Monday, October 28, 2013

Be Prepared

I found there are many things you have to get used to when you start fostering, such as being at the ready at any time to get a phone call asking if you can take a child who might turn up within a couple of hours. Blue Sky advise you to keep a few things at the ready, such as some T shirts and track suit trousers of varying sizes because sometimes the child has only the clothes they’re standing up in. Cans of baked beans, a spare toothbrush. And the spare bed all ready made up with clean sheets, obviously.

ONE thing that I found took a bit of getting used to at first was training. Foster Carers are offered training sessions which happen at the Blue Sky office closest to where you live, about every few weeks or so.

YOU log on to the “Carers” section on the website and it gives you a timetable of the sessions that are planned, and a description of what they are about. The “Carers” section is private and you are given a password to get into it.

ONE or two of the training sessions are mandatory, things that you have to know or be refreshed about, such as First Aid, which makes sense obviously.

FIRST AID has to be taken every 3 years, it was the first training session I attended after being approved, and it was run by people from St Johns Ambulance. It was interesting and useful, for example I thought mouth-to-mouth was the thing to do if someone has stopped breathing but it turns out that they prefer you to concentrate on pumping the heart, while giving mouth-to-mouth at the same time. You get to practice resuscitation on dummies of children of different ages which is also useful. With an adult you press down on the chest with both hands and your body weight. With an infant you just use the tips of your first two fingers.

BUT the thing I found I had to overcome with training was the feeling of going back to school. I don’t care what anyone says, no-one really liked school. I didn’t, my children don’t, none of the foster children I’ve had would rather go to school than not go to school. So going “back to school” calls for a big breath, but it’s well worth the effort.

WHEN I started going to Foster Training I remembered that the only time I’d been in a class since leaving school was when I signed up to do an eight week Aromatherapy course at our local FE College, and I found myself getting worried about being late, sounding stupid if I answered questions wrongly, or getting into trouble if I shared a joke with the person next to me.

A while ago I was late arriving at A Blue Sky training session being run by a retired police officer. I was nearly twenty minutes late. I listened through the door and could hear a loud, confident male voice in full flow, but I managed to knock (feebly) on the door, and open it enough to look in.

HE said “Hello! Welcome. Thank you for coming, please come in, let me find you a seat. You haven’t missed a great deal. If you like I’ll go over my introduction with you when we break for coffee.”

SO. Not like school at all!

WELL, there is one aspect that’s a bit like school, making friends. When you break for coffee during training sessions, that’s when you find yourself bonding, because everyone is in the same boat, and has plenty to talk about, and you find yourself swapping phone numbers or even arranging to meet up for coffee at one of your houses.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Multitasking at Teatime

THIS morning I was awake early, and as usual I was thinking about jobs. Sometimes I can't really imagine what people think about if it's not the jobs they have to do. It's actually quite a comfort to have a tick list in your head all day, with the things you've got done crossed off, and the next things to be done lined up. Yesterday it was time to cook tea and the table has to be cleared of opened mail and homework stuff and ripped up packaging from the headphones that came in the post but aren't right so will have to be sent back and someone will have to monitor to make sure that the payment is refunded because the website said you could and we do want a refund because we want a different pair now anyway from a different website so instead of throwing the packaging away I'm examining it to see if the rips are small enough to re-use the packaging and already you're behind in your jobs.

AND you start a pan boiling for the potatoes and at the same time get a tea towel off the hook to clear the draining board of upturned cups and spoons and cereal bowls, only you pick up one of the cups and notice tea stains near the top and it needs a proper scrub so it goes back in the dry sink and you notice there are two other cups in the sink and you need to have a word again about people not washing up after themselves.

YOU get five potatoes out of the bag, then an extra one to be on the safe side, hunt the potato peeler out of the drawer, and start scraping them, something you find you do furiously fast for some reason. You fetch the packet of sausages from the fridge.

THEN your foster child comes down and plonks on a chair at the kitchen table, funny how children are drawn to a kitchen once cooking starts. She says she needs a new phone, and you have to show some interest while getting the sausages out of the wrapper without touching them or you have to wash your hands and she's explaining that her phone is crap and that the screen is cracked, and you wonder if she did it accidentally on purpose to get a new one but don't ask while getting out the scissors to separate the sausages and simultaneously rub the tea stains off the cups in the sink and put them on the draining board.

YOU hear your foster child murmur; “Guess what?” and you have to reply “What?” and she says “I got detention Monday”. And you go to the freezer to get a bag of sweetcorn and there's not enough in the bag so it's going to be peas. Or maybe beans. You say “Oh no! What for?” and she replies “Nothing.”  You find your frying pan among the other pans and go to the larder for the sunflower oil because you need a drop in there to stop them sticking, and as you put the plastic bottle of oil in the larder you make a mental note you'll need to buy some more before the end of the week, you wonder how to follow up the detention thing without stressing her out.

