Friday, October 31, 2014


Christmas is hard to get right for for all of us no matter what your situation. It calls for a lot of thought.

Even more thought if you foster.

But a fostering Christmas can be better than any Christmas you've ever had.

For one thing you have extra help; in my case Blue Sky to ring for a chat about how to handle things.

If a foster child is going to be with you over Christmas, Blue Sky go to work on how to construct the whole thing so that it works for your family and the child.

Say you have a foster child who might or might not be with you through Christmas, that is to say they might go home on December 24th. I've had this one. Presents? What to do?

Maybe you have a child who had weekly Contact with their real parents on December 19th  but the Boxing Day Contact gets cancelled. The parents decline seeing their child on Boxing Day due to some vague operational difficulties and you have to explain to the child why their need to attend a family knees up is greater than seeing their own child. 

As foster carers we have three big jobs

One: To help the child understand the love their real family has for them (the emotional job).

Two: To get some nice presents for child (the delightful job).

Three: Balancing a foster child in your home on Christmas Day (the tricky job).

One year, this happened. I woke about 5.00am on Christmas morning with the rest of the house fast asleep. I crept downstairs and made myself a cup of tea, lit the tree lights, lit some candles and waited for people to wake up. We have a fireplace, we don't use it much, bit of a fag. But we'd set it up with some kindling and logs. I lit the fire, and put on a CD of carols, quietly.

I heard  a creak on the stairs. It's about a quarter to six. Dark. A Christmas tree with lights on in the corner and a proper fire in the hearth. Hark The Herald Angels Sing.

Presents under the tree, some with her name on.

The creak on the stairs was the foster child. A kid who had been deprived of most of the basics. If you go to Blue Sky training you hear a lot about a hierarchy of needs. Food, water, warmth come first (things you die if you don't have). Then they look for higher needs, things like safety (knowing what's happening). Then when they've got that they look for friendship, family and a sense of belonging. Then self esteem. Finally they get a balanced picture of who they are and what the world is; self-actualisation.

And you know what? Christmas can deliver the whole bundle for a foster child. 

She peered nervously round the door. "Good morning!" I whispered.

"Whatcha doin'?" She asked.

""Enjoying a moment" I replied "Coming in?"

"Ain't got my dressing gown on"

"Nip up and put it on, it's still a bit chilly. I'll make you some toast. Then come down and choose something off the tree."

She did as I asked, checked which presents had her name on them, then checked the presents she was giving the family. She spent five minutes choosing a chocolate bauble, then simply sat and ate it slowly, staring into the gathering fire, as people do.

Then the  child said something I will never forget, I remind myself every year when the first signs of Christmas appear, she said:

"This feels like a dream."

We've all said "I must be dreaming" from time to time. I say it when someone washes up their own mug instead of stealthily leaving it in the sink. It's usually just an expression.

The child actually, genuinely, wasn't sure if she was awake and actually seeing what she was seeing. Feeling what she was feeling.


Each Christmas since we've been fostering we've tried to get the balance right between our own children's needs and any foster child sharing Christmas with our family. We have various little rituals which the child is welcome to join in with if they want, and we discuss it in advance with our own children because we try to keep the sanctity of our family unit and our little heritage intact.

For example, everyone stays in their dressing gowns until presents have been opened. Then the children stay in their dressing gowns until Christmas dinner. It's a symbol of the fact that for one single day every year the outside world can stay away, we are all we need. All the insecurity of the outside world is banished for one day each year. The foster children have always joined in.

This year will be no different.

As for the tricky job of balancing the foster child within your own family during this very personal and family-oriented festival, I find this works a treat, I give the foster child a budget to buy presents for all the family. Doesn't have to be expensive. A bag of nuts for 'dad' (my other half considers cashews the height of opulence), Badedas for me, and so on.

And Christmas in our house doesn't end until someone announces the official verdict;

"I reckon this has been the best Christmas ever".

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Only very rarely do I wonder what life would be like if I'd not taken up fostering.

Once in a blue moon I find myself noticing other people my age doing things that are tricky when you foster. 

I sometimes see a lunchtime group of ladies who have just done Pilates and are having a slice of pizza and a glass of Chardonnay before going off to have their hair done. Well actually I could do that if I wanted to.

A woman I vaguely know stopped me recently and said all chirpy: "Do you know anywhere I can get a model or small statue of a whippet?" I had to be honest and say that I didn't. "You see" she went on "I make items of jewellery which I sell to raise money for the animal sanctuary, and I was thinking that a whippet would be rather good, don't you?"

