Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Aaaaghhh here comes Christmas. 

This is a hard quarter of the year for carers, and looked-after children; starts with Halloween.

Then it's fireworks, then Christmas. These events are big for our children, and for us. They are about the three pinnacle home events in the child's calendar (excepting their birthday), squeezed into 7 weeks.

For them, each evokes  memories of what happened before they came into care, and that means experiences we have to help them deal with that they usually don't tell us much about.

I've just done a Trick or Treat and it was clear the youngest child was simply exhilarated to be out of the house at all, but that's enough detail, sorry. Child accrued enough sweets to last a fortnight, what do you do, the sweets are theirs, so you work a kind of management scheme; "Make them last, don't eat them all in one go". They get a bunch of control, and that's a big thing with looked-after children. If you impose your own rules they come back with what they used to do or get at home, and you have to fathom out if they are telling you how it was, or telling you what works best for them.

Fireworks night seems to last through six weeks, and there's a heap of control going on there too. It's about their entertainment; they know these events are child-orientated; we put the focus onto their enjoyment. They get to deliver the verdict on if it was good. Like they're saying "This was another of my nights. Well, we didn't get to light the bonfire or the rockets, my hot dog was rubbish, this was even more rubbish than Halloween, which was supposed to be all about me." All this is code for "I want to go home, and if I can't then give me lots of actual stuff as well as this love stuff, which is okay, but not as fantastic as stuff."

Which leads us to Christmas. It's a way off, but we're all thinking about it, yes?

Christmas is probably the biggest calendar event for carers. But even bigger for our children. It was the biggest event in my "normal" childhood, I struggle to grasp how colossal it is for them.

About now, November, we start to think out how we're going to manage presents and people. So do they.

Thing is, we know our own children, they know us, we all know the deal about the Christmas budget and the agenda. With looked after children, especially their first Christmas in care, it's fraught. 
Budget; I don't know how anyone else structures it, we work on the basis of one big present, a couple or three medium ones, and a bunch of low-budget stockingy things. If you're honest with your sums it usually works out closer to two hundred quid than a hundred, the whole shebang. 
Straightforward, it ain't, of course. The big present used to be the bike, now it's more likely the phone upgrade. Aaaaaagh.

Agenda; Heh, this is tricky for "normal" families, what with who goes to whose house and when, and who to buy pressies for, and phone up on Christmas morning. Add a looked-after child or two, with perhaps a separated mum and dad, a stepfather on the scene maybe, a clutch of real brothers and sisters also in care and another bunch of step-brothers and sisters, and the timetable of who sees who, when, and where...well it's a logistical Aaaaaaagh with baubles on.

You have to keep reminding yourself that even if you bought them the entire world, they'd still probably want the one thing they can't get and you sure can't give them; the family Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas they dream of with a happy, loving, real mum and dad.

Then it's the big day, and for all their troubles they seem to melt into the whole thing. The one day when everyone in the house is on the same page, no-one's rushing out to work, no shopping. A hot kitchen, people in all the rooms, strangely happy people.

Perhaps my favourite single moment in fostering was about 11.00am one Christmas morning when the foster child looked up from behind her pyramid of gifts, and, through a mouthful of bacon sandwich quietly confided to my partner; 

"This feels like a dream".

The Secret Foster Carer

Sunday, October 28, 2012

You just want to give this carer, who commented after the last post about us carers getting too sensitive, a hug.

She (I'm guessing it's a "she", forgive me if you are a "he") commented:

"Oh how true this is. I especially felt it when a placement broke down due to increasing violence against me. I was made to feel inadequate and told the child would be placed with perfect foster carers (I am a single carer).

Child had multiple placements before they came to me. I was able to contain and survive the violence for longer than anyone else had done, and the placement with the perfect carers - lasted just longer than the honeymoon period - hmmm so perhaps I didnt do so bad after all!!!"

