Friday, September 21, 2018

PRAISE SANDWICHES FOR TEA

Being well supported is so important in fostering.

I don't know how much support is generally offered to foster parents by other agencies and local authorities nationwide, I hope there's plenty. Maybe I'm biased, but it's no surprise to me that the fostering agency I work with has been marked by Ofsted Outstanding years in a row.

Here's the sort of back-up they provide.

We did a regular weekend respite care for a very sad child called Alfie. He had suffered dreadful neglect and abuse and was very upset. Alfie was at the end of his tether.

When adults behave badly it's often their own fault but when their family breaks down they blame other people. When children in chaotic families behave badly it's not their fault, they are the victims. But when the family breaks down, astonishingly, they often think it's their fault and blame themselves.

For example I've mentioned before about the child who scrubbed his hands at length several times a day. Turned out he believed the reason the family had broken down, the reason he was taken away and put into care was because ...because he hadn't washed his hands properly.

Alfie desperately wanted to be seen to be a good person.

He was! He was thoughtful, fair, generous...you name it.

But.

Every time we said to him things such as "Well done that was really kind of you..", "Aren't you a good boy!" It went down badly, he got upset.  I felt hurt because I was doing the right thing.

Okay, so now the great bit;

Blue Sky use counsellors to help their carers. I've met a lot of people who are a bit scared of counselling but they're missing out. All of us would go to A&E if we broke our leg. We'd go to Spec Savers if our vision was blurred, so why not go to someone who can help on something as important as fostering?

They listen to you about your foster child and about you. They also listen to how the fostering is going for the child ('impacting' they call it), and how it's going for you.

Here's the conversation (in a short form) about Alfie;

Me: "He gets upset. He gets upset if I tell him not to do something then he gets upset if I tell him he's done something good."

Counsellor; "It's not unusual to get upset being told we've done something someone else doesn't approve of." Pause.

Me; "Too true..." Pause.

Me again: "I don't like it too much myself.."

Counsellor; (laughing) "Does anyone?"

Laughter.

Counsellor: "How are you when you're given praise?"

Me: (I'm relaxed by now because the session is fun, free and fascinating) "I'm hopeless!"

Counsellor: "What do you mean?"

Me: "I don't know... Er...It makes me uncomfortable. I don't know why..Why do I find it hard to take praise?"

Counsellor: "It's a problem for a lot of people."

Me: "Good to know I'm normal then..."

Pause.

Me: "Maybe I think I don't deserve it."

Counsellor: "And do you?"

Me: "Yes, sometimes I do!"

Counsellor: "Have your foster children sometimes seen you reject praise?"

Me: (In my own head) "AGGGHHHH!"

The number of times I've brushed off the kind comments and praise of social workers and the gratitude of foster children, even minimised their debt for what I've done and said things like "It was nothing" or "You deserved it".

Long story short, we worked out that Alfie wanted to be seen to be what he was; a good kid. But didn't know how to take a pat on the back.

It was a bit more complex than I have space for because part of Alfie's mess was a parent who'd made him feel bad about everything he'd ever done. Being told he was good, hearing that he had been a help; it triggered feelings of injustice, lack of love.

But.

The counselling was HUGELY helpful. We devised a game which we played around the kitchen table at teatime. We went around the table and each of us had to say what was the best thing we'd done that day. It could be the nicest thing such as;

Me (I always started with me); "I dropped a sausage on the kitchen floor and instead of washing it and putting it on someone's plate I chucked it and had one less myself."

There'd be various noises of Ugh etc, but the rule was that once the fuss and discussion had died out everyone HAD to say; "Well done!"

People could nominate a good piece of schoolwork, making a friend feel better, putting their laundry in the basket without being asked...

You've heard of the 'praise sandwich'? It's where if you want to tell someone something they might not want to hear you sandwich the negative thing in between two bits of praise. Well in Alfie's case the praise sandwich was a piece of praise in between two bits of...praise.

The idea, obviously, was a sort of mental homeopathy; we'd give Alfie small doses of praise and he'd build up a resistance to his unconscious revulsion.

And with counselling and the rest of the help behind us we kind of got there in the end with Alfie.

Funny thing thought, when my Blue Sky social worker kind of said; "Well done", I kind of said "Ahh, it wasn't me..."

In fostering we do a FANTASTIC job. We get lots of help which we should accept.

We get lots of praise, we should accept that too.















Monday, September 17, 2018

LATEST ON NEW PLACEMENT

Time for an update on Ryder, our newest foster child.