I could do that too, if I wanted to.

I see people my age jogging and cycling who seem to be trying to stay fit enough to live longer in order to spend more time jogging and cycling in order to stay fit enough to live longer in order to...

As you grow in life, the question of what to do with your days becomes sharper. When I was young I just got on with the things you HAVE to do with your days, no room for thought: go to school/college, buy nice tops to wear on Friday and Saturday nights, go to the cinema, bowling, disco/night club. Look for love. Find love. Lose love, start all over again. 

By the time your children can organise their own weekends, you find yourself with time again, only this time you know a bit more than you did before.

We all seem to want to try to be as happy as possible, but not many of us actually manage to put together a whole joined up day of feeling contented. You might get a day when one of your children passes exams and a big worry is lifted, or a friend gets an all-clear. It takes something special to get us to the place we'd like to be all the time, and the feeling doesn't last long.

Last (Friday) night one of our foster children was a pain. Had a bad day at school, spent the evening being cantankerous. Went to bed without the usual "Goodnight, sleep tight don't let the bedbugs bite" routine, instead slammed the bedroom door after announcing that we were hated.

It's now early (Saturday) morning and I'm sitting in the kitchen with a cup of tea and a warm glow. Warmer than the glow I'd have if I was going jogging or getting ready for pilates or baking model whippets so that I can tell passing strangers that I am the champion of needy hedgehogs.

I'm waiting to make someone who needs me their favourite breakfast, which at the moment is a potato fritter with a slice of bacon cut up into bits and tomato sauce. 

I know my job well enough to know that a night's sleep will chase away the surface blues of a foster child, and ten minutes lying awake and thinking about last night will make the child feel contrite. Not fawning or frightened, just a bit worried they might have upset me. The smell of bacon will advertise the fact that all is well. 

The child will appear in dressing gown and ready to play X Box while munching breakfast, a Saturday treat, memories of yesterday at school all gone.

This is why I really really love fostering, learning the little things that count in the job, and enjoying the best feelings the world has to offer.

Mind, I'm not knocking Pilates. I have noticed when I bend down that they've started to put the ground further away than it used to be.

Monday, October 20, 2014


A lot of people are 'thinking' about fostering.

I hear it often from family, friends, people at gatherings, from strangers even. People leave comments on the blog.

I once got talking to a woman on the phone who was taking messages for her brother who was doing some work at our house. He'd told her that we fostered and she told me she was thinking about fostering.

They usually want to know if they would be right for fostering and vice versa.

What to say to people? The truth obviously. But here's an interesting answer I'd give if I didn't think it was a bit sort of...out there.

Last Christmas someone gave us a calendar of wise sayings, one for each day of the year. Some of them are; "Look before you leap." Others are quite good.

One of the best is about the Chinese wise man Confuscious. 

One day a woman went up to him and said she was thinking about joining a religion and wanted to know whether Confuscious recommended religion, and if so which religion was the best one. Confuscious looked at the woman and pointed his spindly finger. Then he walked away.

The woman was perplexed. She went away and told her friend. They sat down trying to work it out. Other people joined in and they all started arguing. "Confuscious's meaning is that you must move forward in life" said one "No" said another "He wanted you to go away and decide for yourself" "No" said yet another "His finger meant there is only one true religion, you must find it".

Then someone said "Hang on, maybe he was pointing AT something" So they returned to the spot where the woman had met Confuscious and traced the direction he had pointed. It was towards a pomegranite tree.

"Aha!" said one woman, "Confuscious means that you must plant yourself in life and grow!"

The arguments went on.

The woman who had asked Confuscious the question left them and walked to the tree. She found Confuscious sitting on the other side of it, eating a pomegranate with a contented look on his face.

The woman thought and said "Do you mean that the only way a person can know if they like pomegranates is to eat one?' she asked.

Confuscious smiled. 

So the answer is to pick up the phone. Somewhere out there is a child, sad and lonely and frightened. What would she say to you if you asked her whether or not you should start fostering?

You've had a look. Now have a leap.

Pick up the phone.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


I like Ellen Degeneris, the American comedian/talk show host. I found out the other day she was picked to be Phoebe in Friends but there was a contract problem, so they hired Lisa Kudrow instead, who's brilliant.

I always think of Ellen whenever I hear the phrase "you should put yourself in their shoes", which is something I've tried to do with foster children coming into our house on day one.

