Thursday, July 30, 2015


Probably the question children are most routinely asked with a smile is this;

"What do you want for Christmas?"

A bike? An xBox? An iPhone? 

Deep joy.

But every summer they are given 6 weeks off school; they are at home for a month and a half. 

Blimey, weekends can be challenging enough for foster parents; 48 hours of back-to-back fostering, sometimes with youngsters who perhaps lack a good friendship group, are anxious within four walls, aren't even great company for themselves.

Then suddenly BANG! You're a Butlins Redcoat for 6 weeks non-stop.

The question we never ask is "What do you want for the summer?"

Blue Sky pitch in with a bunch of activity days; these get better and better in my view, but it can't fill the whole void, that's what it is; a huge vacuum, and a gigantic sea change for foster children.

They want to go home, mostly. They want a normal life whatever that is.

Being stuck in their foster parents home for 6 weeks day and night brings their plight home more than anything else in the year.

It's taken me quite a few years of fostering summer holidays to fully grasp what they want for the summer.

Yesterday, a typical ordinary summer holiday day, I had a hundred of those little jobs to do around the house, ranging from the daily ones like clear the sink of other people's mugs so I could soak the dried bits out of the dog's bowl to one-offs like try to identify the new mystery stain right in the middle of the sofa so I could try to get it out using the right Mr Muscle v Vanish v Febreeze clash.

On a normal school day it would be about 10.30 before I have a chance to go to a higher plane and see what's in the laundry basket, get the washing machine going in a fight with the dishwasher, and walk the dog before a supermarket/One Stop run depending on whether we need a proper shop or a loaf and a litre of milk.

Then maybe on to paperwork; fostering records, bills to pay, mobile phone contract to try to improve. Delhi keeps calling with polite but vacant voices. 

Listen, you know all the above because pound to a penny it's your Monday to Friday too.

But not for the 6 weeks of the summer holiday.

The question "What do you want for the summer?" Would be answered with one word;


They want your undivided attention. And they deserve it.

Yesterday I spent most of the day sitting on a kitchen chair specially placed next to our downstairs desktop PC. Placed there by a foster child so I could watch. Watch them play a computer game. A game in which they are either the counter-terrorist or the terrorist doing battle to prevent a bomb being set off. At least I think that's the point. I was not allowed to offer any help or advice, which I couldn't have done anyway because I hadn't a clue what all the various bits of information being flashed up meant. 

My job was just to watch.

Watch, watch, watch.

I kept myself from nodding off by wondering why?

Why is being watched so huge?

My own children liked me to watch them, but not as much as foster children do.

Obviously it has something to do with loneliness, the need to feel the safety of company in their empty world. Another insight into what their world must have been like before coming into care; the abscence of a big strong parent-figure who was there 24/7 to protect them from the big bad world, to hold their hand in the sometimes terrifying  journey towards self-sufficiency.

You see it often when they trip over or bang their elbow on the bannister; their intense need for their 'injury' to be given every sympathy and investigation.

For us in fostering it can be draining.

And the jobs mount up. The sink fills, the crumbs cover the kitchen floor. The dust collects, the laundry gets put off, the dog gets put off; your home is going backwards. For 6 weeks.

You just have to let it go, roll with it.

Get into Combat 84 or whatever it is they want you to watch them do.

I will never forget one little mite who stayed with us twice. One Saturday morning we took him to the skate park to see if he fancied having a go. For any other child the hankering would have been for a skateboard or a scooter or a BMX, the boys and girls in the park were doing magic tricks.

Not this lad, he was nose up against the chicken wire, didn't take his eyes off what he could see for a long time.

Then he said something out loud, as God's my witness which haunts me to this day;

"If I got good at this...

He said out loud, for nobody's benefit but himself and the Universe;

"Then mum would watch me"

Those were his exact words.

So today, for me, during the summer holidays, I'm watching someone. 

That's my job, and a bloody good one it is too.

I remember that gay rights campaigner Quintin Crisp, who proudly never did any housework, saying "After the first three months the mess doesn't seem to get any worse...

Thursday, July 23, 2015


I cleaned the fridge today. 

It was a big deal.

I was chuffed when I got to the salad trays because it turned out that was where the slight smell was coming from. It looked as though someone had put a milk bottle on its side on one of the racks without the top on properly and milk had dripped all the way down to the trays and two weeks later started turning cheesie.

