Sunday, July 21, 2013

When they ask "What's the point?"

Looked-after children are usually acutely aware that their lives are worse than most other children.

Many foster children have given up trying before they come into care. Their parents have let them down; neglected or abused them, they have no reliable extended family, no dependable siblings, no solid friendships. Their teachers and schools have often admitted defeat. They don't trust the police or social workers.

Then the day dawns when they are standing in your hallway with a bag of tattered clothes and a few broken toys.

They don't have any broken dreams, because they've never risked having any dreams, knowing they would have ended up being broken.

So when we try to persuade them to get up and get to school on time, or to complete their homework, or try a bit harder with their maths or English, we can't invoke the pledge which my generation was told when we were at school, which went something like this:

Work hard at school, get the best exams results you can, and you'll be rewarded with a good job, which will in turn help you to be happy.

Just while we're on the subject, I'm not sure there are many children of any background who believe it nowadays. I am sure it cuts no ice with the average looked-after child.

So, let me ask you, reading these words, how did you tell your children what the point of living is?

And if you foster, or are thinking of fostering, what would you say to someone else's child?

To be honest it's not a question any child has asked me outright. But one suspects it's in their mind a lot.

Myself and a number of other carers I've spoken to agree that looked-after children are curious about how a functioning family works. Of course, no-one's family feels like it's functioning to its members, but if you have a foster child in your home, believe me, they'll think they've landed in with The Waltons.

I make sure I'm honest with them, and if sometimes my partner and I get on each others nerves we are not ashamed to say so, then make up and laugh about it ten minutes later. We never raise our voices in front of them, or let disagreements last. But we also are honest about the fact that we love each other and that love, plus our love for our children, is the biggest thing in our lives.

We let them know we have to work at it. If they ask we admit we split up once for a few years, before our children were born, but patched it up.

So I guess if we hint there is a point to life, it's love.

From now on I'm going to finish any such conversation with them by playing the game where people have to think of song titles with "Love" in them and substitute "Hove"

Hove Is A Many Splendoured Thing

All You Need Is Hove

I'll Do Anything For Hove (But I Won't Do That)

Crazy Little Thing Called Hove

A World Without Hove...

Secret Foster Carer


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