Monday, March 30, 2015


When you foster you get good support with the big things in fostering.

The training sessions set you up with advice on keeping your diary/records  and how to keep children safe on the internet.

There are lots of little details which are so tiny that you don't even talk to your social worker about them, but there are so many of them that if you add them all together they amount to a big part of fostering.

Here's a good example; teeth cleaning.

No big deal one might think. We're all solid with the idea that it's crucial.

It either gets done, or it doesn't. There's nothing else to it. Well actually there's tons.

First off, there's the psychology of it. Us parents have had it pummelled into us that if our children don't clean their teeth they'll get decay and have to get fillings or their teeth will fall out. Maybe that's true, but it's a bit scary to hit up a looked-after child with that message twice a day. Many foster children have low self-esteem, some are tragically lured towards self-harm. Tell them their teeth will go bad and you could plant a seed that that would be fine by them, it'll teach the world a lesson.

I ended up with this strategy with a child who grumped whenever asked to "Clean your teeth":

I changed it to "Polish your teeth please". Then when he'd done it there'd be a contest to see who had the whitest teeth, him or me. He would win the "Best smile in the House" contest every time.

It worked well for a while, and  we still call it 'Polishing" rather than "Cleaning" or "Brushing" in our house, because "Cleaning" has connotations of tidying your room and getting the dirt out from under your fingernails; in other words it's a drudge and a bit of a negative, whereas "Polishing" is a bit more of a fun act. Better in the mind that you are buffing up a shine rather than weedling out dirt.

That's just one part of the whole dental hygiene thing in fostering. Other stuff includes:

1. What sort of toothpaste. I had a girl who hated the minty flavours. I searched high and low for a flavourless toothpaste, couldn't find one. I still wonder why the toothapste barons haven't come up with bacon sandwich flavour, or baked beans. Or nothing. Anything but the minty.

1a. Quit the junior toothpaste at the earliest, some foster children are 8 going on 18.

2. When to clean in the morning. There's a school of thought that children should brush straight away, and another they should brush after breakfast. I don't give a fig as long as they do.

3. Some foster children arrive with all their stuff but no toothbrush. I keep two spares still in their wrappers. Yes, two. A junior and an adult. Try giving a strapping fifteen-year-old lad a Thomas The Tank Engine extra-soft toothbrush and you've put your relationship back three days right from the off.   (P.s. on this one I buy green ones or grey. Some foster children have been contaminated with the out-dated 'Blue for boys' rubbish. Mind, I do have some sympathy with boys' resistance to pink, for some reason)

3a. Once in a while a child may come into your home who doesn't know how to clean their teeth...

4. You can buy £9.99 battery-operated electric toothbrushes. If you and your partner use an electric, why are the children deferred  a manual one? If anything their teeth matter more.

5. Ditto mouthwash. If they hear you having a quick gargle, they will rightly want a go. Mind, they only ask once, especially if you use Listerene original. But you can get nicer

6. Mirror. We had someone stay once who was too small to see himself in the bathroom mirror. I stood a little vanity mirror on the side of the sink for him.

7. 'Please'. I learned through fostering that saying please is something we parents don't do enough.

There's something else. Bigger than the above points. It's where the foster child keeps their brush. We foster parents are advised to welcome the child as a part of the family from the moment they walk through the door. Quite right. 

There's no better way to say they are part of you than by their toothbrush going in the family mug or into the rack alongside everyone else's. If they want to, that is.

Not forgetting the reward they should get when they jump out of the dentists chair with nothing to be done.  

I find a sticky pack of sugary Tangfastics is in order.

After all, they know how to polish their teeth, please.


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