When I was a child I went to stay with various relatives and friends for a week here or a weekend there. My parents were brilliant, but I have to say that I never really knew why I was going. Something to do with breaking up the school holidays or "the experience will be useful". 

I don't know if it did me any good, but I do know the feeling I had going into someone else's house with a bag of stuff that included...pyjamas.

Children are pretty well used to going to someone else's house for the day. From an early age they visit gran and grandad, get hauled over to mum's friend's house for the afternoon. They get used to the going there, the arriving  there, the leaving there; all on the same day.

I remember really vividly aged nine arriving at an aunt's house in a place in south London, near Brixton, to spend a week. She had two children about my age, so the idea was we could all play together. Could we heck. They were older boys, had a massive electric train set, their 'game' was I had to sit and watch while they choo-chooed engines around. Then they got bored and started putting plastic soldiers on the tracks and running them down with the deisel. Everything they wanted to do they could do because it was their house.

The family had a big black labrador. Unbelievably they had named him 'N*gger' (this was the late sixties, people weren't unkind, just simple). Every evening my uncle took me and the dog for a walk on the common where he would stand looking out over Brixton shouting "N*gger! N*gger! Come here N*gger!" 

You may be thinking I have an imagination, but every atom of the above is true.

The memory that sticks out is of the feeling I had that I was not just having tea in a very strange house without the familiar faces of mum and dad and sibs; I was going to have to go to bed in this strange house. Work out how to adjust to this strange house. And wake up in this strange house.

I'm trying to get a bead on what that feeling was, exactly. Ever had it happen to you when you were a peewee?

I felt: abandoned, isolated, lonely. I felt empowered by independence, freedom and a new maturity.

Most of all, I felt I was in someone else's domain. I didn't have ownership of anything except the stuff in my bag; my toothbrush and spare clothes.

It was traumatic, but I'm glad I went through it.

It doesn't help much with trying to imagine how shocking it must be for children to suddenly find themselves removed from a difficult home to a total stranger's home.

At least my family weren't in chaos, and I knew the family I was staying with, that the boys would give me a hard time, and the dog was called N*gger.

Foster children deserve a medal for getting through the day they come into care.

And the Ellen Degeneris joke that always comes to mind:

"If someone is giving you a hard time walk a mile in their shoes. Then at least you will be a mile away from them. And you have their shoes."

Monday, October 13, 2014


It's important to count your blessings, look on the bright side, stay positive and smile. For everybody, not just people who see other people in distress such as nurses, the police and foster carers.

My social worker likes to start our monthly sessions with the successes. This is round at my house, at the kitchen table, pot of tea on the go. I find I have to think hard; but then the successes are there, always. There's progress with each child every month and that's success. The reason it's hard to remember successes is that you don't have to get stuck in where something is working well. 

Where a child has problems you have to do some work; if they are frightened or despairing you have to talk and comfort and care and that's rewarding but draining. You remember the episode.  If a child is smiling it's wonderful, but a contented child means 'no action' so you forget it and get on with the washing up. A damaged child rarely rewards the carer with an eloquent verbal or physical hug when we've patched up their world. And we carers don't expect it.

It's the same thing when you ask yourself what your favourite fostering moment is. It's a healthy exercise because you start to think to yourself "Oh, it's that time when..." then you go "No no, it was  the time when..."

And you end up with a silly smile on your face. Nothing wrong with that. So here goes;

There was the time we had a lad aged 12 stay who was very angry. Not a danger to us in any way, but angry at life. He'd been locked into his bedroom for periods, nothing to play with - all his toys had been taken away as punishment for being 'naughty". 

He was surly, silent and jumpy.

I took him dog walking one day, out onto a piece of countryside which is the middle of the proverbial nowhere. Suddenly he stopped and looked around. There was nothing of civilisation in sight, not a house or a road or a pylon, nothing. His face started to beam. He threw both arms out as wide as he could, then let his head fall back so his face was looking straight up at the blue sky. He shut his eyes tight. And beamed. The widest most genuine grin I've ever seen in a looked-after child. He was at peace. Happy. 

I took a snap with my mobile (I asked him first) to show my other half, because this lad could wear you down, and I wanted Bill to share a glimpse of him in clover (literally). I deleted it afterwards.

The lad is in a secure unit now, I hear. I hope he gets out into the country occasionally. I think about him a lot.

