Friday, February 22, 2019

WORLD IS OUR OYSTER

Just been to the most AMAZING training session.

It was so consuming I got carried away at lunchtime. I'll tell you about that later.

It was run by my local authority, and most of the twenty people attending were Social Workers and professional counsellors, three of us were foster carers.

My Blue Sky Social Worker was there too. It was their idea to take me along because there's a growing need for Foster Carers who can help a particular set of children, and although the Social Workers present were geared to take the information out to any Foster Carers they work with, it was great to have some of us there alongside the other front-liners.

The training was superbly delivered on a topic that is moving, complex and increasingly relevant for Foster Carers.

The training day was about Transitioning. 

People who are transitioning can be people of any age, but at the moment it seems to be young people especially who realise that the body they are born in does not conform to who they really are, so they wish to make public adjustments in how they present themselves to the world so that the world perceives and accepts them as who they know they really are.

Phew, I hope I got that last paragraph right. We got so much fantastic information I literally came home feeling head-heavy.

Nothing like the headaches affecting people who at birth are labelled "Male" or "Female" after nothing more than a quick glance at their anatomy. There's much more about gender than genitals. Transitioning is a recent thing for many people to take on board including most humble Foster Carers like myself, but I'm eager to learn and help.

Not that the thing is recent in itself. There's no evidence that a higher percentage of people feel uncomfortable in their assigned gender than in past times. It's more likely that we humans are growing up about wanting to respect every person's right for their understanding of who they are to be how everyone else greets them.

Imagine how brave a young foster child has to be to endure the break-up of their family while wrestling with the huge issue of their gender. 

This is where us Foster Carers come in.

I'm not going to try to pass on more than a sample of the information that was discussed at the session, because I came away with so much I'm still trying to find the right brain compartments for some of the material. It's a delicate thing.

I'll give you a pocket-sized example.

If, as a Foster Carer, we are asked to look after a young person who is transitioning, we must find out (preferably from them) if they wish to present as male or female. Or in another way.

That bit I find easy to understand but I will have to concentrate to get the practice right if and when I have to.

I heard in the media that there are currently more than seventy different and accepted variations in between male or female. As foster parents we aren't expected to be familiar with them. But we can be expected to try to help by being supportive. If, for example, we are asked to look after a young person who may have previously been deemed female but who now wishes to be accepted as male we refer to them as; "He" and His" where before it was "She" and "Her". And obviously vice versa.

But. If the person hasn't made a declaration, or is managing their journey at their own pace, we should try to say; "They" rather than "He" or "She".

I discovered immediately how hard this can be. At one point early in the day I was asked to come out in front by the lecturer who had a beard, a deep voice and wore a lumberjack shirt (I'll tell you why the shirt is a consideration in a moment).

I was asked to put a cross or a tick against a list of words that people who are transitioning would find acceptable or unacceptable. Words such as "Trannie" (I gave it a cross which was correct, it's unacceptable) and terms such as "Lesbian" and "Gay" (I gave a tick; correct they're acceptable). I was going along okay until I came to "Queer".

Hmmmmm.

"Queer" was an insult back when I was younger, but then again I'd heard that nowadays some people are proud to describe themselves that way.

I hesitated while the other students discussed and gave me advice, but I was in a quandary, so I glanced at the lecturer and said to the other students;

"I think I'll wait and see what our man here says."

See?

See how easy it is to get it wrong?

Okay, not 'wrong' in any intentional sense, but only ten minutes prior to me calling our (excellent) lecturer a 'Man' we'd been hearing that if there is any doubt it's best to say "Person" rather than "Man" or "Woman" or "Boy" or "Girl").

Our lecturer was a person. A person who, we were to learn as the session developed, had been assigned the gender 'female' at birth, but realised pretty early in life (age 3 or 4) that they weren't female.

The things that tripped me up were that the person delivering the lecture had a beard and a deep voice (testosterone injections they told us later) which enabled them to have desired characteristics that they wish to present consistently every day. Plus they had presumably chosen to present themself at the session as a person who chose to wear a shirt that many would associate with being male. Maybe they did that every day, I don't  know, but it all added up to my mistake. Not a huge mistake; the lecturer laughed as loud as I laughed. In the same spirit. 

It's a lesson I appreciated learning in such a vivid and indelible way.

Looking around the room I saw that there were 16 women, all dressed in conventional female clothing and 4 men who dressed as conventional males.