Ideally I would post about her more often, people are interested. Thing is a) I kind of feel that even though I'm entirely vigilant about her privacy - as I am with all my placements, occasional updates are more proper than some kind of diary  b) I'm rushing around like the proverbial housefly.

Ryder has become yet another hero of mine. When you learn what children have been through before they come into care you often need the strength and expertise of your social worker to take it all in. The children's sheer courage in trying to stay on top takes your breathe away.

They're heroes.

Here's a good question; have you ever met one of your heroes? The ones we have when we're small? You know, maybe someone like a certain Australian soap star turned pop star....

No offence to the guy but when I was (much) younger, he was a hero of mine. What happened was this; my mum used up a favour from someone she knew and managed to get me a ticket to be in the audience of a TV show where he was the star guest. Imagine the excitement.

Half an hour before the show started we were asked if anyone wanted the loo. I went.  We were led through a corridor and round a couple of corners and when we got there I spent a bit longer than anyone else checking myself in the mirror, so when I came out the escorts had gone and I had to retrace their steps to get back to the studio.

I'm not one for mischief but on this occasion I hoped I'd take the wrong turning and maybe bump into...him.

And it kind of happened.  I found myself near the studio at the corner of a corridor of offices. I peeked around an open door and at the other end, sitting on an ordinary chair in front of an ordinary desk was...him! There were a handful of other people milling a respectful distance from him (he was a star), but he was simply plonked on an ordinary chair staring almost glumly into middle distance with one of his Cuban heeled boots up on the desk, his blue eyes heavy-lidded with tiredness or maybe boredom.

I felt sorry for him. He looked lonely, a bit beat-up, vulnerable.

I was desperate for him to glance up and see me and smile or even beckon me over to give me his autograph. Well he didn't. One of the researchers spotted me and asked if I was lost and took me back to the studio.

The point of all this is that in spite of it being a nothing event it actually increased my hero worship of him. He was not only stellar but human.

And he remained my biggest hero. Until I fostered.

Every foster child is different. Not necessarily more different than your everyday child, but as a foster parent you get a bullet-point life history of each child whereas your own children grow bit by bit with you. Their pain is concentrated into several pages of typed up facts.

The two things that foster children have in common is: one; they've been taken into care and two; they have been through other bad stuff.

When I was young my hero was some pop bloke who had endured nothing more than putting up with being famous, being good-looking and talented, probably a bit lucky and fairly rich. Poor lad. And there I once stood feeling sorry for him!

Fostering doesn't half give you a perspective.

So, what Ryder said to me was this;

"I'm gonna look after my mum like you look after us."

Oh dear, eyes filling up while I'm writing these words as I imagine the life of this dear little hero.

It's becoming clear that Ryder is a carer. She's not yet a teenager, but is looking after her mother, her sibs and possibly any number of drop-in 'friends' of the family.

Foster children sometimes tell us foster parents things that help social workers get a fuller picture of the child's existence.

Ryder told me about the times she's had to put her mother to bed in the middle of the day because she was paralytic. She also has cooked, cleaned, hoovered, washed-up and even laundered other people's laundry. The mother, I can tell you, appears to have mental health problems as well as alcohol and drug-related problems and a whole lot of other  problems getting through every day. 

Ryder's instinct tells her it's wrong that she is having to mum up a dysfunctional home unit. She seems to sense that her childhood has been taken away, and that's one of many reasons she gets het up from time to time.

Who wouldn't?

But when I go to bed tonight and I'm thinking about what to think about to feel good (yep, I'm getting into mindfulness, it's great), I hope I'll remember that Ryder wants to base her parenting of her wayward parent and needy sibs  on the skills that her foster parents try to use.

Or, to put it another way, be like me; her foster mum.

Yet another way in which what we do makes a difference.



Monday, September 10, 2018

STAGES OF A PLACEMENT

A friend has lost someone dear. I've helped my friend, and my family have helped me. Our foster children have been marvellous.

Experts say there are 5 stages of grief when you lose someone. The stages are said to be; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

One of our readers commented about feeling a bit daunted that she is going to Panel (where foster carers go to be approved to foster), and a bit daunted about the prospect of fostering. Interesting, because now that I think about it, there are clear stages that characterise many fostering placements and it might be useful to mention them.

They're only as I see them, I'm not a psychologist. Mind, I've probably done more fostering than your average psychologist, so there might be something in my thinking even if it's only raw experience.

The stages are mainly from the foster parent's viewpoint, and apply to full placements rather than respite or emergency care.

