny terraced house which the council only gave you because you had kids so they'll probably boot you out any minute.

Imagine that.

Now imagine this;

You're a forty-something foster mum who has to organise some kind of Christmas for your own family while observing the rules about mixing AND organise some sort of acceptable Christmas between the foster child and the child's family. Something that will be (somehow) good for the child, maybe even good for the child's family.

Good luck.

Oh yes, and now imagine this;

You're  a Blue Sky Social Worker whose job (one of many, many others) is to oversee the whole kish and kiboodle not just for the above scenario, but for a bunch of others on your books. All of whom have the same headache only slightly different in every case.

On top of that...the 7 days between Christmas Day and New Years day is the busiest time in fostering with more children having to be taken into care than at any other time. Only this year is likely to be the worst ever because countless families have already got fed up with each other long before the previously welcomed spate of endless days stuck with each other's company comes along.

This isn't a 'Bah Humbug!' BTW.

I still can't wait for Christmas, even though I'm not a Christian. I love the holiday so much it makes me wish I was Jewish and Muslim and Hindu and Sikh so I could get excited about Hanukkah, Ramadan and Diwali. 

Maybe that'll be my New Year Resolution.

Oh wait. I traditionally resolve to lose ten pounds in weight and to stick to a diet.

A resolution which I traditionally trash every January 3rd.



Sunday, November 22, 2020

THANK YOU.

 I've never said this out loud, but I've thought it from time to time;

Thank you for reading this blog.

I thank you because if you're reading this you're either a Foster Carer or someone thinking about it, or a Social Worker or someone else with either a professional or personal interest in a walk of life which is, as you already know, a walk on the wild side.

So I'm saying a personal thank you for your humanity.

We need kindness and caring always, perhaps now especially so.

Middle foster child was awake well into the night last night (a Saturday night, so late nights are cool). But it was seriously way into the night, and I find I don't nod off until the last child is zzzing.

I heard a pad across the bedroom floor. Ten minutes later a bit of music - not loud, but loud enough.

When this happens you lie there wondering whether to knock on the door and ask if everything is alright, but if you do it would show you could hear and they don't want that, don't want to be monitored, fair enough.

I must have nodded off. 

Later, the sound of stairs creaking; someone going down. Probably to the kitchen to grab a clandestine packet of crisps or suchlike. I decided I'd better check up so I put on a dressing gown over my fostering pyjamas (T shirt and jogging bottoms) and timed a trip across the landing as the child was coming up.

"Hey" I said casually as child hit the top of the stairs with me pretending I was heading for the loo.

"Er…hey..." came back.

"You okay?"

'Not really. I've got a dilemma…"

I guessed as much. I said;

"Dilemma. That's a good word."

"Yeah? So what. I've been reading like you lot all want me to do. Jees do you ever 'king pay attention?"

Did I mention, child has anger issues. We roll with the punches.

"What's the dilemma?"

Child told me. If you've got an ounce of humanity this will hurt in a good way. This little person, who has been through more than I am able to tell you, seriously, and is left with emotional scar tissue that will probably never go, but perhaps they'll learn to live with, said;

"I've only got £2.16p in my account."

We're starting this youngster on the road to financial independence, Blue Sky have been great advising on the ways and means. We found a bank that supported an account that we could access as could the child. Pocket money gets paid in. We see the transactions. 

I was surprised the account was so low.

"What have you been buying?" I asked. Of course, I could check up, but it was the logical question to ask.

Child: "Stuff…"

Me:"Oh. What sort of stuff?" I asked, expecting to hear something about gaming and virtual weapons or some rock band's latest merch.

There was a silence, then;

"Presents."

I was a bit surprised, but asked;

"Presents? For…?"

"For you 'king idiots obviously!"

I said nothing. What's to say?

"Shoot! Everything's so 'king expensive!!!"

I said;

"Whoa, listen; Christmas is expensive. You don't have to fork out for the likes of me and dad and all the other folks in this house, we'll help you buying your presents."

Long story short, child did not want help. Child wanted to buy presents using own dough. Told me he'd bought 'dad' (yeah child calls my partner 'dad' but struggles to see me as 'mum' - no problem).

Child has bought his 'dad' a….

….scarf.

Yeah. Bought the foster dad a scarf. On the internet. With own pocket money. You tell me what that means about the child's heart.

Totally true, in case anyone ever thinks I make anything up here, I don't have to, fostering is this good, it's this great.

But back to my point, thanks for coming here, and whoever you are thanks, and may I be the first to wish you a happy holiday.

X






Friday, November 13, 2020

NEW CHILD

Long story short we have a spare bedroom, so we've put ourselves forward to take short-term placements. By 'placement' - if you're new to fostering - I mean 'foster children being placed in your home'.

We've stipulated short term for a bunch of reasons. One; we might need the bedroom back for family reasons (I said long story short…) but we'd get enough notice of that. Two; our unusual family is clicking at the moment and it would be silly to rock the boat.

But, yeah, we've got a new face in the house. I can't say the name, but it's a quaint one..think; "Horace".

