Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Ugly word "siblings", for something rather beautiful. 

That's not to say it can't turn ugly.

I didn't know that Tony and Ridley Scott were brothers. I'm afraid I didn't know anything about Tony, I'd only heard of Ridley. The older brother, the one who was knighted. Tony made Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop, two of my favourite films, but he was always overshadowed by his brother, who came back with Gladiator. I understand they loved and respected each other enormously, but wonder if being brothers spurred them on professionally. Or held them back personally.

Sibling rivalry is part of our dark side.


I've found, to my astonishment, little rivalry between fostered children and our own. When I started fostering I expected all sorts of jealousies going in both directions. If anything it's brought my own children closer together. They've developed as people, engaged in the ongoing process of strategies to help behavior, and learned that some of the things they would have a moan about are very low-level miseries compared to what some other children have to deal with. 

I've talked to plenty of other foster carers, one or two have found problems, but nipped them in the bud, most  agree that it's barely an issue. 

We're not sure why though, to be honest. You'd think having a fostered child, particularly one with baggage, would blow a hole in any "normal" family.

Certainly at Blue Sky training sessions it's often flagged up as something to watch out for, and for sure you have to remember to find private quality time with your own flesh and blood.


It breaks your heart when your own children fight each other. We have to be judge and jury on who started it, who crossed the line first, which one is the guilty party. It's not just fights and squabbles, it's rivalries about bedtimes, food portions, going out, coming home. Almost everything any one of your own children is allowed to do is carefully measured by the others, and logged away for future reference.

They are jealous of each other's things, not just their toys and bedrooms, but their achievements.

What they want to achieve most of all is our undying, unconditional, bottomless love for them. They yearn for it so much that somewhere inside of them a part of them resents their brothers and sisters. 

Meanwhile we find ourselves with a love for them that's so huge it's painful. And it's shared out equally to all of them.


Fostered children, in my experience, have one huge thing in common. They want their natural parents to love them. No matter what they've experienced. No matter how much harm and pain and danger those parents might have inflicted, no matter whether it was ignorance or chilling, conscious unkindness.

You may have seen teenagers with those heartbreaking homemade tattoos of "Mum" and "Dad" on their knuckles. You can bet there's a disturbing story there, yet the child wants to make the most permanent declaration of love they can.

I'm not a psychiatrist, but it could be that our own children instinctively know that while our foster child may take up more of our time and get away with things our own children don't, they are in no way rivals for our love.

Foster children may want us to like them, respect them and admire their achievements (of course there are times when they want us to find them insufferable).

But they don't want us to replace their real mum and dad. They don't want to love us, or us to try to love them, like only their real mum and dad should.They know it, we know it. 

Above all our children know it.

The Secret Foster Carer

1 comment:

  1. That's really poignant and something my husband and I have thought about. It sounds like introducing a foster child into your home can be a positive influence on your own children and help them understand how lucky they are.