Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Fostering is hard enough without having to ensure the child's education.

The simple fact that the child is in Care means there are problems. The child might be 100% a fine individual, but they are still carrying the confusing, frightening, de-stabilising burden of being taken away from their home. It hardly matters how bad home life is; a child is attached to mum and dad, and now the biggest familiar in their lives is shattered.

And the state seems to have a fixation that everything will be better for them if they spend the very next day getting no marks for decimals and "Poor work See me" for verbs.

Ever tried doing simple things when your mind is in turmoil? I can't open a tin of beans without cutting myself. I get in the car and go to start the engine with the front door key. I get up on a Saturday morning and start preparing lunch boxes. The 'turmoil' in my life might be something powerful (to me) but probably doesn't compare with what a looked-after child is going through.

So they don't want to go in; not just on the first day in care, but most children on every day. And not just because they'll get it reflected back to them that they're under-achievers, but maybe because some cruel kid in the playground will give it to them that their family is broken.

Ever tried telling the authorities that child in Care might need a break from school? You might just as well ask if it's okay for them to go shoplifting to pay for their crack. What!? Non-attendance? But it's the Tudors this term!! The authorities send in the armed forces.

I found out that private companies are hired by LAs to snoop looked after-children's school attendance. According to what I was told, they phone every looked-after child's school EVERY DAY to check you've sent the kid in. I know what you're thinking; I was gobsmacked too.

And if the child's attendance is considered low, it's not a case of 'Oh dear, the child's needs must be assessed and met, perhaps having to attend school is worsening her problems", it's a case of "This child MUST be got back to school".

Why? Statistics. OFSTED must be placated.

Is there no-one, of no matter how high or low their basic intelligence, however sensitive or blinkered  and driven by raw dogma, no-one who can see that if a child needs a break from their family they might use a break from school?

If foster parents are good enough to house them and take over their hierarchy of needs according to those needs, then frankly bolting on some appropriate education at home is as easy as ensuring there's ketchup on the table compared with cooking an evening meal for several disparate people.

Compared to fostering, educating children is a cakewalk.

I've yet to meet a looked-after child whose educational needs went beyond what I could do for them; they are almost always; a) behind their classmates - despite sometimes having good intelligence, b) dead set against going in (resistance every morning) c) made even more unhappy by a day at school.

I'm not blaming teachers; their job is often made harder by the presence of a troubled child in the group, and they have a resonsibility to the other 29 in the class. Or 39, depending on your post code.

Looked-after children need to be monitored, and schools have a role there; they are vigilant if a child turns up looking harassed, beleagured, bruised, underfed, exhausted, frightened. Children in fostering must be subject to the same third-party scrutiny and that's one reason why social workers turn up at your home. Blue Sky even do an 'Unannounced Visit' scheme where someone turns up out of the blue (no pun) to check the child is getting what they're seen to get whenever the social worker turns up for the regular house visits.

There is something child-like, in my view, about what appears to be a belief that if a child is taken away from their family and put in another home, we can cast a voodoo spell of artificial continuity by making sure they turn up at the same school the next day. 

I had a looked-after child, school was crushing him. His class teacher was a spit away from retiring and going through the motions, used to like to creep up behind male pupils and catch them doing something so she could give them a crack on the head with her red biro. The child didn't want to go in every day to find out yet again he was stupid (his words for it). 

I kept him home for a bit. The private company reported me to the LA and they sent a delegation. Big meeting, in the school, with me, the delegation and about five teaching staff. The top and bottom line was; the child must go back in, and it was stressed it was my job to get him there. I wanted to say "Why don't you try showing up for a week at 7.30am and see what it does to him?'

Anyway, at the end of the meeting, I asked the leader of the delegation, friendly like, how things were going at their office and he dropped his guard: "Nightmare" he said, looking towards the other teachers; "We're expecting OFSTED any moment". There was this eerie collective sympathetic sigh among the professionals.

I got it, what their priorities were.

I got the kid back to school too, but a different school. How did I manage that? The school failed it's OFSTED, about 3 weeks after the meeting.  Got graded; "Special measures" - the equivilant of "Unmarkable Paper" in exams. The school had indeed been failing the child, only now it was official not just a foster carer's judgement.

I'm sorry for the school and the staff, sorry for the pupils, sorry for my looked-after child - who, by the way, is now flourishing at the different school so the grapevine tells me.

And I have, in my back pocket a piece of paper on which I've written the words "I told you so" which one day I might deliver to that delegation. I don't get to be 100% right often, not where I end up with concrete proof, but I was right to keep that child at home for a bit.