Stage Zero. EXCITED/CAUTIOUS

The prospective foster parent begins the process of gaining approval to foster. The excitement begins, but there's always that human fear of falling at the last fence. Alongside the daunting feeling that we might not be approved, we keep asking ourselves "Can I do this fostering thing?"

(You only go through this stage once, unless like me, you take a long break from fostering and need to get approval over again).

Stage One EXHILARATION

You've passed! And now a child is coming! The phone call said you've been selected. So many good buzzes! A chance to help a child to shine! Someone out there thinks you are good enough! A child's chance to find a way out of somewhere bad. Who will it be? What will the child be like?

Stage Two  HONEYMOON

The child is (usually but not always) shy and respectful, co-operative and compliant. The foster parent learns mainly about the child's brighter side.

Stage Three DAUNTED

Some foster children come to trust their foster parents enough to let true feelings out. There's surely no such thing as a human being who wouldn't feel unfairly treated being taking into care as a child, even if they can see it's for the best. Their family's breakdown wasn't their fault but they often imagine it was, and don't understand what they did wrong. Injustice, confusion, fear... makes us all agitated and cross, the child is right to get upset. For foster parents the task of trying to help a pitifully sad child is a tad daunting. But it's fundamental to our work, and we have people to help and support us. The process is under way.

Stage Four  NEW BEGINNING

The child discovers she is still with you despite testing your love. Now the core work begins. She'll still have her moments but they recede and shrink. It doesn't always feel as if the child's heart is mending, but our social workers can and do show us the progress we are making. She begins to look, act, speak and feel sometimes as though fostering is some kind of extended spa holiday where the treatments are not the physical facials or gym-based weight loss, the aim is to strengthen and shape up her feelings and emotions.

Stage Five BONDING

The child and the foster family form their own unique unit according to the deep-rooted identities of each and their hopes and dreams for the future. There is the warmth of familiarity, the reassurance of people being consistent. They love the inclusive feeling they get from fair boundaries, of feeling loved when they know the answer should be "No" and the answer is "No", because the parent cares.

Stage Six RESOLUTION

There are only two outcomes; either the child goes or stays.

 The first resolution, she goes: hopefully back to her real home, job done. Or else maybe (not the same but good too) she goes to another foster home or to some other form of care. Job done too, but in a different way. The foster family rests, the child gets another chance. Nobody failed.

The second resolution is that the child stays. Gets Christmas holidays with you. Goes on summer holiday with you. Gets a second Christmas holiday, second summer holiday. Starts to recognise the landmarks and milestones in her foster family's year.

Stage Seven EXHILARATION (A SECOND TIME, AND A THIRD...AND ON AND ON!)

You either get a child who becomes part of your family in one capacity or another, or a complete newcomer arrives and you start the job again.

Or both happens.

However it goes, the end feeling is one of SATISFACTION






Tuesday, August 28, 2018

QUALITY 15 MINUTES

When a new foster child arrives it's hard to keep up all your other responsibilities because you're so focussed on settling the newcomer in.

You're ever on the alert for things that help you build the fullest picture of the child, learning about their personalities and how to make best use of who they are to help them towards being who they want to be.

Take Ryder, who's settling in brilliantly. Okay, the odd glitch, usually around Contact with her significant others, nothing a couple of minor fixes can't heal over. On our way home from Contact I take her straight to the sweetshop. She knows this and it even helps get her to the Contact, she starts talking about her treat, it softens the complicated emotions.The distraction of choosing from the vast shelves of goodies works wonders. She knows she's free to spend as much time as she wants browsing, I never hurry her. She always manages to persuade me to go a bit over her budget, all part of the therapy; the distraction of having freedom of choice and entering complex financial negotiations distances her from the angst. Just to nail the whole thing I choose a treat for myself, agonising over what to have and getting her advice. I pick something, usually a packet of mints rather than a bar so she can sample my treat on the way home, it bonds us.

Then you get the moment when she offers you a sweet from one of her packets, and you know you're getting somewhere. 

Naturally I'd be happier offering her carrot sticks or an apple, but Contact is such a major upheaval for her she deserves what she wants the most, which is a sense of control and freedom. We have an ongoing competition between her and me as to who has the whitest teeth, which has led to her cleaning her teeth not only voluntarily but if anything too often. Sometimes the foster mum's tricks of the trade are almost too successful for their own good...

But like I started out saying, the first few weeks of a new arrival can result in other priorities dropping down your radar. 

