Friday, August 31, 2012

When the phone rings and it's Blue Sky asking if you would take another child, you split into two people. The first person is (hopefully) the professional carer, who wants to get the information to make a good judgement on if it's a child you can help. The other person is the human being in you, who is naturally curious, even nosey, about the story behind the possible placement.

I always find myself intrigued about what happens to children we are offered who don't come to us. The reasons they don't come are varied; we might refuse them (sadly) because they may not fit our current home set-up, they may get offered a placement with somebody else before our acceptance is flagged up, sometimes they never end up in care at all (perhaps the local authority had needed to get a place ready in case things went wrong).

Here's a good example. The phone rang and Blue Sky said; 

BS: "Would you be prepared to take 3 siblings, all aged under eleven. "

Us: "Provisionally yes. What's the story?"

BS: "The parents are suspected of Munchhausen's By Proxy."

Us: " Er.. our son got the DVD out, wasn't it Monty Python?"

BS: "Yes, actually, Terry Gilliam maybe... but this is a recognised syndrome. Remember the child nanny who abducted a newborn baby from the maternity unit? She was due to look after it, but she kidnapped it to get attention for herself by creating a crisis around the baby. People with Munchhausen's draw attention to themselves by inventing or exaggerating personal problems.  People with Munchhausen's By Proxy draw attention to themselves by creating or exaggerating problems for people around them."

Us: "So what are the parents doing?"

BS: "Allegedly - the GP has made the referral - they are making their children ill, or inventing illnesses in their children, to get attention. Not just coughs and colds. They've taken the children to see the doctor saying they've got Spina Bifida and Cerebral Palsy and other diseases. The children are underweight, behind at school and anxious."

We said yes, but they never came to us. The Local Authority Social Services decided there wasn't enough evidence to take the children into care.

But this "Munchhausen's By Proxy" syndrome stays in my head.

In fostering, you see a great many parents who want and get attention because their children are "trouble".

They get sympathy from friends and family, and if things decline badly, they get sympathy and support from professionals. I'm not saying they deliberately cause problems in their children, merely that they discover that their children's bad points are more interesting than their good points.

Here's the thing.

I have to keep resisting the temptation to drift into a similar mode.

I reckon this applies to most of us in fostering.  We want to fix the problems our children may have, so we dwell on the rough stuff. Our social workers want to be useful, help the child and the carers.

For everybody, it's a simpler matter to dismantle a problem and try to build a way forward than to rock back on your chair and shoot the breeze about the hunky dory things in life.

Maybe it's a guilt thing. One wonderful carer once whispered to me (this is ABSOLUTELY TRUE):

"She's been brilliant the last fortnight. No trouble. It's like money for old rope...I feel awful!"

She felt awful. She'd done a fantastic job. And felt awful that the child was flying along, could hardly bear to admit it.

Would have been much more comfortable talking about problems.

The Secret Foster Carer


Post a Comment