That child needed a break from school; especially that particular school.

Looked-after children should get dispensation from standard attendance requirements, provided that dispensation is supported by the child, by social workers and the child's foster parents. The abscence should not damage the school's attendance record.

There's a precedent: we don't wheel them into school in their sickbeds if they have the flu. Being incapacitated due to illness is a valid reason. So is being incapacitated due to emotional trauma.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


We have a spare bedroom at the moment. A child has gone home.

Keep wondering whether to close the bedroom door or leave it open; it's an issue if the child has touched you.

It's not a very big issue.

Randomly; I remember once giving a new foster child the choice of a big bedroom or a small one and she chose the small one, she felt safer in there. This child used to like to climb under a small corner table in the living room and just lie there out of sight for a bit. When we played hide and seek, the minute I shouted 'One hundred! I'm coming!' The child would shout 'I'm in the cupboard under the stairs'. Hide and seek is a good game because you're usually the seeker and you can stretch the countdown so you can get a few quick jobs done.

Oh, look if it's not obvious, I'm waffling.

Waffling because the child has gone and I'm a bit here there and everywhere. Worrying a bit too.

Worrying about two things;

One: I'm worrying if it's going to work out for the child going home. The things that worry me are to do with the things I found out about what was going on in the house before the child was taken into Care.

Two: that the next phone call from Blue Sky will mean something as meaningful as the child who has gone.

On Worry Number One;

When you've developed feelings for a child, which is impossible to avoid, and which is essential anyway in my view if you're going to foster properly, then letting go is a wrench. On several layers.

At the highest level you are desperate that they go on to happiness, that their real home shapes up, that they don't suffer any more.

Further down the pecking order of worries you find yourself hoping that the good work you managed to do with the child, whatever it was and however it might be measured, isn't going to be undone by someone's bad parenting. You're not sure if it's just some kind of professional pride in your work or a big-headedness based on the fact the child was taken from the real parents and housed with you, ergo you are a better parent than most, better than the real parents for sure.

When you're emotional you get all sorts of thoughts, then you get thoughts about your thoughts. So you find yourself wondering if you're getting too big for your boots thinking of yourself as a top parent, because deep down you know that even the best possible parenting is 90% making up for your mistakes.

You find yourself wishing you were a fly on the wall in their house so you can see what's going on. Wishing they miss you, that's another wierd one; you're supposed to be rewarded that your job was well done and you hit the bullseye, namely you got them back to their real home. 

You worry that your work will be unravelled, that they'll go back to having dog bisuits for breakfast and sleeping where they like in their clothes. 

I stayed in touch with one young person who went home, but I went under worrying about her, and when I found myself calling her social worker to inform her about something that needed to be done for the child, the tone in the social workers kind voice told me to back off, so I did, and have never looked out for a former placement again.

On Worry Number Two

Fostering is, as Forrest Gump says about life, like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get. If I ever go to America I'm likely to buy a box of their chocolates to see if they don't have a map on the inside lid that tells you which one is coffee cream and which one is marzipan, because with every British box of chocolates you know exactly what you're going to get.

God, aren't I all over the place here, sorry.

The number two worry is a mix of excitement and trepidation, because you never know when the phone might ring, or who the next child will be; which type of parent you're going to have to be. 

Maybe they'll need a homely earth mother always in the kitchen baking cakes, humming songs from the Sound Of Music and on bedtime standby with a fairy story and a mug of warm milk.

Maybe they'll need a clued-up ex-biker elder sister-type who knows what's number one in the charts and likes it, who thinks Grand Theft Auto is cool and doesn't think 1.30am is too late to be up on a Friday night.

I know there are foster carers who breathe a sigh of relief when a difficult child goes, part of me does that too. I know carers who moan when they have to pull in the drawstrings because a child going home reduces your budget, and I can't pretend I don't notice the difference.

But most of the carers I know, the ones I'm closest too, are first and foremost a bit emotional when a child goes.

Sorry to have blithered a bit.

I'm fine. Hope you are too.

Sunday, September 20, 2015



One child less in our house as of Saturday.

The child's Local Authority social worker arrived at 10.00am Saturday morning to take the child home. They went for a Saturday because the mum has started some kind of a Monday to Friday job and wanted to be at home all day for the big day.

Our Blue Sky social worker arrived at 9.30am and stayed for an hour after the child had gone just to make sure things went smoothly and we were okay. God, you drink a lot of tea in fostering.