I've noticed that I might cut corners with little things - the family might moan "Not pasta again...", I cram the pedal bin rather than empty it when almost full, cut back on the hoovering telling myself I'm the only one who notices a few bits on the carpet. I re-assure myself that it's down to having an extra person to feed and tidy up after, but the truth is I'm pre-occupied with helping them feel at home, and it fills my head.

The one mistake I try to make sure I never make is to let the others think I don't care about them as much as before. You have to up the TLC for everyone (even my other half, who is easily capable of feeling neglected...).

It's really important, most important of all, to re-assure any other children in the home, that you love and care for them just as much, maybe even more. The minute they get a whiff that you are doting on the new arrival, allowing them a bit of extra leeway while she settles in, they're going to get unsettled. 

So here's what happened...

At the tea table Ryder passed a comment which was, shall we say, adult in nature. Either she didn't know what it meant but had heard it said in her real household, or she was making a bid to raise her grown-up status. 

The table went silent. Everyone was waiting for me to react. In these situations you get no time to think and you usually feel afterwards that you said/did the wrong thing. I fell back on a tried and trusted trick of mine which was to say this;

"Er, Ryder, no more of that sort of talk please, I'll have a chat with you about it later."

Deferment. I love this device. I use it especially when I'm asked a really difficult question by a foster child relating to their fostering, or their real family. It gives me a chance to think my words through, if necessary get clarification or advice from my social worker. The children usually are happy that my head is filled with thoughts of them and their needs.

However, in this instance eldest foster child got the knock (only slightly) because he felt that if he'd come out with a remark like Ryder's the you-know-what would have hit the fan. How do I know he got the knock? Am I vested with mind-reading powers or supernatural skills? No.

He said so. He said, immediately;

"If I'd said that you wouldn't have said what you said to her to me".

Which was true, but I couldn't tell the whole family that a new arrival is entitled to individual treatment until they are familiar with our do's and dont's. 

So I did deferment followed by distraction;

"I'll explain later, meantime who wants vanilla who wants chocolate chip?"

But I did speak to each of them separately. I got to Ryder asap. She kind of knew what she'd said, and agreed she was only trying to act grown up. She did really well not to get upset with worrying she might be in trouble, because being in trouble at her real home was, we had been told, worth worrying about.

Eldest I planned a quality 15 minutes with, just the two of us in the garden, it was getting dark and quiet. 

Quality 15 minute chats one-to-one with foster children are a big hit. They know it's going to be just 15 minutes, which is long enough to get things said, short enough for them not to feel in jail.

I asked him not to pass anything we would talk about on to Ryder even if she asked (requesting his confidence was also a way of marking his maturity). I explained the truth, that Ryder got allowances in her early days with us. The clincher was that I'd done the same for him and it had helped him. Now he had to help me help Ryder. But it went further and we talked about him and the big things in his life. The mate he'd had a barney with, they were back on track. The teacher he thinks has a downer on him has been not so bad recently. The teacher he thinks is brilliant who gives him a fist bump. 

It got deeper. He talked about the dad he hadn't seen since six Christmases ago. 

Then he talked about his mum not paying him any attention.

His mum not paying him any attention. I could have kicked myself to the end of the road and back. The big thing I give this child is attention, constantly. Except (the child was telling me via his subconscious) when there's a new foster child in the house - or at least that's how it can feel to him.

The quality 15 minutes turned into nearly an hour and I came indoors geared up to give everybody else in the house a quality 15 minutes (or hour) sooner rather than later.

And yes, including Ryder.

And yes, actually, including me, because things turned out for the better in the end.

As is so often the case with fostering.





Monday, August 20, 2018

BEST JOB IN THE WORLD

Our latest foster child, Ryder, a girl, has been with us about a month now.

Thinking about it, it's amazing how quickly most foster children find a place in their foster family. I'm not saying they always ease cheerfully into the right slot, not saying they shine a light where before there was darkness, blimey not saying that at all.

But what they often achieve is just as much a piece of human magic. They establish a relationship with each of the other family members - very quickly. It might not be totally harmonious, but minor tensions are what family is about as much as bonds, in fact sometimes the bonds are the tensions.

But wheras in a 'real' family the relationships evolve and grow over years, a foster family adapts to a new member in a very short time, mostly according to that child's wants and needs. I've seen it over and over. Each family member - especially the other foster children - make concessions to the new person, as long as they're reasonable and any concessions are recognised by everyone and respected.

We sort of all shift over a bit and make a space.

