Thursday, January 28, 2016


I went to a very interesting Blue Sky training session a while back.

It was about the role of the dad in fostering.

When you show up at the average training session or support group meeting, the ratio is usually about three quarters women, but for this one they specifically invited the men in the fostering house (assuming there is one, it's no way mandatory to have a partner).

We fixed a baby-sitter and turned up as a couple, there were a few others did the same.

The men were an interesting mix, from a biker to a quite suave looking chap who drove a Jag, and some interesting stuff came about being a foster dad.

The first thing that came across is how seriously they take the job, which they want to do well. But they find themselves sidelined to a certain extent because their partner is usually the designated 'Primary Carer', the men are mostly out all day and busy  at weekends, and don't get to attend the meetings much or even be around very often when the social workers call.

Blue Sky held this meeting at 7.30pm rather than the usual 10.00am.

Yes there were a few moans; what's the point of a meeting if you can't have a gripe? It was small stuff, inconveniences mostly. For example they agreed they like their bathroom time and had to remember to put the dressing gown on to go across the landing for a 1.30am tinkle, and whatever you do lock the door. Blue Sky covered the safety issues too, which they all seemed up to speed on.

The meeting got more interesting as it went on, the dads relaxed about opening up. 

One by one they started sharing about the terrible times the children in their care had endured. It became clear how moved and touched these blokes all were, how much they'd learned about how bad life can be for some children. They talked about the children's behaviour and the strategies they did to help.

One dad said;

"He's fourteen, doesn't talk much, doesn't open up. But we got him a bike. Nothing fancy, what they used to call a bone-shaker. Then we realised he'd have to have someone with him to make sure he didn't drive it under a bus.
Now, I've got a bike in the garage, but I've not been on it for years, our own kids went through the bike stage ten years ago. So one afternoon I come home, tea nearly cooked and he's waiting togged out in his helmet saying;

'Can we go for a ride? Can we?'

"Well, continues the dad, "I can't disappoint can I, so next thing we're off towards the fields. He's in the lead, in the lowest of the three gears, pedalling like it's the Tour de France. On and on. Under the dual carriageway, down the bridle path, little legs fizzing away. In the end I have to stop and call him back. The look on his sweaty face! We were gone nearly an hour and had to eat our tea alone just the two of us at the table."

Then the dad said;

"Funny thing was, I loved every minute of it; forgotten what fun a bike is, and it was great exercise. I slept that night"

I said to my other half on the way home it's funny how men try not to connect with their soft side. He and I agreed the dad had been exhilarated by the feeling he'd been a super-dad. He half-hoped someone would say so, and it fell to the session leader who re-enforced the importance of having a solid loving father-figure to all children in care.

And what was that look on the boys sweaty face?

I bet it was a look that said; "So this is what it's like to have a dad".

The partner in fostering is often an unsung hero. Our SW always asks how we both are and it reminds me to praise him and ask how he's doing.


  1. My hubbie is getting his round being a foster dad, we don't have birth children, made a conscious decision not to, so it has been quite a learning curve with our 12 year old lad.

    Hubbie often takes our lad out on his bike and it really helps them to bond, as they come in covered in dirt and sweat, both telling me at the same time where they have been and what they saw. Amazing, like two peas in a pod. A friend commented the other day that when you see them together, you wouldn't know they weren't father and son, which really made me burst with pride.

    1. That's great to hear Precious Gem, thanks for that. There is hardly any better endorsement than people thinking you're a birth family, well done! One of the best foster parents I know is same boat as you, it's not the having children of your own that counts it's having the heart.

  2. I'm about to go through panel as a single carer. My partner doesn't live with me but I know he's going to be a great role model. As important as a father figure I think.

    1. So; you have space. Space to give fostering your all. And someone who'll be there whatever. A foster mum mustn't think she's shortfalling a child if she's not got a man about the house all day; she is giving the child 200% more than they had before. I'm sure your partner will pitch in and give your charges a dad figure. I bet it'll make him feel great.

