Monday, August 29, 2016


Been laid up after having a minor op.

In fostering you try to turn any and every situation into one which keeps the fostering going.

What I mean by that is that fostering is about a good bit more than providing some poor child a roof and food. 

Our job is to get them ready to go home, to fly our nest and make a go of it in the nest that nature intended.

Foster children usually arrive badly equipped for family life, not their fault. The question is what sort of a role should we encourage them to take when they go back to their real family?

With our own children we help them find their feet and become increasingly independent of us while at the same time take on more responsibility in the family. They progress in little stages, it's a delight to see them go up to another level. Sometimes it's natural development, sometimes an event triggers it.

I've found that children who are taken into care are often very confused about their role in a home, and lack the self-esteem a child needs to play any positive part in what's happening around them.

For example they tend not to have any sense of obligation to pick up things after themselves. Nagging doesn't help much, nor do any sanctions or rewards. It's a small thing to have to go collect crisp packets or get a pile of lego back into its bucket, but your eye is always out for little breakthroughs.

So. This happened.

One of ours has an absolute about tidying up after himself. An absolute no-no. We've talked to professionals about it, wondering what's at the root of it in the faint hope that if we can locate the cause we can nurse the trait out of him, but no luck.

Way back he used to get stuff out deliberately so that he could spread it around floors and walk away. Didn't play with the stuff, just arranged it in a chaotic carpet so you couldn't cross the room without stepping on something. One professional said maybe it was territorial. Another suggested he was testing his trust in us to get repeated re-assurance we wouldn't go ballistic. Yet another theory was that maybe the only way he got attention in his real home was to make a mess and someone would have a go at him, so the only way he could get any sense of affection was by being a nuisance.

On top of that the dear lad wants everything on a plate, literally. I've shown him how to make a snack but he won't, or maybe can't bring himself to do it himself.

I always find the trouble with analysing a troubled child is that even if you get to the bottom of the reason behind the behaviour, it's down to the foster parent  to find ways to improve things.

A few days ago I came out of hospital on crutches, I'd need them for the best part of a week. We'd arranged cover for me so the home would run as normal, but right from the time I struggled up the stairs and into bed I was completely fascinated about how this new set of circumstances would affect our looked-afters, especially the one who needs me to go round doing everything for him.

I found sleeping difficult, painkillers muck your bio-clock around.

So it was that at 4.00am I eased myself downstairs and into the kitchen for a medicinal cup of tea.

Lying on the kitchen table was a note. It said;

"I went to the fridge and there was watermelon.

Who can resist watermelon?

But it was sour so I put it back.

Hope that's OK


I checked everywhere for the evidence, expecting to find a wet knife, melon seeds, a half eaten slice, a dirty plate. 

There was nothing. 

He'd taken it on himself 1) to get himself a snack (tick) 2) to make a healthy judgement about the food (tick) - BTW the melon was simply unripe - 3) to clear everything away, blimey he must have actually wiped the table top (TICK)!

Later I said something casual like; "The melon was a bit sharp then?", and he replied something like "Yeah, I put it back".

I wanted to say something grand to him about the moment but instead wedged myself at the cooker and said;

"Can you get the bits for your breakfast, save me walking?"

"Okay" he replied "Provided I can have a go on your crutches."

So he went back and forth to the larder and the fridge fetching bacon eggs and baked beans on my crutches, and went to another level, then another.

As did I.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Been on holiday for ten days, apologies for the gap in posting.

We always find one thing hard about holidaying with foster children. We notice it more when we are on holiday than the rest of the year, but it helps remind us of something that foster children find hard all year round.

When you're on holiday you're surrounded by other families, and they all seem so normal.

On holiday there are family units everywhere you go consisting of Mum, Dad and the Kids. Maybe there's a Gran and Grandad thrown in for good measure. They appear to all be blood relatives, and they all appear happy with each other (They are on holiday after all, indulging themselves, spending more than normal on fun things, of course they look like happy families!).

Most of the year round foster children don't have their noses rubbed in their rotten bad luck. Whether they are at home in their foster home, or at school, or knocking round the park or the high street, they don't have to watch an endless parade of other people wallowing in the most important thing in the world as far as children are concerned; a proper family.

Of course, we adults know there's no such thing as the happy family that most families present to the world. Scratch the surface and there are all sorts of difficulties, tensions and problems.

One of those enormous Russian novels, I forget which one, starts with a memorable line;

"All happy families are identical in their happiness, all unhappy families are unique in the causes of their unhappiness" 

I wish the author was still alive (so does he, come to think of it) I'd email him and ask him where are all the happy families he refers too. Look at the Royal Family, they've got more reason than most to be happy, and look what they've been through.

But you'll never get that message through to a foster child. When they look out through their grey-tinted glasses at everyone else they see families that are at least together, even if they are having a mild ruck over melted ice cream on mum's shorts or dad wanting to nip off and watch the football somewhere. 

The families are together.

And we foster carers must remember that being together with their family is not merely something every foster child wants, it's everything they want and they want it with all their heart and soul and a bit more than that on top.

I find that foster children are not always good as gold on holiday, and if one's not careful one can find oneself wondering if they're being a bit up themselves. After all, you tell yourself; they're getting a lovely holiday somewhere nice, we're eating out every night and they're all getting treats right left and centre. 

It must be hell for them at times, noticing all the families that are better off than them. Better off because they are under the same roof.