Then there was the lad age 15 who came to us as an emergency from the foster home where he had been cared for since the previous year. The carer had been a lone mum. The lad had allegedly done something wrong, and it was being investigated. One morning I mentioned that we needed to call a plumber to have a look at the toilet which was grizzling all night. The lad nervously asked for the toolbox and disappeared upstairs. 

He fixed it. We think he probably just gave the arm of the ballcock a bit of bending. But I tell you this; he went upstairs a boy and came down a geezer. Voice an octave lower, body language all blokey. He was what they call validated. Turned out he became the man about the house in his real foster home when went back after 3 weeks with us, they found he'd done nothing wrong. I think about him a lot too.

A lad, nearly an adult, stayed with us for respite and liked it with us so much that he asked if he could move in permanently when he left fostering, no reflection on his other carers he just said he clicked in our house best of all. Didn't happen, he's out in the wide world now. When he sat us down and asked us to be his mum and dad for life...phew. Great moment. Think about him a lot.

Girl with cerebral palsy, wheelchair user. Kindest person I've ever met. How can you show kindness if you can't talk or walk? She did it with her eyes mostly, and the first time I cottoned the way she communicated which was with a mixture of eyes, head movement and speech-like noises, the moment she and I 'talked' to each other was unbelievable. I think about her a lot, especially every time I see a person using a wheelchair, only now I make a point of smiling and saying good morning to the person in the chair.

The girl who opened her heart at our kitchen table one morning. I'd agreed she didn't need to go to school, she watched a bit of telly, then came to the table because I'd laid on a big lunch. Lots of bowls of things to choose from. I got her talking and she ended up sobbing, talking about how hard her life had been, using up two sheets of kitchen roll at a time. Later she told me it was the first time anyone had listened to her.

There's a load of favourite moments once I sit down and think about it. 

Maybe my favourite moment is each of the moments when I get a chance to think about the job as a whole; and what it means to me, my family, but most of all...what it means to each of the children we have the privilege of looking after.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


The support that goes out to foster carers is fantastic. I'll be honest, we need a whole lot from time to time and we shouldn't feel shy to ask when we do. 

Recently I've been put in touch with a psychologist who has worked with a child we have. Knows the child quite well. Actually, it takes him about half an hour and he knows anybody well.

He came to our house to meet us, and made himself available on the phone if needed. I can't give his details but I can describe him for you. He is a short, stocky little fireball of an Irishman, drives a massive BMW and dresses crisply in a three-piece-suit. He fizzes with enthusiasm for the human mind, so he does. There. I'm talking like him now, so I am, so I am.

He is the best listener I've ever come across, he almost bleeds you dry of your thoughts, then sends them back to you as polished little tools to do your job.

He insists there are no accidents. Everything that everybody does is 'autobiographical' - even if we ourselves don't know why we do certain things, everything we do is deliberate and means something.

Chatting away at our kitchen table here's an example.

He used our downstairs loo and I told him how our foster child bought me a plastic stick-on coat hook with their own pocket money (I mentioned it in the post about pocket money).

"Of course a coat hook!" he chirped. "It's just a slight pity you stuck it at the height you did, so it is."

He explained that the child was unconsciously recognising the side of my character that welcomed people into the home (you have to hang up their stuff). The child wanted to thank me and pat me on the back for being, literally, somewhere you could hang your hat. He explained to me that there aren't enough things in the average house that are placed at child's height. Mirrors in the bathroom and the hall, light switches. Photos of family. And coat hooks. 

I'd stuck the coat hook on the toilet door, just to get it up somewhere to acknowledge the gift.

"Oh you did the right thing, spot on, not to just tuck it in the kitchen drawer. I can see it's not strong enough to hang a sock on. But it represents your foster child's hat and coat, the child is also saying 'Can I have a hook of my own here?"

Long story short, when he'd gone the first thing I did was prise off the hook and re-stick it on the door at the child's height. I found a distinctive mug, hung it on the mug tree, and from now on it's the child's mug. I printed off a photo of the child (taken with the child's permission) from my phone and put it in a frame and put it among the family pictures in the hall.

Earlier this week I was on the phone to him for an hour, he was listening, asking questions then jabbering (beautifully) ten to the dozen. I ended up having to say "I'm sorry but I have to hang up, my cordless is running out of battery" He replied

"Guilty! And I would like the court to take two hundred other similar offences into consideration"

I was on the floor. When he's funny he's better than Frank Carson, if you remember him ("It's the way I tell 'em!")

Has he helped? Massively.