In fostering if you're with an agency like we are with Blue Sky you have your own agency social worker whose job is to concentrate on you the carer, and help you keep on track with everything. The local authority social worker is free to concentrate on the child. 

I think it's the biggest of many plusses for being with an agency. 

I'm not saying anything against fostering with your local authority, just that I'm not sure if their carers get the same level of backup.

The Blue Sky social worker wanted to make sure we were okay with what is actually a big transisition in our house;

A vulnerable little child who has lived under our roof for the best part of a year, been part of our family, shared our Christmas, celebrated our birthdays, felt our pain with a declining elderly relative and now is no more.

A frightened, lonely child who let us into their life; their hopes and fears, their nightmares, their moments of wonder, their fleeting release from pain and heartache when little things transport them - a butterfly in the garden or when dad poured chip oil in his tea because I used the milk jug to save the stuff after I started a chip pan but the call went out for spag boll.

To find the chip oil incident as funny as the child did, to grasp all the comedy; the child was family.

And gone.

Shall I tell you the worst bit, and I'm going to bare my soul here?

It's not the loss, it's not the agonising about whether to leave their bedroom door half open or shut, or wide open, which ravaged us when our eldest went off to Uni.

The worst bit is the guilt you feel because when you close the front door as they are driven away a piece of you feels good. 

I don't mean good because you've done a great job, or because they are going home and that's the name of the game.

A piece of you feels good for selfish reasons dammit.

You've got your family home back to being more like the family home you planned when you were young and innocent. 

You are relieved of a responsibility. If the child goes in the wrong direction after leaving you you'll be sad, but you weren't there to do anything about it, so you can't beat yourself up and no-one else is going to ask if you got it right.

Fostering brings changes to your home you have to be prepared to enjoy, and it carries a responsibility which is always in your mind; looking after comeone else's child.

The child in question was pumped up about going home, and that's what mattered most on the day. This evening, laying one less place at the table for tea, I had a mixed bag of feelings.

Tomorrow, as Scarlet O'Hara says at the end of Gone With The Wind, is another day.

The phone might ring, I'll grab it.

It might be the magic words;

"Would you consider taking a child who..."

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Came downstairs this morning about two minutes before 7.00am.

Have to fill the kettle, sometimes you can tell by the weight if it's got enough for two cups, not this morning. Take it to sink to fill up, notice the sink has stuff in it, take the kettle back to where it sits and switch it on. Back to the sink and pick up the two mugs and cereal bowl to put them in the dishwasher. It's full. Bend down into the cupboard under the sink to get a dishwasher tablet, struggle to open the plastic envelope, end up using teeth.

The dishwasher controls are temperamental; I want 'P2' but I've been told by other half you sometimes have to turn it off and on again first. Get it going 3rd time lucky. Go back to sink and rinse the mugs and bowl by hand and rest them upside down on the draining board next to half a dozen other mugs and several assorted bits of cutlery and utensils and an empty water bottle which has been rejected by child because it's not cool but I'll find a home for it in one of the cupboards in case it comes in handy which it won't but it cost £4.99 so you can't just chuck it away after one use.

There's only one clean mug hanging up and it's not very clean; it's got those burnt-on crusty bits you get from a dishwasher run where the filter needs emptying, so I dry two from the draining board, get out two tea bags and drop them in the mugs. Go to the fridge and get out a litre bottle of semi-skimmed milk with about three quarters of an inch of milk in the bottom. Family prefer to leave a smidgeon in the bottom of containers and put them back in the fridge as that's easier than rinsing them out and putting them in the recycling wheelie bin. Unscrew the green cap and sniff it; smells okay. 

7.01am and 30 seconds
Kettle has boiled; cover both bags with boiling water, then grab J cloth from the sink to wipe surfaces as there are crumbs. Crumbs and smears. There are also crumbs and other small bits on the floor which I only notice because I'm in bare feet; it's been six months since my slippers gave up the ghost and I haven't had time to replace them. 

Fetch the broom from the side of the fridge and sweep; starting beside the fridge going across to the table, round to the sink unit and end up with a small heap of bits. Put the broom back and bend down into the cupboard under the sink to pick up the dustpan and brush and sweep the bits into it and put into the pedal bin. 

7.02am and 45 seconds
The pedal bin is full, well about three inches from the top; room for a bit more. But. Big but this; family prefer to push stuff down and get more in rather than replace the bin liner. I am the only one who replaces the bin liner. 