Now then, here's another interesting bit; how did I know the people in the class who were dressed in female clothing WERE female? Because at the very start of the session, instead of the standard opener where everyone has to introduce themselves and say what we're hoping to gain from the day, we had to say whether we wished to be perceived (for the purposes of the session) as male or female or other.

Wow. I've never been asked to express which gender I wished to be perceived as, have you? 

Yes, I've had to tick the box "M" or "F" on faceless forms and surveys plenty of times, but that's a world away from being asked to say out loud how you wished your gender to be perceived by actual people.

Was I tempted to say "Male" or "Other", just for the experience? No. The business of the day was far too important to play around.

Lunchtime wasn't business though, lunchtime was a hoot.

Sometimes I may give the impression that fostering is all pizza and perseverance, no time for partying.

Well when lunch was called, me and my Social Worker spilled out onto the street looking for a sandwich bar, but it was raining. We sheltered in a doorway wondering what to do. Then we noticed that the door belonged to an Oyster bar. I looked at SW, SW looked at me, and I blurted out my current maxim; "You're only middle-aged once!"

Half-dozen Suffolk rock oysters and a glass of cranberry juice each later, we were back for more amazing, fascinating and valuable stuff - which I dearly hope one day to put to good use.

Then home in time for pizza, perseverance..and a bat's squeak of pride and pleasure.

Yep. If you concentrate, life is good, in fact it's great, especially in fostering.















Monday, February 18, 2019

PROGRESS

Some days in fostering you really feel your age. But you're never too old to learn.

Progress is the watchword in fostering, at least it is in my book.

I know there are children coming into care who need only feeding and clothing. Some of the older children are often well rounded individuals with fine social skills, good manners and bright futures. All they need is their meals, a warm home and clean pants and socks, and let's face it those basics things are crucial for survival so they matter most of all.  Getting them right isn't always easy either, especially the feeding. Children brought up on fast food, or no food, or having to feed themselves aren't going to take to three square meals a day straight off.

Then was once a foster child whose story I was told. She had been locked in the kitchen all day as a toddler and had learned to eat the pet food put down for the dogs and cats. Someone did a good job fostering that child  because the reason I heard her story is a story in itself; 

A young child came to stay with me who needed a new school so I found a Primary and signed her up. On day one I went to talk to the child's class teacher and tell her what I could about the child. The teacher looked at me with kindly eyes and told me that she hoped to make an insightful teacher for my foster child...because she herself had been fostered. 

The teacher went on to confide in me how she had been locked in the kitchen all day and had lived on dog food...

You don't hear enough about the successful foster children. She was a brilliant teacher but she must have been difficult to feed to start with.

So yes, the basics are extremely important for children coming into care, but myself  I've never had a child who cried out for the fundamentals alone.

If I step back from my fostering I can see that I treat every foster child as a work in progress. It's my hope that when they leave they are that bit better prepared for the things that life will throw their way.

It's not a one-woman-show either. I'd be lost without my regular updates with my Blue Sky Social Worker, not to mention the regular reports I'm asked to write up on each child's state; things like how they are at school, how they are at home, how well they get on with friends and their foster family. Your Social Worker reads each report and arrives at your home armed with praise (if it's due), encouragement, advice, insights and ideas.

They too are looking for progress in the child. The better a child becomes at making and keeping good friends the better. The day the child reads a book by torchlight under the duvet for pleasure is a red letter day. The child's relationship with their Foster Carer is crucial, but it can often present the poor child with a mountain of mixed emotions. But improving that relationship is one of the big things that indicate that the child is growing stronger and healthier.

And you know who else is a work in progress?

Me.

I KNOW that I'm a bigger, better, wiser soul than I was the day I picked up the phone and asked to be considered for fostering.

I also know there's even more work to be done. On me.

For example I hope one day to be more philosophical if things don't go according to plan, because in fostering you're often just a twig on the back of a stream.

And there are plenty of other tweaks I have on my To Do list.

Such as keeping bits of wisdom in the forefront of my mind. For example I like these;

"It's never too late to be the person you want to be."

"The greatest act of courage is not being afraid of who you really are."

Oh and one other snippet that I love to bits is one I heard on a TV documentary about an Englishman who went to Spain and became a bullfighter. He was aged 68 when they interviewed him and asked him how he felt about being 68.