I'm bent over the sink scrubbing mouldy dairy, there are kids and a dog under my feet, some of the kids are my own and some of them other people's, and I had one of those moments where you want time to stand still because everything's perfect. 

As near perfect as you can hope for.

I worked hard in all sorts of jobs for about twenty years. Had to get up out of bed and go in, no option. Before the world of work I'd had to go to school for about fifteen years. Had to get up out of bed and go in, no option.

Thirty five years of having to get up and go do things I wouldn't have done out of choice.

There was never a day I wanted to get up and go in. Not one day.

It was nice at school to see my friends. It was nice at work to get the pay packet.

But I always dreamed of being free. 

So here I am scrubbing mould in the kitchen sink at two in the afternoon while being harassed from every angle by young people wanting to go to the park, go to Tesco's because it's more interesting than Sainsbury's, play football in the garden, play Minecraft with someone in New Zealand, make themselves a bacon sandwich and phone their real mother. 

I'm crunching all sorts of ideas about how to entertain everybody. I'm cleaning the fridge, it's a ten minute job, it's my think time.

I start wondering how come I feel so happy cleaning the fridge.

I'm cleaning the fridge because one of our foster children's social workers is visiting today for a catch-up. When you've got a social worker coming you naturally do a quick hoover. Then you notice the downstairs loo is low on paper and while you're about it you check the toilet brush and give the taps a wipe with the towel. 

Then you're off, de-toxing the whole house with such a vengeance that you're running down the stairs with a mop when she rings the bell.

It doesn't matter to social workers if the house is sparkling when they drop in; they just need to know it's a good home.

Anyway, here I am at the sink scraping a blueish film of dodgy dairy off fridge compartments and simultaneously trying to conjure up an activity that will appease the whole of a very varied slice of young people.

And it's about as good a moment as I've had anywhere, ever. In my whole life.

In one job I had to get up at 5.30am. I'd cover a tea bag with boiling water, drag a comb through my hair and get riled up for another day of being told I was getting lots of things wrong. I'd sit in a dark kitchen milking the last moment of being in my own life before getting into the car to go off and do nothing of any value. I felt rubbish.

So here I am scrubbing grot and fobbing off requests to go see an 18 rated movie or go buy an Apple Mac, and being roundly cussed for saying no.

And I've never felt better or this fantastic in my life. Fact.


Fostering is hard for sure. 

It's also fantastic for sure.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015



The arrival of any school holiday is a big gear change in fostering.

During term time Monday mornings are a welcome breather and a chance to catch up the jobs in a quiet house.

When the schools break up you're chasing your tail for a few weeks.

On the last day of term fostered children can be disarmingly like children the world over, they get out of bed with a spring in their step, and say over breakfast they are going to miss certain friends. They sometimes even say they are going to miss a teacher or two.

The following morning they love to turn over and go back to sleep, wallowing in the abscence of obligations. They spend the rest of the first day in a bit of a dream. 

They keep looking at the clock and going "Let's see...quarter past eleven...we'd be doing...Maths!'

They are a joy to have at home, but you're in your combat fatigues, you know you're on a war footing because, at about half past two on day one they appear in your kitchen and say:


It happens every time, yet it catches me out every time. Last summer holiday it was a delegation of three who appeared like a picket line intent on stopping me getting any work done.

I said "Well I've got to go to the supermarket, who'd like to come?"

A: "Boring"

Q: "Have you sorted out your Lego?"

A: "Boring"

Q: "I could put the badminton net up in the garden"

A: "Really BORING!"

And so on. It's like a natural reaction to any high; they go up and have to come down.

Some families go away on summer holiday the morning after the schools break up, I never understood that plan, what is there to look forward to? I get the plan now, but it's too late; we aim to go away around the middle of the summer holiday so it breaks up the six weeks.


While I'm thinking about it, what do we think about the Schools boss saying he wants courts to up the fine on parents who take their children out of school to go on holiday? Sir Michael Wilshaw earns something knocking on £200,000 a year (his salary isn't public, but the last Ofsted chief did) so the cost of a family of five going to Lanzarote for a week wouldn't even make him blink when he ran his finger past it on his bank statement, but for the average family it's the eyewatering standout payment of the year.

And if people like Wilshaw want to waft around radio and TV studios guffing about responsibility to children's education they should remember that schools lock children out for same number of days every year, so there ain't that much a child can't do without in 5 days teaching is there boys and girls?