It's so frustrating to read a comment that deserves more than a reply on a computer screen, but it's all I can do, so I'll try to give you my best shot.

It's clear what your main concern is, but you raise several issues; violence, receiving a child who has had numerous placements that failed, being a single carer. I don't know how single carers do it. I know a few, and they do do it, and one in particular I know does it as well, if not better than most.

And right there, without thinking, I've gone and done it. The thing that seems to be your main lament.  I've gone and judged other carers.

How bloody dare I?

Who am I or any foster carer to go trying to work out if others are good or indifferent, and why?

I can try to defend myself by saying that analysing the practices of other carers will help me in my work. At a push I can tell myself that it's important I remain vigilant so that I can intervene and support other carers who may need help.

Aw c'mon, who am I kidding? We all know the real reasons we are interested in other carers lives. Let's be absolutely honest with ourselves for a bit. Does us good.

The main reason is we're plain nosey about other people. Even nosier about people we know. Our own lives are complicated and fraught with so many little details. We are drawn towards getting as much information as we can about other people. Why? Maybe because it's a comfort to know that other's lives are complicated and fraught too.

We are at our nosiest about people who we compare ourselves to. The people who we think we are compared to by others. We naturally want to think well of ourselves, and believe that others think well of us too. And it's this that leads us towards finding fault with others, and being worried that others are finding fault with us.

These are instinctive urges deep in our very heart and soul. Maybe somewhere in the depths of evolution or God's scheme there is a good enough reason for it, but most of the time it's plain destructive.

It's not confined to foster carers, obviously. Everyone gets wound up thinking they are being judged unfairly. 

Prime Ministers, the Royal Family, film stars, footballers, soap stars.

Social workers, teachers, nurses and doctors, bus drivers. Even....

Even who?


Even who???

Even looked-after children. Make that ESPECIALLY looked after children.

Let's come back to that.

The carer who contributed the comment deserves to feel good about everything, every single thing they have done. I can only say those words, it's for you to try to come round to knowing that.

And anyone, who accidentally or not, made you question your powers and credentials, and this could mean all of us, yes me included, and not just other carers, must TRY HARDER.

Try harder for ourselves. And for our children. Because, you know what? I read that comment a good few times and missed something. It didn't jump out at me until I was pecking away at the keyboard.

Somewhere, in that comment, is a child. A child who has been placed and re-placed, and re-re-placed, and as far as we know is still on the move. 

If anybody feels really, really unfairly judged it's the child. Because we know from all our training it's not the child's fault that they have massive issues.  They are even more certain of the injustice of their lives than the experts.

What can we do? Our best, as this carer did, to try for the child. And if our home and well-being is under unacceptable threat, we contribute that to a professional decision - as you clearly did.

You participated in a decision that was right for you and the child.

Of course the injustice of being made to feel inadequate is excruciating. But the injustice of waking up in yet another strange bedroom, with a new set of people, who say they want to help you until you give them a regular dose of how angry you really deserve to be, wake up in another strange bedroom. 

I hope to God  you don't feel any criticism in that last bit. None is intended. You did all you could, and did it better than any of the previous carers...

Oh hell, there I go again.

The Secret Foster Carer

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Interesting comment I noticed:

"I am a new foster carer and find your blog brilliant. Although I'm fairly new..., already had some great experiences but also felt the full force of bitching and back stabbing !!"

Brief and to the point.

I think I know what the anonymous carer might be concerned about. 

New foster carers are braced for the challenges of taking a troubled child into our home, although nothing can prepare you for the actual realities of the job. We have to evaluate and work with an individual child who is totally unique. The professionals fill us in about  common issues such as attachment disorders, meeting basic needs, and observing Safe Care plans. Quite right.

But fostering is about being alone in our private homes, managing huge minute-by-minute moments which we believe matter a lot.

You do get some great experiences, like she says.

So where's the "bitching" and "back stabbing"?

Maybe it's this...