Say what you like about bullfighting (I hate it with a passion), but you have to take your hat off to his reply which was;

"I'm loving it...you see..."

Then he twinkled and said;

                                 "...I've never been 68 before."






Friday, February 08, 2019

AN AMAZING CONTRIBUTOR WRITES

This comment was posted this week on one of my Secret Foster Carer blogposts that date back a while.

The post in question was "Nine For Breakfast", and in it I mentioned that I had been fleetingly unsure whether to extend my full attachment/empathy to a child who was due to be with me only for a few hours.

I thought I'd publish the comment as a separate post to ensure it gets the prominence it deserves.

This young person shows such maturity, warmth and insight that I'm confident they will be a credit to the fostering profession if they decide to join us.

I have a sense of pride that we are attracting readers such as this person (oh, and such as you too dear reader)...

I'd like to thank the contributor, and say to them that their thoughts and feelings will always be welcome here;


        "I'm a teenager in... two unstable homes, and I found this post fascinating. 
First, I'm really young, 16, and my situation has never been close to as bad as what foster children are coming from. My parents divorced when I was nine, I'm the oldest of four, and it was (is) a bitter divorce. It's been one thing after another since then; parents remarrying, almost redivorcing twice, people dying, etc. However I feel safe and loved by my siblings and parents and I'm doing well right now. 
Second, I'm reading this blog because I want to foster someday. :)
Anyways, I've been through trauma and I can definitely say that if I had been taken from my home at any point by strangers, I'd DEFINITELY want a temporary foster parent to try to bond with me. Not in a pushy way, because I'd retreat. In a gentle, warm way. 
Likely I'd be unable to function. If I feel I can trust an adult, even a strange adult (sometimes especially an adult I don't know as well), I tend to let my guard down. I tend to allow my hurt and brokenness and fear to come to the surface. I'm desperate to know somebody cares, that life isn't just full of suffering and despair. The other day actually I started sobbing after my mom said something that normally would make me slightly disappointed, if that... I cried for hours. I needed her to be there for me. I needed to know she wasn't going to give up on me the moment I showed signs of weakness. 
I'd need that even from a temporary foster parent. I might find it really healing to have a temporary foster parent who, in the midst of something traumatic, listened to me and gave me a hug. Let me cry and be broken with only love in response. Even if I never saw them again, it might make the difference for me between feeling traumatized later on and feeling like, "bad things will happen but I'm not alone even in the most awful pain; I remember when Foster Parent A was there, even though I barely spent any time with them..."
Or maybe I'd really appreciate the simple things like a smile, a kind word, etc. Especially with sibling sets, taking care of a younger sibling for the older sibling will mean more to the older sibling sometimes than if you fixed all older sibling's problems. Siblings going through tough times tend to have either incredibly strong bonds or entirely shattered bonds, I think. 
Anyways that's all I wanted to say! :) 
Thank you for being there for kids who are hurting and broken and loving them through all that. You will never know how much that love impacts them."

Friday, January 25, 2019

GIVING ADVICE

Little fostering moments.. You have to love them. They are a huge part of my life.

A child picks up her apple core after watching a Simpsons with the family and puts it in the kitchen pedal bin.

If you foster you'll know that a tiny thing like that can be a monster triumph. A child whose previous home had no sense of tidiness or hygiene can hardly be expected to know that food debris needs to be dealt with. On top of that; getting a child to eat an apple is a triumph anyway!

Little moments like that = big win for Foster Carer.

Then there are other fostering moments. The larger ones. The really HUGE ones.

These are not so easy to read.

For example;

Had a foster child stay with us called  'Angel' - who stayed for quite an extended period - who loitered in the kitchen one afternoon having come in from school. The fact she loitered in the kitchen was an alert because she usually wanted to get out of her school clothes fast  and enjoy some peace before food. But on this particular afternoon she hung about.

So, after a bit,  Angel said;

"I'm thinking of telling Guy what I think of him."

'Guy' (also known to some as 'Gary' and others as "Wesley') was her possible father. When I say 'possible', you're probably ahead of me, she could have several fathers, no-one knows who her real father was.

But the guy who hung around the house when she was growing up was this guy called Guy.

I met him - bumped into him - a couple of times when I took Angel for Contact with her mother. Contact is where children in care are taken to have a meeting once a week with one or more of their significant others; their mum or dad or other family members.

Angel had been told that Guy was her father.  But she didn't like him.