I have a friend whose daughter was in a wheelchair from an early age, she used to tell me that one evening she took her daughter to the theatre for a Christmas pantomime. They allowed her to park the wheelchair on the end of a row of seats and mum sat on the theatre seat next to her. At some point during the show she looked out over the sea of heads of families whose children were able bodied and cried her heart out inside. She cried for the loss of something she and her daughter and her whole family had been denied, through no fault of their own. She loved her daughter with all her heart, she was the light of her life,  but her family would always be different from others, different from the family she'd dreamed of.

The point being that for the rest of the year she was able to block that thought out. It was only when the realisation of what her family had to deal with on a minute-by-minute basis was staring her in the face that it overwhelmed her.

Taking a foster child on holiday can be like that for the foster child.

How to deal with this, I don't know. Often foster children work things out for themselves.

For the record, this year this happened;

One of our foster children tried to buddy up with another child, only the other child's dad wasn't so keen. Turned out he was a single dad, the family was broken in half by an acrimonious divorce and the dad got to see his children one weekend day per fortnight and got five days holiday with the eldest per summer, that was the deal the solicitors had hammered out. The reason the dad wasn't keen on his child making a friend was because he wanted the child to himself as much as possible.

Explaining this to our foster child seemed to bring a small smile to the child's mind. Not in any spite about the other child's sadness, but in the realisation that many of the other 'happy' families are just putting on a brave face.

So; we had a decent holiday, pity there wasn't more sun.

And a bit of useful fostering happened, like it always does if you keep your eyes and heart open.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


They've just published a survey showing the favourite brands of people who voted Leave versus people who voted Remain.

Got me thinking.

Just for a bit of fun, knowing what we know about the Referendum, supposing children had had a vote, how would they have voted, and why?

The Referendum was about more than just the EU, it was a vote about who you are, how your life is and what you think about other people and their lives, both at home and abroad.

The Referendum suggested that GB is two worlds in one country.

Apparently, according to the stats, the younger you are the more likely you voted Remain, but that only took us down to 18 year olds.

Obviously, we talked about it with our children, I would be surprised if any family didn't.

Oh, hang on, I'm a foster carer, I've come across plenty of families where nothing gets discussed, everything gets argued over.

Mine were indifferent, but vaguely for Remain. That is to say our own children. Our foster children weren't so sure, but they were a bit Leavie. Our own children are more up for the outside world, more digital. Our foster children tend understandably to be drawn to simple, homely comforts.

Then I looked at adults favourite brands, the ones that people had most affinity for and was quite taken aback, because it summed up the two worlds theory, but also seemed somehow to sum up children in care and children not. More than that, I'm not a sociologist so I have no comment:

LEAVE                                                              REMAIN
HP Sauce                                                
Bisto                                                                BBCiplayer
ITV News                                                          Instagram
The Health Lottery                                           London Underground
Birdseye                                                           Spotify
Iceland                                                             Airbnb
Sky News                                                          Linkedin
Cathedral City                                                  Virgin Trains                                                  
PG Tips                                                             Twitter
Richmond Sausages                                           Easyjet

Friday, August 05, 2016


It might be my imagination but foster children seem to develop in sudden spurts, more so than ordinaries.

By the way, I hope 'ordinary' children is an okay way of describing one's own children and other children who are not in care, only I can't think of a better single word.

It's like when there's a cup of tea being offered and you hear "Do you want fruit tea or ordinary?". It's no slight to call a rock solid cuppa 'ordinary', same with children.

One of my foster children has always struggled to make friends, it seems to me quite common for them to have a poor set of social skills beside all their other challenges.

This may possibly be because of the poor social skills on show in their real home. They may have picked up conflict, disloyalty and self-seeking as the basic skill-set. They may have seen judgemental-ism, sarcasm and verbal abuse as the norm.

If a child is let down by their role models perhaps they experiment with letting down their peers, and that's not the basis for friendships.

This particular child was the playground loner.

Used to have to hang around the 'Buddy Board' at playtime.

The 'Buddy Board' is a sign on a pole for kids with no-one to play with to stand next to and wait for another lonely child to go and join. I told the school I thought it was grotesque and that the staff should be involved in playtime helping show children how to play and develop friendships.

My child, meanwhile, seems to have been trying to work out what it took to get friends, and it was a long process, but suddenly a penny dropped.

All of a sudden, like over the last few weeks, the child is almost inundated. She has formed a gang of neighbouring children, and a separate gang of school friends. She rallies them up for hanging out, banging away until they are in line. When one gang disperses she's bugling for the other.

She has a bestie and a second and third bestie. I've never seen her so happy.

The thing is; I want to make a mental note of how this fantastic development came about. But I'm at a loss.

Perhaps it's this:

I find that some foster children have learned to despair. It's a tragic thing to see any person who has given up, even more tragic in a child. They must feel as though they've tried their best and the world just knocks them back every time, so why keep trying? The older a child gets the harder it is for us carers to inspire them, we keep trying but it might be that the best we can do is make things comfortable for them and join them in shielding them from any more disappointment.

I know plenty of adults who gave up trying a long time ago, and they are passably happy with what they've put in place of hopes and dreams. But in children hopelessness has surely arrived too soon.

I'd be chuffed to get any credit for inspiring this child but, without being self-deprecating, I reckon I just got lucky in having a child placed who still wants to make the most of life.

But I'm not going to let myself miss out on doing cartwheels every day when the house is full of her gangs and the laughter rings around the house.

It's because most foster children have so much ground to make up that their development often comes in sudden spurts, so much so that it's easier to spot progress in foster children than your own.

Ain't fostering grand!