And the child, however young or bruised, finds ways to function with each family member and the family as a whole.

There's no scientific forensic thinking on the child's part, it's mostly - maybe entirely - instinct.

They look for a solid adult who is strong; stalwart about rules and guidelines, consistent and fair.

They look for an adult who is warm and gentle, loving and friendly - and generous.

Often these things are all found in the same adult, sometimes it's a team thing.

They look for similar yins and yangs in the other features of your family life, the other children (if there are any), the pets, the layout of the house, the facilities (PC, TV, larder, fridge, bathroom) and the essential rhythm of your home.

They look for their place in the pecking order, which brings me back to Ryder and her settling in.

She's very  comfortable with my husband. She chats with him, and jokes. She's polite with him. Same goes with everyone else in the house.

Except, to begin with, me. 

I remember the first time I came across this; foster mums often notice it. Social workers are well used to it.

The professionals tell us that a typical foster child will have a confused picture of the whole concept of 'mother'.  They tell us that very young children need to make an attachment to a loving parent. Having spent 9 months inside mother's womb, she's the most likely candidate. Plus she might be the provider of her own milk, so the mother/child attachment should be well ahead of any other.

But attachment needs more than just those things, and some children don't receive the necessary and end up with a poor sense of attachment, something which can make all sorts of relationships difficult for them through life.

The infant gives out love and devotion towards an individual who doesn't give it back.

The child ends up with a confused and upsetting view of her own mother - and mothers in general. 

Taken into care, their reservations about 'mother' are complicated further. Here's a new 'mother' - what? She's trying to replace my mum?

I've tried lots of tactics to lessen this problem for new foster children, including telling them to call me by my name rather than thinking of me as 'mum', behaving more like a sister/friend than a mother, I've even tried to extend my non-mothering to things like sharing the cooking. Every little bit helps, but in the end you just have to be patient.

With Ryder it took about a month. Now she's happy not only to sit next to me when she plays a video game on my iPad, but snuggle up. Lets me put my arm around her shoulder.

Even manages to let me know that deep down she likes feeling close. 

We don't know yet if there's a clear plan to re-unite her with her real family, it seems unlikely for while, her contact with her mother is less than great. 

Doesn't matter if the child is going home almost straight away, the job is to offer them attachment from the moment they walk through your door. 

It's a great job, too. Best job in the world!




Wednesday, August 15, 2018

MILESTONES

There's a phrase I like;

"The smallest fish are the sweetest." I'll tell you how I first heard the phrase shortly.

In life our greatest moments are simply great, how could they not be? There are the traditional milestones if you are lucky enough such as falling in love, marriage day, birth of our children. We might be lucky enough to enjoy other milestones such as passing exams, getting that job, getting promotion. 

People beat diseases, they pass driving tests, they win £500 at online bingo.

And for many people in this wonderful new world we have, there are new and huge milestones; coming out and being accepted, discovering who you really are and that your friends and family are happy for you.

Whatever your backstory, being approved to foster is one of life's biggest milestones. I'll never forget walking out of the room knowing that people who knew what it took thought I had what it takes.

To be honest fostering doesn't throw up endless milestone moments. It's real life. Mind, you get a few; the best milestone moment we've had so far was when a foster child who was with us was nominated for an award, it was going to be staged at a big hotel in a big town so we splashed out and booked a suite at the venue. The child was so agog with the accommodation that the evening was given over to watching back-to-back new-to-view films in the suite's dining room while room service brought endless chips with everything.

Here's the moment... when it was the child's turn to go up on the big stage and collect the medal and certificate, he ran up and punched the air. First and only time the child was unequivocally in a great place, hopefully he found more such moments as he grew.

Well done social services for organising it, it was a moment the child will never forget and nor will we. Milestone moment.

But milestone moments don't have to be massive occasions, and in fostering if you are on your toes, the little moments come thick and fast.

So here's last night's one, I hope you can get that it wouldn't have even been a tremor on any scale, but it was seismic for us.

Foster child brought the eating debris down from the room. 

We didn't ask. We've never nagged. Sometimes on a Sunday morning there would be dead plates which once were spag boll or Chinese. Empty crisp packets, apple cores, juice cartons. The child ate healthy but was territorial and seemed to be attached to the clutter.

So I'm standing at the sink keeping it moving as cups and plates and cutlery go through. And suddenly, there in front of me without any flag up that he's coming is foster child with all the debris.  An armful of plates with cups and food remnants piled up, the child is heading for the kitchen bin to scrape off the waste and then looks at me with doe eyes saying "Do you want this stuff in the sink or the dishwasher?"