Don't know about every school but the ones round here, every summer the teachers have 6 weeks off, then on the first day of the first week they shut the school to children for the day so they can...what? Pin up new pictures in the classroom? Re-arrange the desks? Have a meeting to agree that two and two is still four, so let's get ready for another year just like last year? 

As you can tell it makes my blood boil.


On a slightly different tack; this week we aquired a dog. I say 'acquired', what happened was this; a relative was working abroad when he stumbled on a market stall selling pups. He worked out they were being sold for food, along with the chickens and pigeons. He bought one to save it from the pot.

Now he's home, but his work has taken him elsewhere and the dog can't go along.

Lovely sweet pooch. I call him "Number 57 Wiv Noodles" which is my slight joke. 

So the first thing we do is take the dog along to the vet for his psychiatric profiling. This is a fostering must, at least I think it is, it's definitely a must for Blue Sky.

So you take your dog in and the vet decides if he's sane. Sane and safe. He passed alright, in spite of having a troubled childhood he's got his act together. Bit of a metaphor for fostering is Number 57.

Suppose the Chief of Schools had to pass a savvy test, with one question: 

Question One: "Why is it a civil offence with a fine for parents to take their children on holiday for 5 school days per year but you're cool to shut the children out of school for 5 school days per year?"


Am able, now we have a dog, to reply to "I'm bored!" with "The dog needs a walk"

Which usually triggers sudden interest in Lego.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


It can be amazing how some big things in your life go un-noticed until someone else points them out.

So there I am waiting for a taxi last Friday night and my eldest said "God, what did you do for a social life before fostering?" and a penny dropped.

On top of all the things that fostering has given us as a family, it's added a whole new dimension to my world of friends.

I've kept a small group of life-long friends since school. We go back to the days when we were young free and single, and we know each others lives inside out, we're a sort of family. We get together every so often and catch up on the mundane stuff that life is made of; holiday plans, the children, whether Eastenders is as good as it used to be; that sort of guff. I never thought anything could rival them as soul mates. They're still nailed on. We'll be solid until Grim Reaper time.

But my eldest got me thinking. Fostering has given me a whole new network of friendships.

A lot of people think that fostering is something you do in isolation, something that cuts you off and keeps you indoors 24/7.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Before you even start, Blue Sky finds out about your friendship network. It was a surprise to me how interested they were in my friends and how my friendships worked. 

Talking to trusted friends keeps everything in your mind in perspective. This is a fact that professionals in fostering recognise as an absolute. In order to foster to the best of your ability you need 1) your own personal strengths, 2) your family (not just the family in your home, you need your parents, your brothers and sisters and whoever else you're close to). And 3) you need friends.

Why? Because of what some great psychiatrist concluded: "Talking is everything".

When you begin fostering, even before your first child arrives, Blue Sky plug you into a network of people like yourself, it's almost like a friendship agency (Note to self; Internet business idea - start a website for people who need friends and haven't discovered fostering).

They hold regular team meetings where you get to meet the other carers in your patch. Twenty, thirty, forty people who turn out to be people out of the same die as yourself. The meetings are all about getting to know each other. Yes there's sometimes a bit of an agenda, you might get a social worker standing in front of you for ten minutes explaining how to claim your expenses or how to use the Blue Sky website. But the meat of the meetings is all about meeting people who also do the unique thing that you do too, and nothing bonds people like shared experience, especially if that expereince is extraordinary. And fostering sure is extraordinary.

So when the coffee is wheeled in and the formal meeting takes a break, that's when the real action begins. You find yourself scoring a biscuit and the person next to you says "I'm tempted but I'm trying to be good" and you discover you have a friend for life you didn't know you had. There's never a moment's awkwardness; everyone in the room wants your phone number and to get you over to their place for a curry, meet your other half, and share.


See, the thing is that there's an important element of confidentiality in fostering, obviously. The children have their right to privacy. You can share experiences of fostering with your other half, your immediate family and your social workers. That's fair; you see your other half at lights out every night, your family are at the end of a phone line and social workers drop in regularly.

But they don't foster. 

Only foster parents know what it's like to be a foster parent. Blue Sky know this, and that's why they pull you all into a room, lay on coffee and biscuits and scram. They leave us to it. To share.