SO you run the scissors under a tap while and stick them back in the drawer thinking they've probably still got sausage on them but people can take their chances. Then as you're getting four plates out and four lots of knives and forks you say “What are you supposed to have done then?” in your best casual voice.

YOU check the potatoes which are boiling hard but you don't want mash because someone doesn’t eat mash, you’re lucky they eat boiled, so you have to stay with the potatoes. You get a medium saucepan out of the cupboard and flick on the kettle to get some hot water for the peas. You mentally rehearse how to apologise it’s peas not sweetcorn. 

“I was wondering what you're supposed to have done then?”, as I pour probably a few too many peas into the pan and notice the kettle has gone “Phhhhhht” because it hardly had any water in it when I switched it on. So you cross to the sink to fill it up halfway and hear “I don't know do I?”

SO the kettle is boiling, the potatoes and the sausages are away, you have a moment so you go over and sit down and say “Is there anything I can do?” and you hear, “You can get Stephanie Whatsername and her lot off my back. And Mrs Munroe.”  So you sigh and say your “oh dears” and put a hand on a shoulder and now she's crying, or at least there are some tears. Anger? Fear? Or because you're being kind?

YOU have to get up to check the potatoes, turn them down, and flip the sausages, which suggests you aren't 100% focussed, so you say something to show you're in the moment; “ Were they being not very nice then?”

BUT it's like you've been rude by getting up and she says “Who cares?!” and you leave the food and sit down again to show she is more important than cooking and she knows she's kind of pushing you to ruin the meal and you want to say let's talk later but that isn't right so you say “I'll just turn everything down” so you do and come back. And it turns out there was a fight and she's on a warning for exclusion.

EXCLUSION. This happens to lots of kids not just foster children. What do you do when it's your own kids? You call the school and ask for the facts. You decide to do that in the morning, but don't say so. You have to think of a distraction.

YOU say “Have you chosen a phone you want?”
“What's it like?”
“It's a G4 Spukii Android phablet, do you know the one I mean? Like I saw on Hollyoaks dunno how they do that ‘cos they only came out two weeks ago and my mum says soaps are recorded six weeks ahead or something.”
“Is Jasmine still going out with that Brandon?”
“You what?”
“In Hollyoaks.”
“That's not Hollyoaks.”
“Waterloo St?”
“It's Waterloo Road”

PANIC over. I learned all this changing-the-subject technique at training.  What's more, I caught the potatoes before they fell apart, and the sausages were okay too, though I've never had a sausage sent back yet. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

I am the new Secret Foster Carer.

Hi, allow me to introduce myself. I am a relatively new foster carer and I confess I am still learning the ropes.

I'm also not particularly experienced in writing, but I enjoyed reading the Secret Foster Carer, and Blue Sky asked me because I mentioned the Secret Foster Carer often when having meetings with my social worker, plus I read a lot. Even when we have a placement, I can't go to sleep without reading a chapter of whatever's on the go.

Like the first Secret Foster Carer, I have to keep my identity hidden for obvious reasons. I have children of my own, plus my other half, "Bill" who has agreed that I can talk about how fostering affects him.

Blue Sky have been very understanding easing us into fostering and they always talk about "matching", which is where they look at your home setup and try to find children to fit it. To be honest we agreed, Bill and I, that if it affected the kids we'd pull out. So far so good. It's always something you can go back to when the kids are either mature or balanced enough or leave home.

We started with respite weekends, the same child three and a half times. What happened the fourth time was that she needed to be got to school and there was nobody else (the foster mother had another child who had to be driven somewhere else that morning) and they didn't think a taxi was an option, so I said yes I'd drive her. I can't remember if I got paid the allowance for it, it was one of those things you'd do to help out. She is a lovely girl.

Our first proper placement was a teenage boy whose placement had broken up, not through any fault of his. The family had a crisis all of their own and he had to be found a new home while they sorted themselves out. His foster mother drove him over to us, and he put a really brave face on it but you could tell he was upset about what was going on. Our social worker warned us that he might be angry, but he never showed it. What happened was he bonded with Bill. Bill likes his football and the boy did too. The boy didn't like his foster dad as much as the foster mum, I think the dad was a bit distant and not very blokey.

One Saturday evening when Match of the Day came on Bill offered him a can of lager (he was old enough), luckily the boy said no thanks. I looked daggers at Bill and later we looked up the rules in the Blue Sky manual. We talked it over with our social worker who said alcohol is basically a no-no even if they are old enough, but agreed that being offered helped the boy somehow feel like he was becoming an adult.

The boy's permanent foster carers came and collected him after their home situation was sorted out, and to the best of our knowledge he's doing fine.

We find you never forget a single thing about any of the children who come in and share your home and family life.

The Secret Foster Carer

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

From Blue Sky Fostering:

The current Secret Foster Carer is taking a well earned rest from blogging.

We have found a new Blue Sky Fostering foster carer who will be sharing their thoughts and experiences of fostering with you very soon.

We look forward to you continuing to comment and joining in with the debates.