Is it the norm of support that's available? No. It's there if you need it. Generally the support comes from your dedicated Blue Sky social worker and any of the professionals at Blue Sky who can help. 

You get additional support from other foster carers. We meet up regularly - mind, you don't have to if you don't fancy it one week - and end up swapping phone numbers with carers we click with. One of my best friends right now is a foster carer I met at a support meeting. We don't just support each other in fostering, I'm there for a chat about her mum or whatever. Over a curry, usually.

Then there's your own family, of course. Probably the first port of call.

Then there's your foster child. They don't know they're supporting you, but as the jolly Oirishman left me in no doubt, when they buy you's a coat hook, it means you're getting something right, so you are!

Monday, October 06, 2014


Like everyone, I've jumped headlong into plenty of things in life not really knowing what I was getting into. Life itself for starters. Half of a microscopic thing that was soon to be me jumped headlong into the other half, the cell divided and nine months later I jumped headlong into life outside the nice warm womb.

I jumped headlong into school. Suddenly there was no sight of mum's ankles to watch from under the table. Just a hard seat and new adults.

I jumped headlong into work, love and marriage and being a parent. 

On the whole all of these headlong jumps worked out okay. Bit bumpy at times, but looking back, could have been worse. Not surprising really; because although I didn't really know enough about whatever I was jumping into, I'd seen most of it going on around me, or else it was something everybody did, so what could be the problem?

Not fostering. Fostering is quite utterly unique. And I'm going to tell you why, on balance of everything, it's the best thing I've ever jumped headlong into. 

You receive a good financial allowance to do something truly heartwarmingly worthwhile that not everyone could do, and you do it with huge professional support, and alongside troops of new friends.

It's the 'worthwhile' bit that sits at the top of the tree.

Making a difference to a child's life and helping them improve their chances of being happy and building a future for themselves. Who else gets to do that? Doctors rebuild bodies. Foster carers rebuild lives. What foster carers do is nothing less than magnificent. I'm not bigging myself up here. I'm bigging up all the thousands who foster. And if you are thinking about fostering I'm bigging you up to do it.

One of the first children we had placed with us, one day about two weeks into his stay, we were walking around Tesco and I asked him if he had any particular preference in lollies. He went ; "Eh?" so I said "Do you like plain fruit ones like Callipos or the fruit ones with ice cream in the middle they call Splits?" Silence "Or the ones made like bars, Snickers I think, or Mars Bars." Silence. "Or the ones with hundreds and thousands I forget what they're called. You can have a Magnum if you want, for being so helpful round Tesco but I'm not buying a whole box of Magnums mainly because I'll eat them all myself." Silence. Then he looked up at me and simply said;
"Why are you so good?"

Get out of that one without moving, as we used to say in the playground.

I promise you that as long as you keep your eyes and ears peeled you get endless little moments like that in fostering, not always so up front, but they're there for the taking.  

Most of the time you don't have to do anything special. The normal things you'd do for anybody; your parents, your partner, your children your friends and wider family, those little things will more than do the trick. Most people have already learned everything you need to know to do the central job of fostering. 

What are those things? Basic decent kindness and consideration. If someone says they have a headache give them a little bit of fuss. If someone says that something is driving them nuts give them a bit of support and sympathy. Those little things are the mainstay of fostering. They make an enormous difference to children who might not have experienced a gentle hand on their shoulder.

If a foster child needs some particular help with a sadness or something that frightens them, that's when you pick up the phone to your Blue Sky person. Every Blue Sky foster carer has their own person. Foster carers are not expected to be experts. You get bags of free training with Blue Sky, it's fun and nicely geared to the fact that we all come from different walks of life. Some of us are parents whose children have left home, some have children still at home. Some have never had children. Some are single parents. There's no upper age limit. You don't need A levels or GCSE's. You don't have to have any professional skills. The training doesn't mean you have to deal with problems by yourself just because you've had training. On the contrary. Blue Sky are everywhere to make things to work out. Their switchboard is manned 24 hours a day. I called once at 1.30am when a child was insisting on walking home. The call went;

Blue Sky: "Hello (my name) what' can we do for you?" - 

Me: "It's (child's name), poor thing is imagining her mum is in danger and wants to walk home tonight"

Blue Sky: "Thanks and well done for calling, you did the right thing. Let me talk to (child)"

Blue Sky talked to her for nearly half an hour. Problem solved.