The job of fostering raises your awareness, sharpens your perceptions of people.We foster carers become massively sensitive. Maybe, sometimes, too sensitive. It's happening with me all the time.

You show up at a support meeting and the Social Workers seem more friendly to other carers than you. You get it in your head that individual carers or little cliques of carers want you to join them and see the world their way, which usually means sharing negatives. And you better get with them. Else you might end up as one of their negatives.

There is an element of competitiveness that some people in fostering can't resist. It might make them better carers for it, it might not make them better colleagues.

You make a call to the office about something else, wondering if you should mention that you feel a bit vulnerable, but don't. Then you find yourself wondering if the office sits around after your call talking about you and what you are like. 

You know you have a job to do; to care for a troubled child. It's tiring and difficult to tell how well you are doing.

And because you're nerves are raw, you start seeing little demons. 

You show up at training and support meetings and think people notice that you are wearing the same outfit you wore last time.That the thing you just said was rubbish. You agonise about whether to say that things are going well or badly with your child. You try to work out whether the group want you to say you are doing well or struggling. Maybe you just say nothing; and worry that the group think you are ineffectual.

If the carer who posted the comment wishes to contact me personally to take their very real and important concerns further, without in any way compromising their identity, I'll talk to Blue Sky this morning about a discreet way of us going one-to-one *, whether you are a Blue Sky carer or not. I hope I can help.

In the meantime, whoever you are, thanks for sharing, And thanks for doing the best job in the world.

The Secret Foster Carer

* Blue Sky got on it straight away; you can drop me a private email at

ps, Whenever I'm looking over my shoulder for things that aren't there I'm reminded of something a colleague once said to me "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you." It doesn't help much, but it's clever enough to make me smile.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Grandparents had a spaniel when I was very little, and Gran decided she needed a course of Bob Martins tablets (the spaniel that is).

Judy, the dog, used to live on a diet of dog biscuits and leftovers. Anything put on her white tin plate, she'd wolf it down. Grandad brought a whole rabbit home one night, and Judy scoffed the bits such don't want the details.

They decided to buy some tins of dog food and mix two Bob Martins with each meal. Judy always bolted her food so fast, they hoped she'd not notice or care about the tablets and down the hatch they'd go.

I sat at the kitchen table and watched Judy get her plate of glistening chunks and rich brown gravy, spiked with the tablets.

I sat and watched, my little feet dangling high above the kitchen lino.

Gobble gobble gulp.

All gone in 45 seconds, followed by the licking of the plate. Judy always licked clean. But hang on...

Something different this time. I hopped down from the kitchen chair and crept to peer over her shoulder. The plate was cleaning up as usual. Except for two perfectly round, bright, white Bob Martins which had been expertly pushed onto to the blue rim of the plate, and sat there, side by side as the final licks were going this way and that.

Then she walked away.

I thought I'd never again in my lifetime see such sophisticated, instinctive, determined avoidance of something that is good for you.

And then I fostered.

Vegetables, fruit, vitamin tablets, brown bread. Tap water.

You apologise that the only crisps in the cupboard are plain ones, you get a look as if to say "I told you already, none of your health food."

Not just food and drink: bedtime, reading, wearing a coat, brushing teeth, walking (anywhere).

We've had a taste of this problem with our own children, all of us. But it is magnified in looked-after children.

If it does you good, they spot it a mile off. No chance. However if it rots your teeth, guts, and mind, if it turns your brain to jelly, if it hardens your heart... Gimme!

I was at a lecture about self-harming a few years ago and when we had a ten minute break half the room went outside for a coffee and a cigarette.

I asked the lecturer if they were self-harming. He said no, because the fulfillment lay not in the harm or danger. I'm still unconvinced. I've got it in my head that looked-after children, who often crave "control" more than anything else, reserve the right to do the wrong thing with their body and mind, because, let's face it, the poor loves; it's the only thing they've got left for sure that belongs to them.

