Tuesday, May 17, 2016


One of our regular friends on this blog, Mooglet, has suggested we get a goldfish or a gerbil instead of the dog as asked for by Romeo. Good thinking.

The goldfish thing reminded me of something that sticks in my craw about this country. Well, every country on earth actually - with the slight exception of China as far as I understand.

The reason any mention of goldfish triggers this thought is as follows;

A few weeks prior to my goldfish moment we'd taken in a new foster child. She was a petite (underfed) girl, terribly shy. Her background notes showed she'd been a seriously under-planned child. Her parents had no idea what having a baby entailed and as the enormity of the commitment dawned on them they responded by not lifting a finger.

My analysis of their inertia (all foster parents turn into budding psychologists, sometimes we're as good as anybody else) was; the parents had themselves been treated with horrible derision by other adults all their lives and learned that if you do nothing then at least you can't be ridiculed quite as much as if you do something. 

The parents problem was caused by the reverse of 'learned helplessness' - where children are denied independence by having everything done for them rather than being taught how to do things - yet the end result was almost identical. They couldn't do anything.

Our new foster child wanted a pet, so we decided to put a couple of goldfish into the garden pond. When I say 'garden pond' I'm talking about a shallow tub with enough thick chicken wire covering it to almost prevent rain getting in. Fostering = Health and Safety is King.

So we took this little unplanned child, this little person who nobody gave a fig about and nobody had previously had any expertise or desire to care for, we took her to the big pet store on the by-pass.

'Can I help you?' asked a young assistant.

'Yes we'd like some goldfish please.'

'Right,' she said 'I'll go and get the forms.'

The forms? Oh yes, the forms.

We sat down at a desk.

They wanted our names, address and other details;

'Have you ever owned a goldfish before'

'Is the intended environment ready?'

'What systems of oxygenation have you installed'.

'If outside, what means of protection from predators have you?'

'Have you used tap or natural water?'

On and on. It lasted twenty minutes before we were approved and allowed to take home two goldfish. I wanted to call them Laurel and Hardy because one was bigger than the other. 

The family settled for Ant and Dec.

You must see my point.

There used to be an old maxim;

"You need a licence to own a dog or to fish in a lake, but anyone can have a child"

It's become truer than ever in our modern world.

If only the little girl's parents had been vetted before they had her. 

China? The Chinese government used to limit families to one child, which was one toe in the water of intervening with who has children and how many. 

I must point out, as I do from time to time, that outlook is my own view, not Blue Sky's.

Ant and Dec are fine BTW.

                                                                  * * *

Council for Prosecution; "..and do you expect this court to believe that they are the same Ant and Dec you purchased from the Pet Shop?"

Secret Foster Carer "They are, Your Honour."

Council for Prosecution; "Call the assistant from the Aquatics Department at the Garden Centre!"

Secret Foster Carer " Wait! I confess!!"


  1. Again SFC I agree.
    Unfortunately some people just haven’t had a good example, or picked up the skills to be a successful parent. Indeed when we first started fostering my mom made the same comment about having a licence to have a dog.

    The ability to have children is such a fundamental right that I can’t imagine our government ever imposing real restrictions, although I think they are working toward a benefits cap to minimise family size. Sadly, my experience with fostering means I am starting to think some kind of assessment or at least parenting classes would be a good idea. How to bath a baby, how to change a nappy (indeed that nappies need to be changed), when to call a doctor... but of course it’s a slippery slope. What happens if the classes reveal a potential parent really isn’t going to cope? Do we call social services and remove the child at birth if we fear mom and dad are likely to leave the sleeping baby alone while they go to the pub? Do we castrate anyone who thinks psychical harm is a good punishment for bad behaviour? What about parents who expose their children to 18 certificate films and video games, don’t believe in sending their kids to school, or provided such poor diets that their children become clinically obese? I wouldn’t want to be the one to write those guidelines.

    On a lighter note I wonder if Ant and Dec are masters of disguise like my friend’s fish. Bubbles can change his size, shape, colour at will, once he was even one of those chubby little round goldfish.. Magic! :-D

    1. You always make us think Mooglet. I largely keep my views about parents having to prove they have what it takes to bring up children because people sometimes think you mean them and get a bit het up. They start acting like ex-mayors of London and invoking Hitler.
      On the goldfish thing; I was told by someone who worked in an Aquarium that goldfish grow to suit the size of the environment. A bit like children whose inner selves grow if we give them enough good space.

  2. Trying to type this with the cat on my lap. Foster-cat (or rather, adopted.) Adopted four years ago when she and her sister had already experienced four years of neglect and abuse; now has had four further years of being spoiled rotten (allowed for cats, possibly not for children - pity) and they follow me everywhere and fight for occupation of my lap.

    I guess I want to foster because I'm already a budding psychologist. I want to analyse the damage and repair it, and I think animals (mine and the ones they want)are my partners in this. I've seen so many kids, including me, thrive in relationship with animals when they couldn't hack it with other people. Animals are uncritical - don't discrimate on the basis of gender, looks, income. And they don't have a sense of time - they have as long as it takes. And they're good (once you know them) for a cuddle. Not so much goldfish for the latter of course: I shared tropical fish with a flatmate once, and they're not promising for cuddles, but even so, when we came home from work we would sit in front of the tank and absorb tranquility from their gentle, monotonous journeys through the water.

    So I thought, amongst all the questions, some of them rather silly, on the fostering application form, there stood out one very good one: would you be prepared to have a pet? Too right, I would want every child to have a pet as soon as they wanted one. A pet, and also a bit of garden. There's a lot of healing in a garden, too. Helen

  3. Lovely words and thoughts Helen. Your cats landed on their feet (hang on, don't cats always land on their feet...you know what I mean).
    I agree that pets help a foster home, and a garden too. They aren't essential of course, but a big, big help.
    I loved your line about the tropical fish and their gentle monotonous journeys through the water". You know what? That's not a bad metaphor for the life we try to set up for looked-after children; a more placid passage through warmer waters.

    1. Yes, exactly. One of the topics of conversation with my social worker has been the fact that I live way out in the country, three miles from the nearest bus-stop. Most children will need to be in more of a community, or if I foster refugee children nearer to their ethnic community in the city. My own grandchildren pop in and out of the houses of their school friends all the time, and all that is missing round here. But we think there will be some kids who do need the tranquility, peace, space and attention that I can give them (me and the cats, that is). It will be interesting to see what comes of all this. helen

  4. Helen, I think some children would REALLY benefit from the peace, quiet and lack of distraction country life could provide. Some children might also feel safer away from a city or removed from their “home” location. You sound like an ideal set up for respite too.

    We're on the outskirts of a big city, proper suburbia, but our girls aren't from this area. They asked to be relocated as they wanted to start fresh without everyone knowing their business, and no risk of running into their extensive family. While they are city kids they love a break in the countryside, getting a bit grubby and find random things (Frog spawn! Mouldy pinecones! Really big cow poo!!!). They learned to climb trees, build dens and make dams from our camping holidays.

    Sound like you have a huge heart and a home set up that will seem idyllic to the right children. Xx

    1. Really glad for your support in this, Mooglet. Not all kids, but some. I want to be here and ready when the one who needs it comes along. helen

  5. really funny and really does tell us about the joys and funs of fostering.
    laughing out loud :-)