And frankly, when I bumped into him, nor did I.

But. In fostering the practice of bringing our foster children to Contact means we meet all sorts of adults who have had children, or find themselves somehow 'looking after' children, and who struggle to get it right.

It's rarely their fault that their parenting is adjudged to fall short.

Maybe when these adults were small they deserved someone coming to into their lives to help them out, which is what our fantastic Social Workers do now.

So Angel asked me for advice on whether she should tell her 'father' what she thinks of him.

Blimey, this is one of those moments when you need your Social Worker, but you don't want to be calling them day and night. So you make a decision. Use your common sense.

So I said; "That's an interesting one. I'll have to think about that."

BTW, if I could pass on one tip it would be that. When asked a really difficult question by a foster child about their lives and in particular what they should do, a good reply is "That's an interesting one. I'll have to think about that."

Then what you do is ask your Social Worker.

But Angel was insistent. Wanted to know is she should upfront her 'father', and there were lots of issues involved in that.

Some of those issues I got, some I could only speculate about.

So I said to Angel;

"Well... listen...in life, if you do things or say things, you are stuck with them. If you wait and keep thinking about them then you always have the option. You can either do something or not. Or say something or not. You have control."

Angel did nothing. At least not then and to my knowledge has still kept her powder dry. It may be that at some time when she is an adult and able to take big decisions she does or says what she needs to.

I think I hope she does.

I think and hope I got the advice right. I know Angel took my advice and that is something I should feel good about.

Before I fostered not many people sought my advice, even fewer took it. They do now that I foster.







Tuesday, January 22, 2019

FIRST NIGHT NERVES

One of the things that takes a bit of getting used to when you start your fostering career is the feeling you get with each new arrival after bedtime on the first night. There's somebody else's child sleeping in your home!

I've never forgotten a rookie mistake back in my early days. I told the child that if he woke early and was frightened he could knock on our bedroom door and I would get up and look after him. And so he did.  At 1.50am. He wanted to go to the toilet.  He couldn't go back to sleep, so I stayed up with him downstairs watching videos of Thomas The Tank.

Even if your own children had sleepovers, fostering is light years different.

When you host a sleepover you have the comfort of knowing the children's parents aren't far away. If there's a problem you can call them. On top of that all the children know each other and can support each other. And you know the children who are staying with you; they are friends of your own child.

In fostering the child's parents are not contactable. If there's a problem you have to fix it. The child knows nobody in your home, and you don't know the child yet.

Mind, you're not entirely on your own.

Blue Sky provide a 24 hour service - even Bank Holidays and Christmas. I've used it a few times. They have someone on call round the clock. I'd say to people who are thinking of fostering that it's worth finding out if your local authority or agency provide that level of back-up, because even if you never use it the knowledge it's there is hugely reassuring.

But whatever the back-up, the first night a new child is sleeping in your home is an amazing experience for the Foster Carer.

There are the practical things. It's rare, but I've had kids who hadn't slept in a nice clean bed before. Never had pyjamas, used to sleep in their clothes. Children come into care who don't know how to clean their teeth.  Children who at dinner don't know what knives and forks are for, thought food only came in cardboard boxes. 

There are the emotional things. Children who are almost always so timid and fearful that the top job is to calm them, help them feel safe and secure. Convince them that they have nothing more to fear.

I've also had (slightly older) children arrive who are so capable and confident that I wondered what the problems at home might have been. It usually turned out they'd learned to rise above the noise and lift their lives above what had been going on in their broken home.

But.

Whatever and whoever the new foster child is who arrives at your home, it's one of life's most exciting experiences.

As a Foster Carer you get information up front about the child. Before the child arrives your Social Workers show up to supervise the arrival. Then those professionals leave, and it's down to the key professional. You.

I've mentioned some of my tricks of the trade before such as having a small gift wrapped and ready for the child based on the information I've gleaned about their likes and interests. 
I ask them to take off their shoes as they come in, which is a powerful symbol that they are at home. 
I crouch down to their eye level when I say hello, rather than tower over them. 
I use their first name often as one's own name is usually a comforting sound. 
I find out if they have a cuddly toy and if so make its acquaintance; you can ask the cuddly toy questions which the child answers about herself; "Teddy is hungry and a bit frightened" translates itself. 
I show them where the toilets are and how to use them and make sure they know they can go whenever they need to. 
They get their favourite food for their first meal with us, and I serve the food in bowls in the middle of the table and let them help themselves so there are no fears about being given a food item they don't like the look of. Plus they can arrange the food on their plate to suit - lots of children don't like food to touch other food.
Most of all I try to make them feel at home in their own room, and settle them down for their first night's sleep in my home.