  3. And there we come to one of the issues which makes me wonder if I can manage - i.e. no dad to be had. All the men in my life, except my brother who lives several counties away, have died. I need somewhere to put all that love, and will have to try to be both "mum" and "dad", at the samem time not allowing myself to tire out. My wise supervisor is working hard on making me consider my support network - who will be there for me when the chips are down. I'm amazed how many there are, and with what enthusiasm they offered to support me when I (very hesitantly) put my hope to foster on my facebook page. Actually a very touching experience in itself. And my own news, dear SFC, is that with the refugee children coming to the UK, I've been offered a place on a specialist course next week, specifically to see if I can be involved in that area of fostering. Watch this space! Helen x

    1. Helen,

      I think you'll make a wonderful solo carer.
      I'm sorry to hear of so many losses in your life, but think how much you can empathize and understand the loss experienced by the children who come to you. Also not having males around might mean a very special placement comes your way, not all children want to be placed in a home with men.

      Your support network is hugely important, so its good that they are already really positive. We've formed a closer bond with our friends who have kids, while a few of the childfree ones have slipped to be casual acquaintances. And having someone who lives close enough to pop round and babysit is really useful - if only so you can nip to the shops at 8pm for the cookery stuff they forgot to tell you they need for a catering lesson tomorrow!

      You seem to have the heart and intelligence to be a wonderful carer and I can't wait to hear more about your story.


  4. Your news is really exciting. I phoned the boss of Blue Sky this week and asked about the provision for refugee children if the government goes ahead and takes the several thousand that are talked about. He reminded me that the country is short of about 10,000 foster parents, so I said I'd have a look at how it's going to be resourced.
    On a personal note H, I'm so sorry to hear about how things have gone with the men around you. I'm mindful of that saying about when life gives you lemons make lemonade, well I'm not sure there's a bit more to fostering than being a glass of lemonade, but you get my point: a lot of people who would make fantastic foster parents can't find the space in their lives because they've worked themselves into a frenzy of responsibilities with their real family. We are all watching your space with huge interest.

  5. At this point I would like to say (and hope the boss of Blue Sky reads it!)how valuable and important this blog is. If I look at my life since October,when I first considered fostering, I found it very difficult to get guidance. I looked for a blog, and found yours, and it has been vital in keeping me on track, motivated and increasing in understanding. I am preparing with a very good county council fostering team, and I have great faith in my supervising social worker, but they haven't offered me anything that compares with this "virtual conversation". If I was in the Blue Sky area, it would have made me look at changing to them, but I'm not, and anyway I don't really want to let down the team who have put so much work into my training and assessment. I might not have made it this far, though, without your blog, and I think that making this service available and marketed to other potential foster carers would be an important step in addressing the 10,000 shortfall. Thanks anyway. You're doing more than one great job! Helen

  6. Thanks for saying those kind words Helen, it's vital in life to have communities and technology has given us all the chance to create a set of friends and supporters we may never physically meet but are always there for us. Keep right on, the gang are here and proud of you.

  7. Thanks SFC for this post. I think that all foster children, especially boys need male role models. And foster dads have to play very important role raising children in care. As you mentioned they (Dads) are often working in the background but that doesn't make their work less important.
    I am one of those Dads with a “spin" as my partner is also a man. We are same sex gay couple raising 3 foster sons (permanent placement).
    From my not long experience of fostering (4 months) I've noticed many changes in our children. There is hard to say if that is because we are men or maybe because boys just feel secure with us. We are trying to spent time together as much as we can; weekends are packed with activities and evenings with get together movies sessions etc. We are both surprised how children are getting closer to us; sometimes we have to be “dad” and sometimes “mum”. I can notice huge improvement in their self-esteem. But the greatest statement for me is when child say: “you know I will never move out?”

  8. It's great to hear how well things are going for you all.
    If I'm honest I'm also chuffed that you're doing something which I hope you realise is brave in two ways, one; fostering, two: doing it while staying true to who you are.
    I'm sure your 3 are raised in their self esteem. You both deserve to be raise in your self esteem, too, not that that's what you are in fostering for.

  9. I need somewhere to put all that love, and will have to try to be both "mum" and "dad", at the samem time not allowing myself to tire out. My wise supervisor is working hard on making me consider my support network - who will be there for me when the chips are down.

    Live in carer

  10. This blog pulled on my heart strings, I wont lie. I have recently been declined for adoption. Due me still being classed as married, even though I have been separated for nearly 3 years. I see as a technicality and paperwork, it is in fact being taken from the emotional aspect. I am wondering if fostering is something I should look at.

  11. 'You don't want to die wondering' is a bit of advice I try to remember from time to time in life.
    Make a phone call Hendrix, and ask about it. Blue Sky will advise 0845 607 6697.