These team meetings aren't the only chance to hook up. There are regular training sessions and social events.  I found straight away my appetite for other people's news went through the roof, and it was mutual. The cameraderie among fostering people is right up there with what my grandparents tell me about the wartime spirit. 

And we can tell it like it is, to other foster folk. 

I'm not saying we hold back anything from other people who need to know; our social workers hear everything they need to hear on a professional basis. Our families get the truth too, without actual names and places if you know what I mean.

But when you're bumping the gums with other foster parents it's a togetherness like I've never experienced anywhere ever before.

So then you exchange phone numbers and email addresses and you start to notice your diary is getting chocker. Never a Friday without a curry for four. The baby sitter's number is on your speed dial (Yes you can use a baby sitter in fostering, Blue Sky will talk you through how it works). 

You don't only bond on the fostering. Friendships depend on all the details and you find yourself opening up about everything, because everything about you and everything about them is what set you up to foster. You find that you were close to these other fostering pals before you even met in that you have so much in common before you began fostering, the details simply add to the intimacy.

Next thing you know they are the almost-family, just like your life-long friends except you have even more to talk about, and laugh about.

The phone rings and it's a foster-friend. They have fostering news; a new placement is coming, a child has started to call them 'mum', a panel has granted permanency with their child. The fostering-friend called you first.

Too much to talk about in one phone call.

Friday night? Can't do this Friday, we're having a Chinese with the couple who've just found out the girl they are fostering is pregnant; how about Saturday?

To anyone who's thinking of becoming a foster parent I'd say this; 

Stand by to be useful.

And popular.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I had my Annual Review a couple of days ago.

In fostering you meet an independent expert once a year for an hour or so to chat about how everything's going. The person doing your review have been given a profile of you by, in our case, Blue Sky's team. They write up how your last 12 months has gone from their point of view, when I say 'they'; it's mainly your social worker.

Your social worker comes along with a smile, and there might be another Blue Sky bod along to take a few notes, but not always.

It's a requirement, (as I understand it - there are all sorts of official things in fostering you have to accept without going into the greatest detail, you've got the actual job of fostering so big in your mind that it's best to leave the red tape to the red tapers). But basically; the Annual Review is another mechanism to protect people and standards in fostering.

I guess it's about the same as an MOT. Or a dentists check-up. You'd want to know if your brakes weren't up to scratch or you were getting a cavity back where you chew.

Yes, you'd want to know those things for the general good, but you still don't look forward to taking the car in, or sitting in the waiting room knowing it's your turn in a minute.

Actually I find the Review very different in that I look forward to it. Fostering can be tough, and the Review officers always seem to get that fact. They aren't trying to find fault, far from it, this is the key. They genuinely want to play their part in supporting the good things people who foster are doing.

The chat is very convivial, yet they are very professional too. If there's anything they need to help you buck up your thinking on, they use the praise sandwich technique of starting by all the things you are doing wonderfully well, dwelling on them, then tossing in something you could brush up on (nobody's perfect), then rounding off by dwelling on some more of your strengths. You end up making an appointment for next year (I struggle with the idea of something going in my diary that's a year away, mainly because I haven't got a 2016 diary and won't get one until Christmas...)

They ask if Blue Sky could do any more for you, and in our case at the moment the answer was a definite 'no'.

That done, you drive home feeling good about yourself except the bit in the middle of the praise sandwich, which actually leads you to buck up your act in that department. In my case it's getting my paperwork done and in pronto. I'm a great one for locking fostering paperwork in a drawer (you have to so the child can't stumble over it) and 'out of sight out of mind' is my problem there.

But, on the whole, as usual, a good experience.

The parking was free and the coffee was proper coffee. 

And Blue Sky re-imburse my petrol.

So I guess they get a praise sandwich with praise in the middle. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015


I'm going to tell you a true story about a fostering thing that popped into my mind after I'd been catching up on the news on my laptop. The thing about it is; you'll choke on your cup of tea. But it's an absolutely true story.

So in the news Prince Philip gets impatient and tells an official photographer to hurry up and take the group photograph, only he uses the f word as an adjective for photograph, someone was videoing on their mobile and it goes viral. Or popular in old English.

Who hasn't wanted the official photographer to get on with it? I've only seen them fussing at weddings. Prosecco doesn't drink itself and the vol-au-vents are getting a skin.

The thing is the public reaction to the old Duke, who must be thinking about his birthday telegram from his wife in a couple of years. 