So at Blue Sky, the training tells us that if they come downstairs dripping blood from a sliced forearm, we say "Are you okay? Do you want some paper towels?" In other words, don't make a big deal, or try to argue the toss, just offer love and help.

So maybe, when they want a dinner of prawn cocktail crisps washed down with a blue Slush Puppy, then be the last to go to bed, we sometimes go with the flow.

Gran finally got Judy to swallow her Bob Martins. Every night for a month Grandad would hold her jaws open (the dog's) and she lobbed them at the back of Judy's throat.

And there are times when we have to dig in too and stick to our guns.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


You know him, but not by his real name, which is Graeme. 

He has no idea who his father is.

He was adopted at the age of four months.

His new parents adopted another baby, a girl. That's when he thinks they told him he was adopted:

"One of the sharpest memories of my childhood is how my mother explained to me what adoption meant. I can’t remember how old I was, but I suspect it was when I was five, when my sister arrived. But what I do remember — with perfect clarity after four decades — are the precise words she used: You’re different from other children because we chose you. You didn’t grow under my heart, you grew in it.’Writing those words, I realise they can read like something from a soap opera script or slushy pulp fiction. But those words meant, and still mean, all the world to me."

The parents discovered after adopting the baby girl that she was profoundly deaf, having no hearing in one ear and only a fraction in the other. They loved her and dedicated themselves to her as much as to their adopted son. He knew this and says he remembers their love to this day.

"I was given the most precious gift any child can have — unconditional love, stability, security — by parents who had gone out of their way, who’d had their lives intimately scrutinised, who’d jumped willingly and uncomplainingly through bureaucratic hoops just to make my life whole."

Any ideas who he is? If you know, because you're better informed than me, well done.

He goes on:

"Children in dysfunctional homes at risk of abuse are kept in danger for too long because politically correct rules mean we won’t challenge unfit parents."

If you're thinking to yourself that people who do our work need someone in government with these kind of views and experiences, I'll tell you now, the man is Education Secretary and possible future Prime Minister, Michael Gove.

"But the real problem doesn't lie with the councils or the social workers they employ. In many cases, social workers are the unsung heroes of the adoption process, selfless professionals who care deeply about children at risk. The real culprits are, all too often, the judges who rule on care proceedings.
They can take for ever to make decisions and the worst won’t trust the word of committed social workers who want children to be rescued from danger and adopted quickly."

However. Before we foster carers run away with the happy hope there's a man at the top on our side, he's actually eerily quiet about fostering. He was adopted, and like all of us his formative experiences inform his views. And clearly he is a massive supporter of adoption.

Before we all vote for him at the next election, supporting an adult who has grown from the like of whom we take into our homes, best remember he is what they call a "moderniser". He wants to change the world into what he wants it to be.

And to be honest, I worry a bit that maybe he has a deep-rooted emotional attachment to adoption, and might be sniffy about fostering.

Michael Gove Prime Minister, with his entirely understandable dedication to adoption may see fostering as pre-adoption for carers. 

But well done Michael Gove, you've fared well in life, so far.

Equally, well done Mr and Mrs Gove.

And just as equally, careful how you vote.

The Secret Foster Carer


Friday, October 12, 2012

When the phone rings...

...and it's Blue Sky's placement guy. You know your life might change a lot and fast.

I was standing in the playground waiting for a looked after child to come out of school on Thursday, raining. The mobile rings. It's the Blue Sky placement guy. The placement guy is the person who's contacted by a Local Authority Social Services when a child or children need a foster home. When placement guy calls it's always, always a massive call. 

He said "Would you be willing to take three boys who have been found in the back of a lorry from Afghanistan, they are technically asylum seekers. All aged 16. They speak no English. Two are Sunni Muslims, the other is a Shiite."

So what do you say? Obviously, the answer is yes. Placement guy says "Thank you, we'll put you forward and I'll call you, it may be tonight."