Try to lift the plastic bag out of the bin; it's stuck. It rips. Go to kitchen drawer, get out a roll of bin liners, tear one off and put the roll back. Open the new liner and put it upside down over the bin then turn the bin upside down and shake the rubbish and the torn bin liner into the second bag. Several bits of rubbish including a burst cherry tomato and some tea leaves spill onto the floor. Remind self not to make a pot of tea with loose leaf tea at next LAC (Looked After Child) meeting at our house as although it's nice it's a nuisance.

Tie up the bag and unlock the kitchen door, carry bag across cold path to wheelie bin and lob it in. Bare feet collect all sorts of bits which then come in with me onto the kitchen floor. 

Squeeze tea bags out over mugs. Get to them too late; the tea has the scummy film you get when you let them soak too long. Leave tea bags on the work surface as I haven't put the bin back together yet with a fresh bin liner. Re-assemble pedal bin with new liner, drop tea bags into it. Wipe surface.

Pour milk into mugs. Get out honey which other half has in first cup of tea now we've given up sugar.
Use same spoon as used on tea bags for spoonful of honey. Jar is sticky, lick fingers.

Brush bits off soles of feet with my hands while  standing above the cherry tomato and tea leaves, bend down into cupboard under the sink and get dustpan and brush, sweep up area around pedal bin and tip sweepings into pedal bin. Return dustpan and brush to cupboard under the sink. Check the teacup we put under the U bend a couple of days ago to see if it has any water in it as we suspect the U bend has a leak. Can't really tell, might have collected some drips then the drips evaporated; decide to leave teacup there. It'll probably still be there at Christmas.

Pick up dog's bowl from down beside the washing machine, it's got some nasty bits that have dried round the edges. Run a tap onto it and wipe bits off with fingers going "Eeuu!" quietly, to myself. Fetch tin of Pedigree (In jelly) off the top of the fridge, yank ringpull, gag faintly at smell. Use the dog's fork to prise half the tin into the bowl. Dog comes for breakfast on sound of ringpull. Never know whether to break up dog food or leave it in a cylinder shape in the bowl. Run dog's fork under tap. Put plastic temporary lid on half empty tin of dog food and put it on top of the fridge, with the dog's fork balanced on top, away from human cutlery. Put dog's bowl down.
Sniff hands. Don't smell of dog food.

Go upstairs, take other half tea in bed. 
Say; "I think it's drinkable straight away"
Glug mine down.

In two minutes I wake up the house. 

The fostering begins.

Monday, September 14, 2015


I've been asked to talk about bereavement and fostering. It's not something I have experience of and I hope I never will, but if it comes my way I'll give it my best shot. We seem to have built a nice community of contributers here, and I'm hoping other foster carers can find a moment to give the person who has made the request - a new carer - some thoughts and encouragement.

Children come into Care for a vast number of specific different reasons, but almost always the problems can be summed up as poor Care in their real home; abuse and neglect being the basis of the overwhelming majority of requests to courts to bring children into the proper Care which the system relies on; fostering.

We had a child come to us for another reason once, a shocking reason but not bereavement, I'm not opening his case here, not today, probably not ever. I mention it because it was unusual, so the point is we had to throw the guide book out of the window and worked with Blue Sky to provide  some custom-built care.

If my understanding is correct the person who has asked is a brand new foster carer, about to get their first placement, and the child has lost a parent through bereavement.
The child's privacy is terribly important, so we have to think about how to help the placement without knowing any specifics which might identify the child, or allow the child to identify themselves should they become a reader or contributor to the blog; unlikely, one might say, but in fostering you have to take no chances. Since the carer who has made the request has attached their name I'm going to ask the carer to make do with general observations rather than anything tailor-made. 

Every one of us in fostering remembers how trepidacious we were when our first placement was confirmed and the child was on their way.  

I suppose my first thought is that, as per usual, the carer will be told as much of the child's background as possible and in this case I assume this information would include the circumstances surrounding the bereavement including everything that's known about the child's relationship with the parent and the impact of the loss up until the present moment. 

I'd suggest; use your social worker's expertise.

The specifics of each unique foster placement are what your social worker is for. We mustn't forget they are highly trained in (almost) every eventuality and their advice and support is based on the decades of research and proven practices which are being constantly refined and distilled into the years of training they've undergone; trust them. I get peeved when I hear one or two foster carers moan "They should come and do my job for a week", I always think to myself "They could; you should go and do their job for a week, you wouldn't know where to start".