One or two people have tweeted carping remarks about his language, but the public seem mostly to think it's the sort of thing an old man is entitled to come out with, there's something endearing about it.

One of the things that doesn't really get picked up about fostered children is that they almost universally have no contact with their grandparents, and it has to be a big gap in their growing up.

It's not an exagerration to say that it's a contributory factor in the cycle of poor attachment which leads to low empathy, poor engagement and disfunctional social skills that lead to rocky relationships that lead to mis-managed children who end up in care.

It means two things; one that the children grow up thinking old people are mysterious aliens, two that when families become chaotic the fracture lines head out in every direction.

We had a lad once who hadn't even met his grandparents, no-one knew who they were,  not even his mum, who barely knew who his dad was. 

I remember a friend's grandad at a family gathering when I was about ten years old. He was the oldest person there and therefore the most revered. Everone was eating finger food and he was given the poshest chair in the living room. He ate his quiche and a bakewell tart then looked down at the front of his blue three piece suit. Covered in crumbs. He stood up, pulled a hanky out of his top pocket and flicked all the crumbs and bits of food straight onto the carpet in front of him, then sat down and tucked the hanky into his sleeve.

It was a magnificent piece of sheer naughtiness, a classy show of status. He might not be the loudest voice any more or the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he could do what he damn well liked and no-one was going to tell him off.

Sometimes different generations in families are separated by geography - people have to move hundreds of miles away for work.

I find that if you ask looked-after children about their grandparents they know a little bit about them, but it's almost always the case that they never see them. Odd, considering the grandparents are often scattered around the same housing estate as the one the children live on.

You hear;

"Dad don't get on with his mum and dad" or

"Mum doesn't like her mum's new boyfriend"

But  mostly there's a vacantness about them which extends to the probable fact that the child's parents don't bother with their own parents because there's nothing to say. Nothing positive anyway.

Nothing to celebrate.

So one evening over pasta a child who had just joined us told us this;

"Grandma's boyfriend was killed in that harvester accident near Reading did you see it on the news?'

I think I did, actually, several years ago.

"So she's all sad about that an' her husband ignores her now and he doesn't even come back to cause trouble"

I asked if the child's mum missed her dad.

"Well, neither of them is her real dad. Dunno know who her real dad is, she doesn't talk about it".

I asked about the child's dad's parents.

"I never met them and I don't suppose I ever will. No-one knows where my dad is these days, somewhere in Wales"

The child had been taken into fostering having ended up on the streets. We were working to get the child back home.

I asked the child if she ever saw her mother's mother, the one with the deceased boyfriend and estranged husband, who probably had a spare bedroom or two, and she said no, not really.

"She's too busy nowadays"

Too busy to take in her destitute grandchild? I asked what she was busy with.

"She's going into fostering like you"

Honest. I know it sounds ridiculous, if your first thought was same as mine, but I swear it is as true as I sit here shaking my head at it.

Of course, there may be huge and valid reasons why the child could not go stay with grannie for a bit, but I got the whiff that that sort of family stuff simply wasn't for them.

BTW I checked, the gran isn't with blue Sky, I never found out if she was approved.

Me, I'm looking forward to being a gran.

In the meantime, as I've said before, there's a lot to be said for approaching fostering a bit like a grandparent rather than a parent.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015


Sometimes it's interesting to go and read the files you were given about a child back when you were asked to consider taking them as a placement.

When the notes come through they are a hectic read.

You haven't much time to think about the nuances of whatever meat there is in the information, never mind the titbits. Don't get me wrong; social services and Blue Sky go to the ends of what they know to tell you everything they can about the child.

Some foster parents I've met have voiced concerns that you get gaps in the information. Of course there are gaps. There'd be gaps in what anyone can write or report about anybody especially someone who has to go into a new environment; nobody can be sure how a damaged child will react in a new home.

I've heard it said that negative things in the child's behaviour get minimised in the reports. 

In the heat of a problem, there's no doubt the foster parent could get that feeling, but the social workers who have to collect the background on the child have limited access to the child before they come into care. It doesn't take long in fostering to get smart at understanding a bit about the child from the information.

If ever I had the nerve I'd like to say to anyone; go ahead and write two sides of notes about yourself and see if people around you think it's got you to a tee - warts and all.

One reason I find it useful to go back and look at a child's notes is to enjoy seeing how far they've come along since they arrived.