When a local authority suddenly have a child or children who need a home, they check out all the possible foster carers, and Blue Sky, covering most of the south of England and with a high Ofsted ranking; they usually get a call, especially when it's a challenger. It's the Local Authority Social Services who check out all the possible foster homes, and make the decision.

You phone partner, partner agrees.

Now you're walking to the car with looked after child. "You know we love you very much, and you are very important to us."


It's an issue for looked after children when other looked after children arrive. They will almost certainly feel anxious. They will wonder why you want other children; is it something they've done? Are we bored of them? Will they be sidelined?

Actually, there's some sense in that last worry, that they'll be sidelined; how can you avoid devoting time and effort to new placements, and that means a bit less - or what seems like a bit less to them -for the children who've been with you a while.

We try to make the incumbents feel like they're sharing our job.

In the car I explained to child the new children would be frightened and hungry. They came from a country far far away and were trying to make a life for themselves. And they couldn't speak English.

Child was quiet, thoughtful. 

When we got home I looked up the language: Farsi. Used to be called Persian. Taught myself to say "Hello" - "Salam". Child runs with the language thing, learned to say "Welcome my friend" and "How are you?", in Farsi.

Call from Blue Sky; the boys will not be brought to us until next day at the earliest. They email over a guide to looking after Asylum Seeking children. 

We spend the evening sprucing up spare bedrooms, sorting towels, looking up recipes with rice and lamb. Wondering if we should take down the print in the hall of a woman who happens to have bare arms. Make a list of things to get from Tesco first thing: toothbrushes, flannels, T shirts, track suit trousers. We have enough spare dressing gowns. We talk through up-grading Safe Care.

"Safe Care" is the little things that prevent big embarrassing moments, like people forgetting to lock the bathroom door. Or nipping to the loo at 3.00 am in their pants.

Next morning, you sit waiting for the call. You try to imagine three boys who've stowed away in a lorry and sat across Europe all the way to England, then get caught. Who paid for them? And why? Did their parents, despairing of their children's chances in a war-torn country pool their pennies to get them on the truck? Are they really sixteen? Do they really know no-one in England or is someone waiting in the shadows for them? And if so, why?

You know the Blue Sky Office is manned early doors, but you don't call. They'll call you when there's something to tell you. 

You sit wondering how your life is going to change. 

Call comes: "I'm afraid the boys have been found a family in London who are Muslim, and it's felt they will be better suited there, than with you. We're really grateful you were up for this placement, and hope you've not been through too much in preparing yourselves for this".

"We're fine about this, it makes perfect sense, we hope the boys will be okay."

I phone partner. Partner understands.

I pick up child from school. "Those boys aren't coming to us, they're going to a family that follows their religion, and that's best for them".

"Yeah" says child. "Can I have a lolly?"

Child got lolly.

The Secret Foster Carer

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Thought I'd share this with you...

One of our children brought spelling homework home, to do with adding "ing" and "le" on the ends of words.
About 30 in all.
See if you thought what I thought, from the point of view of a looked after child.



See, with this particular child and words; I was on the phone at the weekend spelling out a postcode to someone at the other end. I went "P for Peter, M for Mother..." and the child shouted across the kitchen at me: "No! Not M for Mother! M for Michael (child's imaginary friend)."

This child has heard all those words used in angry confrontational situations. "Fitting" for this child, does not mean "appropriate". No one has ever said to this child "It was fitting of you to be so well behaved over dinner". Or "We have to go to Saville Row this afternoon for another fitting of your Lord Fauntleroy suit". 

As for "Slapping"! What image do you get when you hear that word?

Ok there were about 60% neutral  words; even a good one "cuddle". But it got me thinking about whether whoever put the list together was having a bad day or deliberately giving teachers a chance to spot if any child in the class may be subjected to unpleasantness at home.

Probably neither, just my overactive awareness of everything; a common mind-set for foster carers.