I'd suggest; ask anyone you know who has first-hand or second-hand experience of a child losing a parent when they were young, or lost a partner when their children were young. It's thankfully rare (well it is here, in modern Britain), but it happens.

One of my placements was due to start at a new Primary school one Septemeber and on the last day of the holidays we'd gone to the park to play, the child and me. Most of the other children were in little groups or gangs. We were on our own. There was another child, same age as mine, the mum had spread a blanket under a tree and was sitting, the child seemed detached and looked a bit lonely. We set up about twenty yards from them and our ball kept going over their way. Eventually the child started knocking it back to us and after about ten minutes I included the child in our game.
But the child never rocked with it; moved slowly - almost painfully - never spoke, had a long face, sad eyes. 

We started our picnic, they had one too, I got talking to the mum having sent the children to find dandelions to tell the time.

Turned out they'd both be starting the same new school on the same day. We swapped mobile numbers.

Her husband, the child's father had died of a heart attack aged 33.  

My foster child told me later they weren't going to be friends because the other child didn't have much to offer. I used to watch the child get dropped off at school in the morning; always alone, and stayed alone, staring into puddles. I watched the mum waiting at 3.30 to collect, always alone. 

I guess what little I know about the impact of losing a parent when young (and the above is my only recent second-hand experience) is that, in this case, it knocked the stuffing out of living for the child and the mum; and how could it not; the shock, the totality, the unfairness (all those other children with mummies and daddies, all those other mums with hubbies to share with).

I suppose one thought I could contribute is that the Carer of a child who has lost a parent must protect themselves against contracting the sadness and other negatives which might accompany the child into your home. Give them the best, but look after yourself and your own heart.

Sorry I can't be more help; I  lost my dad but I was 45. My partner's dad was killed by persons unknown when he was 24. I've seen strong self-sufficent adults need a year to get over it. I know a man who never has, and never will get over it.

There are plenty of books about the grieving process but I doubt there's much on helping a foster child grieve.

I wish you and the child every success; good times to go with the inevitable bad, peace and lots and lots of love.

Friday, September 11, 2015


"Wow..... I'm a secret reader, i love reading all your posts..... I hope one day we maybe able to do as you do, I honestly don't know if we are brave enough, I really admire what you & people like you do....... Anyhow this post has hit me...... I'm not sure what it is or why it has, but something in here, has made me sit up & think ......... Maybe we could?? Might have to re-read it to what it was..... Keep up your amazing work x"

The post is here:  WHY FOSTER?

I woke up and found the above comment about a post entitled "Why Foster?", and wanted to thank the person who posted it, because the comment got me thinking about all the people who are in that quandary; "Could I or couldn't I foster?"

We have a calendar in the kitchen, you tear off a page each day so it shows the day's date. It also has a little motto or something trite for each day like "It's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice".

I always remember one by Confuscious;

A man asked him which was the best religion, and Confuscious pointed to an apple hanging from a tree.

We didn't get it, and started discussing it. Turns out (we had to look it up) Confuscious was saying that you don't know if you like apples until you try one.

Same with religions.

Same with fostering.

I'm not saying you should try fostering to find out if you like it, or even if it suits you, I'm saying that once you've started thinking about it the next thing is definitely to talk to somebody about it. You can read about it in books or on websites, and talk about it in your home, but after that comes the moment of first contact; in my case I went into a fostering shop and asked.

This was back in the mid-nineteen eighties. You might find it hard to believe but a fostering agency had taken a low-lease short term rent on a shop in my high street. They had pictures of fosterable children in the window. Haven't times changed.

I'd walk past almost every day, and then one day drifted in. They had albums with children who needed foster homes. Names and background information too, as I remember! This was only thirty years ago, it just shows how much progress fostering has made. I'm not judging the people who promoted fostering in this way at all, if anything it makes me wonder how archaic some of our current day practices will look in thirty years time, and not just in child care but the way we think about everything. I'm sure much of life in 2015 will look neanderthal and hilarious in just ten years time, never mind about thirty years.

We re-took the plunge after a lot of thought  several years ago. I Googled 'Fostering in my area' and Blue Sky came up top of the search. I phoned and said;

'Hello, we're thinking about fostering'

'Oh lovely!' chimed the reply 'Let me get a few details' She took my name and number and I got a call later that day from someone who wanted to pop in and say Hi. We fixed a day and a time.

A nice man turned up, had a cup of tea and we talking about nothing much for half an hour.  I've never asked but I think his visit was just to make sure we weren't time-wasters. Next thing a social worker contacted us and the process of getting approved began. 