When they have fallen asleep is when I have the time to experience a wonderful sense of fulfilment. It's a rush of blood to the head and heart for a person such as myself who is special in no way but suddenly finds herself overwhelmed by a surge of special emotions. 

I feel a sense of purpose and pride and pleasure in hoping that the child's life is already starting to turn around. And It's my arm around their shoulder doing the turning.

I don't get carried away mind, there's a long way to go, plenty of mistakes will I make along the way, plenty of times I'll be less than 100%, but that's human, and Foster Carers are human first and foremost.

But for a brief moment, that first night a vulnerable new child is receiving care, sleeping in my spare bedroom, fostering feels like a privilege to be cherished.












Thursday, January 17, 2019

USING YOUR NOODLES

I do hope you find these blogs useful and interesting. Maybe they might inspire someone to give fostering a go. I like to hope that.

I find it helpful to write them. They help my understanding of what I try to do in fostering. Having to write it down, I have to focus. It's almost as useful as my supervision visits from my Blue Sky Social Worker. A friend of mine goes to private counselling and estimates that if you were paying for the services of a monthly Blue Sky Social Worker visit (in my case for a couple of hours a time, sometimes three) your bill for time and expertise would be about £300 per session.

In case you wondered my friend (Kate) goes to counselling because she has a teenage daughter who has mental health problems. My friend is sad that her child is sad, but most of all Kate torments herself that maybe somewhere along the line she got her parenting wrong and that's why her daughter is all over the place.

OMG if my friend could only see some of the parenting that Foster Carers hear about when a new child arrives!

Kate frets that she missed signs in her daughter that she needed help. Kate beats herself up that she got the distance between her and her daughter wrong. Sometimes too removed, sometimes too smothering. Kate's wrong about these things, and is on the road to seeing things straight, namely that she's an excellent parent.

Kate and I have had many talks about fostering and it's now on her list of things to do to make the call and start the process to get approved. But she's worried that having a less than perfect family will disqualify her.

How far from the fact could she be!

No-one's family is free from fret for goodness sake. Blimey, no offence but if the Royal Family teaches us anything it's that if having everything doesn't mean an idyllic family, how could anyone be expected to have a happy family on a budget what with employment uncertainty and bills rolling in?

Just as an aside...wouldn't it be cute if one of the Royals opted to foster. I wonder how they'd do?

Back to my point.

Our eldest foster child has reached the age where he needs to challenge elders and betters. Just like my own children at that age he's out to see what it feels like to assert. Just like I did, actually when I was that age.

Just like maybe you did too.

So when our Social Worker turned up last time we got down to brass tacks about how to handle someone else's teenager when the teenager wants to test their early adulthood on their nearest parent substitute - namely their Foster Carer.
.
We talked about the behaviours. I listed some stuff...

Staying in his bedroom which is starting to smell of socks.
Being up late(1.00am!) in his bedroom and sleeping in on weekends until midday.
Not speaking unless you could call a grunt a word. Coming home later than agreed.
Giving off the opinion that middle-aged middle-class people are the world's biggest problem.

Every time I raised one of his ways my Social Worker went:

"Normal! Well done! You're doing a great job!"

"Normal! He's on his way to being fine!"

My Social Worker left me with the understanding that if he wasn't where he is we would have something to worry about. I think I kind of hoped that was true but when you're a normal parent you never know. When you're a foster parent you get to know. A qualified professional swings by on a regular basis and helps, advises, supports and empowers.

So. Eldest foster child is on his way, he's on track, he's being a pain in the you-know-what.

Actually, not a non-stop pain.

This afternoon he came home from school and forgot he was supposed to be Rebel Without A Cause. I was preparing a chicken meal with baked potatoes and a side salad. He hopped up onto the breakfast bar and started telling me all about his day. He was singing with the joys of the world, telling me funny stories about his teachers and schoolmates.

Then, suddenly, he remembered he was supposed to be a troublesome teen.

He went to the larder and fished out a packet of emergency flavoured noodles I keep there. He went for the Thai flavour. He tossed the packet on the kitchen table and grunted that he wanted them for tea.