Mind, I once had a late-night game of scrabble, and we ended in stitches when we looked at the words we'd put down, because they told us exactly what was on our subconscious. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


We'd had a good Sunday, looking forward to swimming. This fostered child, age seven, likes swimming. We make swimming the focus of Sunday, so the later we go swimming the longer the happiness of looking forward to it. The morning slipped by sweetly, we got a few jobs done, we and the child pottered happily.

We swam, came home and brewed some hot chocolate which went down well.

I should add, the child had Contact the previous day, and we've learned that if there is an emotional backlash, with this child it comes about 24 hours later.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, "Contact" is when fostered children have a meet-up with their real parents, or other family, maybe sisters and brothers, grandparents, maybe family friends. It sometimes unsettles the child.

It's 4.00pm, that awkward time on a Sunday. What is there to do? We find anything we can find to airbrush out the thought that it's school in the morning.

Child asked to have a play on a laptop game site. We have a laptop with full parental controls, and insist it can only be used by our children with myself or partner in the room. I was using that particular laptop myself, so I switched to the private one which is password protected - it has documents on it relating to fostering, and as we are reminded every chance Blue Sky get, you cannot be too careful. Suppose a child pulled out an email about themselves, or worse a half-finished report detailing something they'd done and our analysis of it.

So child, apparently, is in a state of bliss, on the sofa between myself and my partner who is watching some TV. Child fires up the game site. Fine. Child pumps up the volume to the max. So loud it fills the living room. Partner cannot hear the TV. I cannot concentrate on my laptop. I look at partner, partner looks at me. Child knows we are exchanging looks.

I say "Could you turn it down a bit please, it's a bit loud?"

That's all I said. 

One minute child seems just fine, then, from apparently nowhere child's body jerks rigid in absolute rage. Screams;


So here we go.

Partner and I think, think, think. We can leave the room, stay and put up with it, or ask again.

"It's very loud, can you just turn it down a bit please?"


Child now screws up face, clenches fists, screams like a banshee and sobs, sobs sobs. Drawing in huge loud gasps of air to fuel earsplitting roars of rage.


Okay, next move?

"Calm down, we know you need to hear the sound, I'll get some earphones for you."

No dice, the earphones. "They don't fit my ears, they keep falling out... STOPPIT I HATE YOU! AAAAARRGH!"

Child shoves laptop to one side and runs out of the room. Flits from place to place spitting anger  and trying to provoke a reaction.

We start cooking Sunday dinner. A roast. Child joins us in kitchen, gets a couple of cooking tools out out a drawer. Could have been a carving knife or a bread knife. No. Chooses a spatula and a metal knife sharpener. Runs around waving them like swords.

Dinner. Fine. Food always settles. We do the washing up. Now it's bedtime. We know what's coming. Stay neutral. Bath first. Bath-time goes well, warm water always settles.

Child comes downstairs for a hair dry in the kitchen.

Time to go back up to bed.

"I'm not going to bed!"

Child picks up a soft toy and throws it at a window. We usher child up the stairs.


Now you have a moment. You have yourself a looked after child you care about, who is planning an all-out assault on your authority, challenging everything you want to do. You could let the child run free around the house until it's your own bedtime, or show the child how much you care by keeping control, and devoting yourself to the right thing.

The child makes to run downstairs. We stand in the way. The child tries to dodge past. Take hold gently by the shoulders. All the while saying softly "It's bedtime. You have to stay in your room."

Child launches. Yelling and throwing toys. I pick child up and cradle, baby style. Partner stays by my side. Child is shouting to be let go. This lasts 10 minutes.

I put the child on the bed. Child hits me, not hard, with favourite toy. Winnie The Pooh. I say "If you hit me with anything again, I'll take Pooh away. Child gives me a mild whack with hand. I take Pooh away.

 Child says: "You said if I hit you with anything else you'd take Pooh away, but I didn't hit you with anything else I hit you with my hand, so you can't take Pooh away."

