Tuesday, February 03, 2015


I find that people don't ask "What's fostering like?"

If they find out you foster they tend to ask about the child you are looking after, and you tell them what you can, which isn't a lot, out of respect for their privacy. I keep it positive too, which helps remind me of the things that are going well.

But it's a good question; "What's fostering like?"

In one way it's a bit like an arranged marriage. Let me explain.

I was up early on Saturday, I had the downstairs hoovered and the kitchen spruced by half past eight so I sat down with a cup of tea, no-one else was about, I turned the telly on.

"The Six Wives of Henry VIII" was starting on BBC2. The one with Keith Michell.

I watched about an hour of it, then people started coming downstairs and bacon sandwiches were the order of the morning, so I half-watched the final hour.

There was a moment in the programme that reminded me of fostering. Well, one aspect of fostering. I Googled it to get the full story.

Henry had got through three or four wives, and he was back to needing a foreign one, for the good of the Crown. Plus he needed a son and heir. His new wife would get a leg up in the world . So the arranged marriage would work for the country and for both parties, provided they made it work.

There were a couple of candidates, but he'd never met them. He tried to get as much information about them as possible to make his choice. He ended up sending a painter to do a portrait of each of them so he could pick.

The women, on the other hand, were told all about the King they were being put up to marry. They were told he was a handsome gentleman, firm but fair. Quite a catch.

Henry picked Anne of Cleves, and for a lark, when she arrived he disguised himself as a fat old servant with a gammy leg and a dopey brain. But when he saw Anne he was astonished that she was nothing like her portrait. She was equally astonished that the "servant" turned out to be her fat dopey King with a gammy leg.

But they were committed and the marriage happened, with both parties having to learn all about the other starting from scratch, but under the same roof. So they settled down to try to make it work, knowing it was going to be temporary.

The answer to the question "What's fostering like?" is entirely dependent on the placement you're enjoying at any given time. But, like Anne and Henry, the placement usually turns out to be very different from the situation you'd imagine before it happens. The child looks, speaks and acts like a complicated 3D individual whose characteristics can't be captured on a dossier. She's not the person you deduce from the files you are given before they arrive. 

What's more, from the child's point of view, you are nothing like they imagined either.

But there you are, together, under one roof. An arranged family, for the good of the Crown and both parties.

So you close the front door behind them, and settle down to try to make it work, knowing it's going to be temporary.


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