The allowance is something that doesn't get talked about enough. Foster carers are often embarrassed to be getting a fortnightly cheque, which is how Blue Sky pay. They shouldn't be embarrassed. Doctors don't doctor for nothing. Our work is just as important.

If you have one foster child in your home you receive the equivalent of earning a salary of about £20000+ broken down per night they are with you.  There's no tax to pay unless you personally have any significant other income. If your husband, wife or partner has income it doesn't make any difference, it's an allowance not a wage. You're expected to pay for things the child needs out  of the allowance; which is mainly food, pocket money and clothes.

It's not a job, it's more than a career actually. Almost some kind of calling so it is. But nobody who fosters is getting into something they can't get out of if they want a break. You can always come back.

It's not all roses either. Sometimes you really need the backup of not just Blue Sky, but friends and family. They say anything that's worth doing is worth doing well, but in fostering it's a case of anything that's worth doing is likely to be tough as well as rewarding. Foster children can be angry, difficult, rude, disobedient and dishonest at first. However hand on heart I've ALWAYS found they start to come round.

I jumped headlong into fostering and have not regretted one moment, hand on heart it is the best thing I've ever done. 

If you happen to be thinking about it I hope you jump.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014


I've picked up some tricks in fostering. I don't need any at the moment but I was reminded of a couple when I came across the phrase "Speak softly but carry a big stick". 

We had a young lady arrive at our house, aged sixteen, nearly seventeen, my goodness she had some stuff. Five large cardboard boxes of various party clothes and soft toys and make-up and hair tools, and enough onesies to kit out an army.

She also had a short fuse.

Looked-after children can sometimes have their tempers triggered by things you wouldn't think of. If she was up in her bedroom and you went upstairs for some reason, if you even paused outside her door it could annoy her to bits. Maybe scare her to bits. 

We carers are given as much information as possible by Blue Sky when a child is on their way to us so we can prepare, maybe even adjust a few things in the house to help keep the child on an even keel. But it's never possible to know the child's full story. Often they don't really know it themselves, they blank certain bits, or worse they bottle them up wrapped in denial and even some deep-rooted excuses and justifications for the way they were mistreated. It's amazing how many damaged children appear to believe they somehow had it coming; their just desserts for being so bad.

Anyway, back to short fuse. We gradually realised she didn't like shouting. If you called out "Tea's ready!" there'd be a growl followed by a grumpy thumping down the stairs and a blunt remark or two about not pasta again. Bedtime in our house on weekdays is ten thirty, for everyone. No exceptions. But several nights running we'd had a battle. When I say a battle I mean I'd call out through the door "Half ten, time to call it a night!" or something like that. And I'd get back "Grrrrr I'm busy". It became a mini war of wills. I'd call for lights out and go to bed. Half an hour later I'd go onto the landing and see a light coming out from under her door. 

By "busy" we reckoned she meant she was surfing on a phone. We suspected she had two phones, one cheap effort she left on the hall table, and a secret one for secret use. Apparently it's a well used trick among our youth. We couldn't prove it; you can't turn over a child's bedroom trying to find a phone. She wore several layers all the time, there was probably a slim phone in there somewhere. Anyway she's nearly seventeen. Blue Sky advised us to stay vigilant, but respect the young person's rights and privacy.

But my eldest showed us how to see if someone is using your Wi-Fi serruptiously. You turn the router off in the middle of the evening and if, five minutes later, someone comes downstairs and is interested in what you're doing with your laptop, you can bet they've lost the signal and are wondering if it's a general blackout or their phone. And that's pretty much what happened.

Next morning she was watching GMTV before college still in her Scooby Doo onesie. For some reason I whispered, very softly, something like "We've decided to turn the wi-fi off after tea so we can have a break from the internet. Although we'll turn it on at weekends if everyone has followed lights out at half past ten."

It worked. Well, kind of. I think we won, if you can call it that. 

Short fuse was a wonderful girl, she'd had a truly horrific time. Her own bedroom, wherever it was, whoever's house she was in, the bedroom she was given to sleep in, held terrible terrors for her, that's all I can tell you. 

From then on I generally spoke in a whisper when telling her things she didn't want to hear. Stopped calling out loud for the whole house to hear. Spoke softly. Tried not to walk upstairs and past her bedroom door when she was in there, especially late at night.

My "big stick" was her wi-fi access, and we knew she knew that we knew that, so there was what the French call an empasse. What Bill calls a score draw. 

She left us after about 3 months. I'll never forget her brief, stumbling, but tearful goodbye. She'd appreciated being cared for.