Half an hour later we gave child back the Pooh toy. Child smiled. We said "You okay?" Child replied "Yes, Because I won!"

Partner and I sat up talking about it as you do. We worked out the reason child exploded over the laptop was because it wanted one or both of us to watch it play, but felt embarrassed to ask, so just cranked up the volume to get attention. We missed that.

We shouldn't have  brought child downstairs for a hair dry because the transition upstairs is huge and if you've got your child in a good place, and upstairs, at bedtime, keep it there.

The child's violence, such as it was, stayed inside the line. Throwing a soft toy at a window isn't going anywhere, and choosing harmless kitchen equipment for fighting when there's serious stuff like knives shows the child is dealing in symbolic aggression not the real stuff.

But the main thing we talked about, because we've seen it many times before, is that when they go into tantrum mode, they are more likely to be in cunning control of everything than we are. They are often highly experienced  in chaotic confrontations.

These poor little people. The things they've been through.

I'll never forget how this child went into lawyer mode and quoted the exact precision of a clause about Pooh Bear which was legally correct, probably enforceable in law and something I was blurred on because I was flustered. This child was cooler in chaos than me.

This child is a love of our life. The reasons for this child's problems, I would love to share with you. There are two reasons why I can't. One is the child's right to privacy, which is sacred. Two, you wouldn't believe me. Honestly, you wouldn't.

Child is making great progress, slowly but surely.

Child is my hero, in fact. As is my partner, the more so for being a foster carer who's embraced, with me,  the whole incredible fostering experience.  

We love it, it's just the best thing you can ever do.

The Secret Foster Carer

Monday, October 01, 2012


I was at a Blue Sky support meeting, quite recently, and we carers were asked to take it in turns to talk about what we like about fostering. 

The comment that stuck in my mind was the lady who was there with her partner, they'd been fostering for some time. "We've had two of ours turn up at the doorstep ages after they've left us, and said 'Thank you'.

Driving home I thought about what she said for quite a bit. Was this lady saying she fosters to hear them say "Thank you"? 

There's nothing wrong with doing things in life to make people grateful. It's better than doing things to make people ungrateful, or doing nothing at all. 

If a child of mine says "Thank you" when I put beans on toast in front of them, it makes me a bit happy, happier than if they say "I don't like Best of Both bread." or "He's got more beans than me."

But if they say "I like the way you do beans on toast" I'm made up. 

Then I ask "What's to like about my beans on toast?" and they reply "Because you cut the toast into little squares before you pour the beans on, so it's easy to make mouthfuls when I'm watching Spongebob." That's when I float back into the kitchen and find myself humming  that annoying "Tonight We Are Young" song while I'm scouring out the saucepan. Happy as it gets, actually.

Okay, it's only happened the once, so far. But it happened.

The lady at the support meeting who said she'd had two of her fostered children turn up at the doorstep to say thank you; she doesn't foster to hear "Thank you", though it helps. She fosters because she loves it, and they loved being with her and her partner enough to travel all the way to the lady's house to say thank you. 

It wasn't like the robot "Thank you" letter to a distant aunt who'd sent a Christmas card with a £5 cheque inside. It wasn't a phone call or a message passed on by a Social Worker. They took a bus, or got a ride or whatever, travelled across town or county, and turned up at the door.

This lady does it because she gets massive fulfillment from doing something unbelievably rewarding. Not only that, doing it well. Well enough for not only one, but two of her children to make the journey. Pilgrimage almost, I wouldn't be surprised.

This tells her, for certain, she got it right. Confirmation. She's doing the job well, or at least as well as she can, and that's the most any of us can do. It's great when our Social Worker says we're doing a good job. It's nice when our Annual Reviews give us a pat on the back. Sometimes you know it's them being encouraging, nothing wrong with that.

But when you hear it from the horses mouth. Then it's official. After all, they're what matters.

She loves them and she loves fostering. And she's good, very good at it. 

The Secret Foster Carer