Any idea what a killer moment that was for me? So what did I do?

I went (casual as you like); 

"Yur thanks, can you stick them in the dishwasher?"

So the child did. A tiny thing, but huge, huge.

He'd probably had it up his sleeve for a while, wanted to deliver his surprise new self as and when it suited him.

Milestone.  Small one, but in fostering you have to stay alert for them.

I mentioned earlier where I came across the phrase the smallest fish are the sweetest. Years ago I was at a birthday celebration for a girl friend who happened to be Irish but the bulk of the folk were local. It was staged in a big pub backroom, and a darts competition broke out. Men and women had come from all over, some from across the water, and  my other half (who follows darts) said one of the Irish fellows looked vaguely familiar. 

The darts got very competitive, except for the aforementioned little fellow, who seemed not to care much but managed to scrape a win every time.  He ended up in the final, against the overwhelming favourite, a slightly cocksure local man.

Short story long the Irish fellow won (by a whisker) and a while later myself and my other half found ourselves at his table. We said to him "Do we know you from somewhere?" He put his finger to his lips and whispered who he was. He'd made the finals of the World Darts Championship several years ago.

So I said to him; "What does it feel like then, winning fifty quid in a little occasion like this?"

And he smiled and said (and I'd like to believe it was true); 

"Just to make it fair I threw with my wrong hand."

Then he said (and I know this is true);

"The smallest fish are the sweetest."

As they are in fostering.








Thursday, August 09, 2018

THINKING ABOUT FOSTERING?

It's amazing how many people are interested in fostering but can't get past thinking about it.

Literally, our next-door neighbours and the people who live diagonally opposite us have both let us know they are up for finding out more,  but this is the thing;

They've been 'Up for finding out more' for YEARS. 

They keep having inquisitive conversations with us which end in me saying I can put them in touch with someone and they quickly say something like "Well actually now is not a good time because..."
And they cite a reason such as one of their children is moving up a school, or a grandad is going through a rough time. 

In many cases the real reason has to do with their suspecting that they might not be up to scratch. No-one wants to be told thanks but no thanks. 

In my experience, people sometimes put off making that first contact in fostering in the same way as some people who can sing a bit or act a bit never actually try to make something of their talent because they were afraid of being told they weren't good enough. They can keep the dream going in their head and tell themselves they'll do something about it when the sun is shining. 

It's a shame. I once heard someone say there are thousands of Frank Sinatras out there, but he got up and gave it a proper go. And he benefitted.

With fostering, if you get up and give it a go and you help just one child - just one - you're bigger and better than Frank Sinatra.  A child will benefit.

All because you had a go.

You took the risk (not that it's much of a risk) - it doesn't cost a penny to find out if you, your family and your home have the potential. And the fact is the majority of people who take the plunge discover they are five star fostering material. I haven't got the exact figures, but not many applications fail.

Then there's fear of commitment. I once had a boss who, when we started talking about my work arrangement said "Hey nobody wants to get into something they can't get out of", and that's a good way of looking at many things in life. In fostering, if you make the call, a process starts which you can end any time, without giving a reason, no shame or recrimination. And for anyone on a budget, absolutely no bill or fees.

Even if you get on board and foster; it's not a ball and chain for life. You have help coming at you from every direction and if you need a breather - it gets arranged. We ourselves had years away from fostering while our own children were little, and came back when they could grasp what was going on around them. Just for the record I regret the break; I didn't need to do it - I now know our children could have coped fine, it might even have matured them faster.

I could blog on til the cows come home but the point I want to make to people who are thinking about fostering is that the only way to allay any worries or misunderstandings (believe me we had plenty of those ourselves way back - all of which turned out to be docile) is...

...to make the call. 

Speak to a human being, Google for your nearest or friendliest looking point of point of contact and start talking. 

It's what I did and I'll never forget how in the first 2 minutes of talking to someone (her name is Di by the way and the last time I visited Blue Sky she was still there picking up the phone to strangers and engaging them), I felt better.

I also remember how nervous I was making that first call.

A little voice inside me was saying something like..

"Are you really sure you might be able to do this fostering thing?"

Well, turns out I am, and I sometimes even  get told I'm alright at it, which sounds best when it comes from the kids.

It's a huge leap from thinking about doing something to actually doing something, but every day a person puts it off is another day for a child with no roof, no bed, no home, no hope.

Make today the day you stopped thinking and starting doing.