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.


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