A young woman, teenager,  came to stay with us when her placement broke down, in other words the foster family 'let her go'. We don't get told too much about why such a thing happens because the privacy of other foster parents is important, but her notes mentioned that she had  occasional problems with absenteeism from school, and that she wanted to work with animals.

On the third morning she was with us she woke up and complained of a headache, a tummy ache and sickness. We didn't know her well enough to judge if it was real or not; anyway I'd feel sick inside if I was being moved from pillar to post, so I told her to tuck herself up. I got her a hot water bottle and put a saucer of  biscuits and some milk beside her bed.

She turned out to be a bright girl, but abrasive with her peers at school. There was kindness underneath, she simply didn't know how to show it.

Long story short, in the nine months she was with us the absenteeism from school got worse if anything. She claimed she was being bullied. Her Head of Department claimed she was the bully. She was in a cycle of acting harshly towards classmates, probably repeating behaviour she'd been subjected to at home.

Deep down, she didn't like herself for how she was with people.

Had she gone on to another foster home, I would have expected the notes to say that her absenteeism from school was now a serious problem.

But. I would also have added that she no longer wished to work with animals, she wanted to be a nanny. This big change came about because while she was with us she developed an attachment to a younger child we were also fostering at the time.

She showed the child patience and understanding. She was able to share the child's experiences of fostering in ways I couldn't, never having been a foster child myself. She had begun to show an empathy with people, something that's a Holy Grail in fostering, where children often have no choice but to put up barriers between themselves and the rest of mankind.

Would she have been a good nanny? In some ways yes, in others no, but the pursuit of the dream had to be encouraged.

I researched what qualifications she'd need to become a nanny, and they were in reach of her intellect. But I think she knew if she went back to school she'd have no option but to continue the unpleasantness - her newfound empathy didn't stretch yet to the peers she'd had run-ins with.

I'd have tried to get all this into her updated notes, but she left fostering.

I like to think she and I had some success with the humanity, but some would say we failed on the education.

Mind, some  say you can get a horse to water but you can't make it drink. 

I say if the horse is upset by it's own reflection you can't even get it to water...

Thursday, July 02, 2015


At the end of year concert the Head always likes stand up and say welcome to "Parents and Carers". The school always goes for 'Parents and Carers".

It makes me uncomfortable, it's a thing that just reminds our placements they are different, and they don't need it.

One of the advantages you have as a foster parent is that certain organisations treat you extra-well. The doctors surgery, I find, bends over backwards. The dentists too. 

Schools too, for the most part, are that little bit more helpful, to begin with anyway.

Schools have their minor problems with their understanding of foster parents, and it seems we're nowhere near solving them.

Unbelievably, a major problem is what to call us.

Letters home, when I was at school, were addressed to

'The Parents of...'

That turned into 

'The Parents or Guardians of...'

Which became

'The Parent or Guardian of...'

Then the 'Guardian' bit got dropped in favour of;

'The Parent or Carer' although you sometimes get 'Parents or Carers' where whoever has addressed the envelope isn't up to speed on the fact that a large number of parents and carers are single.

Years ago one of my foster children was hacked off at Sports Day when the Head (it's always the Head who gobbles the microphone whenever they can) announced 'It's time for the Mums and Carers race'

Does it matter? Yes, if it matters to the child it matters big time actually.

Schools are places of learning, it is at school we drink from the cup of knowledge. Some things are elusive in terms of actual facts such as art and music, some things are clear facts set in stone, such as 2+2=4.

Shame on all schools they don't know what the dictionary definition of parent is.

There's no ambiguity about it. A parent is a guardian, is a person who raises a child. A protector, an adopting person.

I've no idea how this heavy handed distinction - a factually incorrect one - has wormed its way into universal usage. My thing is that every time a looked-after child comes across it it reminds them of their plight and that can lead to issues.

I've added the definition in case anyone wants to use it.

The dictionary says a 'Parent" is:

1.a. female person whose egg unites with a sperm or a male person whose sperm unites with an egg, resulting in the conception of a child or thebirth of a child.
b. female person who is pregnant with or gives birth to a child except when someone else has legal rights to the child.
c. person who adopts a child.
d. person who raises a child.
2. An ancestor; a progenitor.
3. An organism that produces or generates offspring.
4. guardian; a protector.
5. parent company.
6. source or cause; an origin: