Friday, March 07, 2014


From a purely selfish point of view, foster carers can be grateful for all the turbulence in the lives of almost everybody today. So many children in schools nowadays turn up with things going on in their family's life.

When I was a child at school there were no fellow pupils in fostering, unless it was kept secret. That's a possibility of course.

We had only a very small number of pupils who we thought were different. There was one ethnic boy at my junior school who I remember being on his own a lot in the playground, but he was a good footballer and that stood him in good stead. And in my secondary school, a girl who walked stiffly because she had callipers, who seemed just to be another girl. But at both schools, there was an awareness among pupils of their differentness. The ratio of differentness was about 300 to 1. Although I never saw any bad things, we all knew that they knew that we knew they were different.

These were the days when almost every child sat up straight, faced the front and had two parents living together under the same roof. Father worked 9 to 5, and mother kept house. Almost every child was white, able-bodied, known by a name the teacher was familiar with, and brought up in a culture the teacher knew and understood.

Nowadays a huge percentage of the average class have issues.  Many have single-parent issues. Others have step-parent issues. Or foster carer issues - I'll come back to that. The modern class has Muslims and Hindus with different needs from the spiritual to the culinary. There are pupils with borderline Aspergers, and others with mosaic Attention Deficit Disorder or low level Oppositional Defiance Disorder. 

The mother of one child I know was formerly her father. True. And so what?

The ageing teacher dreams of her retirement cottage, but hankers for the day when the only mild disruptions in class came from a small number of pupils who were simply "troublemakers".

Teachers are individuals too. Some are bright young things, pioneering away with modern methods, happy to be the children's friend; "Call me Dave". Some are weary after a lifetime of work which began in front of the blackboard, and is ending with a white board thing connected to a computer, which plays up a lot. Some are from different countries, different backgrounds, different lifestyles. 

The class teacher at one of our foster children's first school had herself been in foster care from the age of one. His next teacher was working through a very acrimonious divorce.

Thinking back to when I was at school, if it had come out that a pupil was in foster care the child would have been known to every pupil for that fact alone. But today, with so many people in the average school carrying all manner of issues, a child who is in foster care is, frankly, no more standout than about 50% of the pupils. In fact, one almost feels sorry for the kids with no story.

Looking back, teachers could have done more for the different pupils when I was at school. I'm guessing there was none of the training in diversity that's in place now.

Today the rainbow of differentness among pupils is absolutely fantastic. I don't wish trouble on anybody, far from it. However it helps us foster carers that there's so much going on in everybody's lives.

It eases our job because although being in foster care is a huge issue for the child, one we carers are always hyper-alert to, it's got a lower profile than ever,  and that's a good thing from our foster child's point of view, because they want to be known for who they are and what they think and say and do, not the things that the world has done to them which is no fault of their own.

Some people worry that all the turbulence in people's lives is taking us down a path towards some kind of madness. I am one of those people. But at this moment in time, the hurly-burly works in favour of fostering, and if you're in fostering you'll know how you need every card the world deals you that boosts your hand.


  1. Yes, viva la difference! I would live to see schools getting more positive support and resources to differentiate even further. Seems like education policy is trying to homogenise kids. We need difference and we need even more tolerance and celebration of uniqueness. In particular wouldn't it be great if ALL kids got to do life story work at some stage, not just single out foster kids. After all, being a kid is all about fostering one's own, unique identity.

  2. Hi Harvey, thanks for your comment. I think your idea of all children doing life story work is brilliant. In many ways the growing craze to trace our ancestors shows a yearning for us all to discover our life story, maybe everyone should do it.