Wednesday, November 04, 2015


How can foster children overcome the shocks they've been subjected to?

If you see your parents at each others throats and get a dread of raised voices how can you watch Eastenders without your gut wrenching?

                                                                          Jenny Drew Something *
If you experienced terrifying loneliness how can you make solid relationships without testing their limits and losing those people who get fed up with your tests?

I bet even you (assuming you didn't go through the trauma of being put in Care) have memories you'd give your left arm not to have? Memories which change your mood without you even knowing?

If you were beaten, derided, starved.


Is there anything we can do to help?


The reason I'm wondering is because one of the shocks that happened to me as a child came back to me in the kitchen today.

I was stirring a tea bag and humming a tune. The tune was "Men of Harlech". Maybe Zulu had been on ITV4 at some point. Maybe the act of stirring made me think of a stirring song. Then I hushed, in case anyone might hear.

I can't sing, you see.

I was told so at school. By an old witch called Mrs Garrard, who took us for singing. Every Thursday after lunch in the hall. I loved it; we'd sing stirring songs like "Hearts Of Oak" and "D'ye Ken John Peel". Great fun.

One afternoon she tapped me on the shoulder, hard and said; "Non-singer! On the floor!"

"Non-singers" had to sit silently on the wooden floor.

My point is that this crippled me for singing for life. I mime in church. As for Karaoke, forget it.

Nothing I can do to overcome it, it's deep inside me.

Luckily it doesn't matter a fig. Learning you're a "Non-Singer" is nothing compared to learning you're a "Non-Person".


In other words, where is the brain's Delete Button.

Would that be great? If you could highlight an experience, click "Trash" and it's gone. I think they made a film about it with Jim Carrey*

I expect there are some rats in a lab somewhere who are having it done to them right now.

And yet. I'm remembering a training session where the human was described as;

"The damage that's done to us, nothing more or less"

It's how come we are individuals, and there' little dearer to us than our own self, warts and all.


As foster parents we have two options for helping with their traumas; talk about them or not talk about them.

We're ever-alert in case they want to open up.  I find they never gush and they don't understand the importance of certain experiences against less important ones.

We never go in head first do we? They take the lead; it's their life and their experiences are their only private property. But if and when they do start a conversation the best we can do is listen neutrally and reassure them that they did nothing wrong, and they are entitled to see their past the way it works best for them. If they have any facts wrong we can put them right, but I reckon that's about as much adjustment as we should make.

The rest of the time we offer the support and celebration of their lives you'd give any child, without them noticing you're feeding their self-belief. Get their perceptions of their traumas to work for them, somehow.

I hope they're not hurting those lab rats, but at the same time I wish they'd hurry up with the "Trash" button.

image kindly provided by Jenny Drew Something:

*Interesting fact about "The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind": In order to get the right performances from Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey the director took each of them aside.
He told Winslet "This isn't a drama! It's a comedy!"
He told Carrey "This isn't a comedy! It's a drama!" 
Perceptions eh?



    We have a big thing about trust and honesty, when DramaQueen didn't tell us she'd had some trouble at school we were not upset about the trouble, but how she'd tried to keep it from us. She's settled (claimed as they say) but still screamed that we had no right to know , that it was her private life. She calmed down, she was just scared of getting in trouble of course but I don't forget how much of her life she can't keep private and how frustrating that must be.

    Parents that encourage their kids to lie to social workers or teacher, and proactively bend the truth, do more damage than they realise. How does a child know what they can, and should, share when birth parents tell them so much is to be kept secret from others.

    I am always reminded of the line from Tim McArdle poem about the first day in care:

    "They speak of my Mum and my Dad and my Nan,
    They speak like they think that they know who I am,
    It’s private, my life but they talk on an on,
    She tells them of all of the things I’ve done wrong."

    The line “its private my life” has stayed with me. I find myself saying it like a mantra whenever we come up against a lack of honesty and openness. It helps a little when someone is slamming doors at you.

  2. Very well put Mooglet.

    I'm always saddened when they want to keep things to themselves. Mind, when they do give you titbits of the things they are dealing with it can be hard to know where to go, they seem to choose unlikely moments. And if you follow up with "Tell me a bit more about it" you usually get "Doesn't matter".
    You've claimed then. That must be a very deep feeling, congratulations.

  3. Hi Secret Foster Carer, I've read most of your posts devouring them.

    I'm reading 'Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour' and finding it very inspiring.

    On a different note, my husband and I are at the application form stage, trying to get friends to be referees. It's been a hard day to have a friend who I thought was closer than most to be honest with me saying they can't be referee as they really don't know me or my husband or my family for that matter. This exercise has made me realise how much I rely on family as a support system rather than friends. That I've neglected friendships since having kids (3 and 1). It's horrible waiting for a response. I took it badly at first thinking it was a reflection of me as a person, doubting and thinking I must be crazy to think of fostering but the friend just opened my eyes to the fact that even supposed friends don't really know you. This particular friend's mum was a foster carer so she talks from first hand experience and said she didn't know me well enough to be of any good when the agency questions her. She said the process can be very stressful. I fear my 'friends' really don't know me well enough and this may be a problem. I'm trying not to worry about it.

    1. You remind me of me Anonymous.
      When my children arrived I almost stopped having friends. When we were applying I had to rack my brains and go back twenty years.
      You sound like a great mum; putting yourself ahead of your social life, fostering needs great mums.
      I think your friend is wrong to think he or she is the best judge of whether they know you well enough, that's for the assessors to decide.
      Your friend only has first hand experience of being the child of a foster carer, not of being a foster carer, so you're entitled to treat their 'advice' on its strict merits.
      The process is thorough; it has to be, no-one would want it any other way with so much at stake for looked-after children.
      You've come this far; a couple more laps to go.
      Remember, out there somewhere is a poor child, frightened and lonely. What you are going through is hard, but not compared to this child's turmoil. And when you get approval, you'll make the difference to that child.
      Keep going.
      For her.