My point is that no-one knows if they can or can't foster. It's someone else's job to decide if you have the potential. 

My driving instructor, all those years ago, on the subject of when and whether to change gear told me; "If you've got time to think about it you've got time to do it". Same goes with fostering; if you are spending time thinking about it you are ready to get someone who knows to think about you too.

I strongly recommend a phone call to Blue Sky.

And thanks again for your kind post.

And when I said 'I woke up", I meant I woke up from forty winks on the sofa after the jobs, which I did after the school run, which I'm back on now the schools are back. I figure if I have a 20 minute nap every lunchtime until Christmas I'll have caught up the energy spent during the summer holidays.

Sunday, September 06, 2015


Fostering is all about preparing for the child to go home.

That's not the job in a nutshell, but it's the primary goal.

'The Child Is Paramount' - I remember a Blue Sky training session where they talked about how all the rules and laws relating to fostering make the child the priority in everything.

One of the things that struck me most in fostering right from the get-go is how much they all want to go home.

It feels like a kick in the teeth at first. A child arrives in your home, you've read their notes. They've had a horrendous time in an appalling home with every kind of abuse you can imagine (and in one case a pattern of abuse which we could not have imagined).

You show them every respect and kindness; treat them with care, feed them perfectly, wash their clothes, change the bed once a week, show them tenderness when they buckle, show them resolve when they try it on.

You are a professional parent. Your care is what they desperately need.

And yet.

They are desperate to pack their bag and go back to a life that'll probably be just a few shades better than before, if that.

It's in my mind because we've got one going home shortly. For social services it doesn't mean the job's done; they aim to keep a watching brief on the family to ensure certain behaviours by the parents have been eliminated or at least reduced.

Substance abuse being the big one with this couple. A social worker told me they called one day, before the court order to remove the children, and found both of them passed out on the living room floor, him with a half-eaten chicken drumstick in one hand, her with what looked like tourniquet marks where she'd been trying to bring up a vein, with the children playing around their comatose parents.

You find that parents often agree to clean up their act because they want the children back, although in my darker moments I wonder whether the reason some of them want them back is the money that comes in, plus they don't want other people judging them as bad parents.

So you work towards them going home; take them to Contact for better or worse - usually for  worse but hey ho. You speak respectfully about their parents, talking of them as equals in this difficut thing called life. You put up with the parents often trying to criticise or undermine your fostering;

I remember one mum who, when we arrived for Contact had nothing to show her son; no hug, no kisses, no sweet kind talk. Instead she'd have a swipe at me, almost every time;

'Where's his coat? You can't have him going around in this wevver wivvout a coat!'

'Go back to your car woman, you've come further than you should; the rules are when you arrive he's my responsibilty, you ought to know that'

And my favourite:

'Has he had a haircut?'

The haircut thing was a win/win for her, because if he hadn't had a haircut I was derelict, if the had had a haircut it was without her permission and anyway it was not how his hair should be cut.

So, the child who is going home is excited, no two ways about it. I'm geared for no tears or great goodbyes even when the social worker arrives for the trip home, the child's head will be full of excitement, possibly painting a glowing picture of  parents who've turned over a new leaf and all the love they've ever craved being installed instead of whatever went on before.

Or maybe they paint a dismal picture of more of whatever went on before; chaos, but at least a chaos they are familiar with. 

If I was brutally honest I'd say fostering makes only a small difference, or to put it another way; not as big a difference as I'd like; I don't think even the most brilliant fostering can change a great deal, except perhaps in the case of very little children who are wet clay compared to the older ones who've begun to become the people they will always be.

We shouldn't beat ourselves up if we don't work miracles.

But you try. And the final bit of trying, no matter what use it is, is to make sure they know you've enjoyed having them, and that you'll miss them. If all your work adds up to nothing more than a 1% improvement in the child's chances, then it's mega-worth it.

I know fostering makes that small difference, because one time the arriving child was one who had been with us before. A return spell of fostering. The family still wasn't working out. The social worker had told me he was looking forward to seeing us again, but I wasn't prepared for the look of pleasure on his face when I opened the door; he was expecting the gush of welcome which of course I gave him, and he glowed.

He didn't glow a lot, you couldn't read the instructions by it; and it didn't last long, but it made me think of fostering as that phrase people use when they visit you quite a lot;

'This is my second home' they say.

That's the best we can wish for in them, that we are their second home, and that's not bad all in all.