I could have gone; "Excuse me, it's chicken and baked potato tonight."

I didn't. I boiled a kettle and knocked out his noodles.

He was in the back watching a Friends when I took the noodles to him.

He didn't look up but...

The way he said "Thank you" will stay with me for a long time.

He was thanking me for more than noodles.

And my team consisting of my husband, my children, my local authority social worker, and most of all my Blue Sky Social Worker, deserved those thanks, because he's on his way, and I know he's on his way thanks to the help and wisdom of all the above people.

And him.

I never forget that these children are heroes and that it's a privilege to support their journey back to a good place to re-start their lives. I have to remind myself of this a lot.

They remind themselves of this too.

Sometimes.





Friday, January 11, 2019

FOSTERING AND VIRTUE SIGNALLING

This is a not bad joke from Lucy Porter who is a stand-up;

“It’s really hard to define ‘virtue signalling’, as I was saying the other day to some of my Muslim friends over a fair-trade coffee in our local feminist bookshop.” 

Virtue signalling is when people mention the good they do.

I slipped it in because us Foster Carer sometimes get to feel that we are virtue signalling when it comes out in general conversation that we foster.

One night last week I was helping out at a fund-raising event for a charity organised by a friend, a gal called 'Reb' (short for Rebecca - she doesn't like 'Becky'). It was taking place in our church hall. I say 'our' church; I'm afraid I'm not much of a church-goer, but I'm happy for those that are.

Before the doors opened to the public I was chatting to one of the church's stalwart parishioners who never misses any of the Sunday services, in fact he told me he attends a special service on the Saturday evening the night before the Sunday worshipping, just to make sure his Sunday worshipping is as wall-to-wall as it can be. He was very nice and kind enough to tell me all about the church, that is to say everything I needed to know about the type of stone it's built from.

I was happy to listen because it clearly meant a lot to him to demonstrate his knowledge. And his dedication. There was a bit of virtue signalling going on. But before he could start another story about stone we were joined by another group of people who were also helping out at the fund-raiser.

They turned out to be the deputy mayor, the former mayor and his wife. When I say they were 'helping out', I mean that they were attending in their official capacity. The deputy mayor wore a short chain of office, explaining that the full chain was very heavy and he preferred the smaller one, which did the job; there was no mistaking that he was somebody. Moreover he was somebody who represented a body which visibly  cared and did good works. Such as sending dignitaries to worthy events. They joked about all the warm wine and canapés they had to nibble at their various charity functions.

The mayoral party were very jolly, nice people all, but couldn't help a bit of mild virtue signalling.

My friend Reb, who organised the event, came over and introduced herself to everyone. She has the original heart of gold, does great work for a great charity. Everyone reflected privately that although they had their virtue, they couldn't compete with her. Hers was a very modest, almost non-existent spurt of virtue-signalling, if any at all.

Then the deputy mayor turned to me and said "Forgive me, but who are you and what brings you here?" - and I had a mini-meltdown. See, I know Reb through fostering. Not that she fosters; I met her at the school railings a few years ago and we clicked. I replied;

"I'm just a friend of Reb's."

The ex-mayor's wife chimed in with;

"Through work?"

And I replied;

"I don't work.'

And the conversation moved away.

Later that evening Reb buttonholed me and hissed; "Why didn't you tell them you're a foster mum?' 

I told Reb a white lie, I said;

"Oh Reb, to be honest I spend day and night thinking and talking about fostering, it's nice to get out and have a break.'

But that wasn't the reason. 

The real reason is because whenever, wherever and with whoever it comes out that you foster, that is the end of all other conversation. It simply consumes everyone's thoughts, people want to know anything and everything about how it works, how you do it, what sort of children come to you. It's always important to respect children's privacy and I am always at pains to make sure that no child who has ever stayed with me could be recognised or identified by whatever I choose to tell them about my fostering and the great efforts of agencies like Blue Sky and our social services.

But the truth is I didn't want to risk taking the moment away from Reb and her charity, after all, that was what the evening was all about.

And before anyone spots that I've just put out a really subtle and brilliant bit of virtue signalling for myself, let me remind you of two things; one, I'm anonymous so no-one knows to pat me on the back for respecting Reb and two; Foster Carers (in my experience)  don't do virtue-signalling. 

So much so that half the time when our Social Workers visit they practice virtue-signalling in reverse ie they signal our virtues for us!