The first clue you get about a child is their name. It tells you stuff about the parents. Homes where there's chaos often have children with extravagant names. Don't ask me why.

Horace is ten, very well behaved. One of the boons about short-term is that the honeymoon doesn't get a chance to wear off, so your placements stay good as gold until time for goodbye.

Horace is, however 'picky'. None of his food must be allowed to touch other food on his plate. He insists that meals are served at exact times, and he likes to show up on the dot. He inspects his laundry for any marks that have defied the washing machine. I guess it's about getting some control. I can deal with it, but it makes food preparation challenging.

He won't touch anything green. Tomatoes and mushrooms are out. Of the cereals only rice crispies. The smell of cheese makes him gag. And so on…

I don't consider it a problem, he'll either grow out of it or accommodate it.

Or like some apparently sane and normal adults, make it cause for celebration!

See, sometimes I shop in Waitrose (it's the nearest supermarket to me, the staff are great but some of the customers drive me to the edge - the ones who take some pride in shopping in what they think is a 'posh' shop and want to make sure everyone knows they're there. They do this by barking swanky remarks about how picky they are as if they're gourmets. Some things I've overheard;

Husband: "Shall we have some new potatoes?"

Wife: (very loudly): "Only if they have fresh dill. One can't have new potatoes without fresh dill."

or:

To a staff member: "Why do you only sell quail's eggs in boxes of six? One should be able to buy two."

One woman bought a pound of whitebait at the fish counter and instructed the person serving to: "Clean each of them, and carefully please." Yep, she wanted her her hundred whitebait gutted…

This at the ham counter;

Wife (to husband): "There is no point getting ham off the bone because I'm serving them as closed sandwiches so nobody will know. If we buy ham off the bone I'll have to make open sandwiches and they need napkins. So no to your suggestion, packet ham will be fine."

I often wonder what sort of children they were. 

And frankly I worry more about them and their pickyness more than Horace.


Thursday, October 29, 2020

GENUINELY SCARY HALLOWEEN

Oh dear the tiny problems this pandemic throw up besides the unimaginable ones.

It'll be Halloween in a couple of days!

Every Halloween for the last few decades we've gone along with it, and gone along with whatever our foster children wanted from it. Very few wanted to go out door-knocking. Even fewer wanted to dress scary, for their own reasons. They preferred to stay in, pass judgement on the kids who trick or tretated at our front door, and hold high hopes that our stash of sweets would not be exhausted and that 'someone' would have to help see the sweets off…

But this year...what?!

Do we buy in our usual stash of goodies in case the neighbourhood children are doing it?

Tempted to, just in case they call. Why shouldn't children's life go on?

Will we put the candlelit pumpkin face in our window, which tells the kids we're up for Halloween?

Possibly, just in case.

We're wondering about putting a saucer with a few treats on a table two metres away from our front door, telling them to help themselves, then replenish it for the next wave.

If a 'wave' comes. The sensible me hopes nobody does it this year, the sentimental me worries that some child will go to great lengths with great excitement (the supermarkets are selling pumpkins and witches accessories…) and be disappointed.

"What about masks?" I asked absently in the presence of sharp-as-a-tack eldest foster child.

"Mum…" he said (yes he calls me 'mum', it's his call too, I'm so proud) "Duh. It's Halloween. It's the one night of the year when everyone wears masks…"

He made a decent enough point. I didn't argue that wearing a rubber werewolf mask is not necesssarily in line with face coverings, but that would have been an argument that would have run until Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas…

Oh let's not go there yet…

Happy Halloween, whatever that means!


Monday, October 26, 2020

SUMMERTIME

Fostering throws up plenty of questions such as; "Why did I let myself in for this…"

No, seriously, the questions don't come only from one's own mind. Foster children ask the strangest things, sometimes tinged with enormous wisdom and insight.

Middle one yesterday;

"We put the clocks back an hour? Why?"

Me; "It's to do with daylight saving."

Him: "How does it save daylight? That's stupid. There's the same amount of daylight as before."

Me: "Well not quite, the days are getting shorter."

Him: "So it's just to fool ourselves then yeah?"

Me: "Well it means that children will go to school in daylight and that's safer for them."

Him: "What? Everyone goes by car or bus to school and they've got lights, and the streets have got lights. Queen Victoria's dead dontcha know.."

Me: "Yes but…"

Him: "In any case you say they made you put the clocks back to make it safer for kids to go to school. Bt they did it at the start of most kids half-terms when they er…aren't going to school."

Me: "It's tradition to put the clocks back an hour on the last Sunday in October."

Him: "Tradition? I saw a YouTube where it used to be a tradition in ancient Britain to eat the first born male child but they stopped when they realised the sun would rise anyway even if it didn't get its sacrifice. It's called progress duh."

I'm writing this early on the next morning, the Monday. It's 5.00am, but in my mind it's really 6.00am, we went to bed 'early' or was it our usual  time? Or was it late? I dunno.

He's right, it's silly. So;

I'm plotting letting him have his way and put all the clocks back to where they were. It'll mean dark mornings but light evenings. We work from home at the moment, the children have no reason to get up at the crack of dawn for school. The only glitch will be time checks on the radio and the TV schedules will be an hour out. But the kids don't watch conventional TV anyhoo.

The MAIN THING is - if I do this thing - I've got myself a little thing going. Having a houseful of foster children, your own children, both parents and assorted creatures needs to have something going during holidays, lockdowns, holidays, stay home and isolate, lockdown, holidays...

It might not be much but I can make something of us being the only house in the UK still on SUMMERTIME.

So I will. 

ps;

Oh-oh. I've just remembered the danger of encountering the fussy operator on the switchboard who answers the phone at 12.01pm and goes;

"Good Morni…Oh I'm so sorry, it's after noon…Good Afternoon!"

I'll miss that bridge when I come to it.



Saturday, October 17, 2020

BAKE OFF YOURSELF

 One of the great fallbacks in fostering is cooking. 

On a rainy day, when there's nothing on the TV, when no-one's got any friends, when Contact gets cancelled. It used to get howls of derision;

"Lame!"

But down the years I've learned to jazz it up, like last weekend.

The Saturday had dragged and Sunday started too early, the first "I'm bored!" broke ground before my other half had finished watching the morning re-run of last night's Match of the Day. Actually, I think it might have been other half who let out the all-too-familiar whinge.

Me; "Watch yourself everybody. I smell a bake-off coming on!"

Works like this; kids v parents. I put out flour, eggs, sugar and a bunch of other ingredients - loads of jars and packets and sachets. The whole thing looks exciting and challenging, they usually get sucked in partly because they know they're going to win, they win every time. It's as honest as the Nevada boxing commission.

Each of the two teams goes away and discusses what they're going to make. They're allowed multiple entries, up to one person (therefore two for the parents, five for the children). It works best when everyone teams up. My other half plays the fool beautifully, usually manages to drop an egg on the floor (dog gets it), and get himself told off for using doughy hands to turn on the tap.

I get one of the kids to be Mary Berry and eldest LOVES being Paul Hollywood and/or the wonderful Sandi Togsvig.

For me one of the dark arts is making it last as long as possible simply because a) it's a great activity and b) as soon as it's over, their appetite for entertainment sharpened they're baying "I'm bored!" again.

What am I a Butlins Redcoat?

A friend of mine - another foster carer - gets herself dialed up on Whats All to look at the finished efforts and pronounce the kids the winners.

I do exactly the same for her when she wheels it out.

I wonder if it would work with Landscape Artist of the Year?


Friday, October 09, 2020

IT'S OKAY TO BE SAD

How are you doing with the way the world is right now?

The thing with blogging is that someone will probably read this post some years from now when (hopefully) there'll be a vaccine for Covid 19 and life will be back to normal. But more likely you're reading this with the pandemic in full flow, the second wave kicking in. We have no idea what the Christmas holidays will be like, and few people will be surprised if there's talk of a third wave in the New Year.

Everywhere you go everyone is putting on what they think is their brave face but inside it seems to me that we're all incredibly sad.

Are you? Maybe not all the time, and there are plenty of times when we are so busy with responsibilities we don't realise we are sad.

How could we not be sad when we're trudging around in face masks, banned from get-togethers, working alone at home and frightened that we're going to get a disease that can kill us inside a month?

Loneliness was a problem before the virus, now it's a hundred times worse.

I'm positive that after the Covid pandemic will come a pandemic of a different kind; a wave of PTSD for which there'll be no preparedness and no easy cure.  Not only post traumatic shock disorder but all sorts of mental ills such as;

Friends and family of those struck down may suffer survivor guilt along with the guilt that they may have inadvertently passed the virus on to the victim. This is especially likely among the people who seem to have an irrational fear of masks.

All the inevitable job losses and financial hardships will heap massive stress on families - we managed a trip to the pub before the latest round of restraints kicked in and couldn't help overhearing the man at the next table (2 metres away) saying to his friend;

"They're going to wait until last thing on Friday afternoon to tell us all, so that we'll have the weekend to calm down."

The nation's news-aholics - people who turn on the news every chance they get - will surely end up addled beyond belief as they dine on endless images of bad news Covid briefings, test and trace failings, empty high streets and reporters in masks. 

Our GP told me that patients are contacting her and asking "What's the point?" My elderly neighbour said to us "I don't want to die like this."

It seems to me - and I'm no psychiatrist although I have an appetite for people and their problems - that the only thing to do when a sadness overwhelms us is to be sad, and say to ourselves;

"Of course I'm sad today, how could I not be sad?"

This is the advice I give my family, including the foster kids, all of whom get plenty sad.

Actually, to be honest, it was one of my children who woke me up to this way of staying mentally fit. He'd had some ups and downs so Blue Sky began making arangements for him to talk to a councillor (via Zoom). But it didn't happen. The boy came to me and said;

"I'm sad. It's alright to be sad. If I wasn't sad there'd be something wrong with my head. There isn't. I'm just sad, and I know it. And so long as I know it it's okay."