Wednesday, October 05, 2016


I've got one off school and at home all day at the moment, not very well.

I LOVE it when they are off sick for a couple of days.

Obviously I'm only talking about a cold or a sore throat or something, touch wood I've never had a foster child with anything more serious.

I love it because it's a fantastic opportunity to get to know them better, and vice versa. They can't rush out and play, can't spend the day in front of the PC or on their phone. I let them come downstairs and lie on the sofa under a duvet watching TV. There's some good stuff on; wildlife documentaries, they all love Ray Mears (the outdoor survivalist) and that dangerous animals chap Steve somebody.

The day starts great with me going straight into their good books when I say;

"I don't think you're well enough to go to school today..."

So I phone the school then get them settled downstairs where a) I can keep an eye and b) I can get some quality engagement going.

I do a regular Florence Nightingale; hand on forehead checking their temperature, asking if their tummy is alright, asking to see their tongue (God known what I'm looking for but it all adds to their sense of being cared for).

I re-assure them "It's nothing to worry about, just a bug. You'll be fine in a couple of days, in the meantime just concentrate on getting better."

Then I keep up a supply of nice healthy things to eat and drink. They seem more susceptible to things such as raw fruit and veg, plain toast and a glass of milk, when ill. 

I often linger after a delivery and watch a bit of what they're watching, doing a bit of bonding, just showing appreciation of the programme they're enjoying.. Then after a bit, when the telly gets a bit stale for them, they start a conversation.

I'm not flattering myself; I know they're talking to me because there's no-one else around and they can't message friends or disappear upstairs; they're not well enough. So you get some decent chats going, definitely better than the average.

Of course, there are all sorts of forces at work, one being the hope that a day off school might turn into two. But if I can get meaningful chats going it's an investment for the future, because foster children often don't really know how to have a joined up conversation and it's one of our jobs to show them how it works:

So. I say something and they say something about the something I've said and add something of interest or maybe finish with a question, to which I reply and then either ask a question or make an observation and ask if they agree and blah-de-blah-de-blah you're having a conversation.

So many children in care try to avoid the intimacy of an engaged conversation with their carers, we can easily get disappointed when we hear them burbling away with friends in the back of the car.

Looking after a looked-after child when they are unwell is sometimes the very closest we can get to being a real parent to them. They are vulnerable, we are strong - but gentle and kind. 

I feel it, and I think many of them do too.

It matters not that I've actually got the same illness as the child, and wouldn't mind being under a duvet on the sofa myself with someone bringing me a regular supply of hot sweet tea, Covali and chocolate digestives.

I know that Brideshead Revisited is on somewhere on ITVRemembers, but I'm happy to do the nursing and share Spongebob Squarepants, because what I'm getting is sweeter than any sugar and more substantial than any classic drama with Jeremy Irons.

It's an unwell child getting better in body.

And in spirit.


  1. Thought provoking and I can see how getting extra bits of attention can make a child feel loved and help with bonding. How do you deal with repeat sickies? Children who try to pull a sickie a few times a week just to avoid school (particularly when its a cold and wet morning, or they have a test, or haven’t done their homework).

    I ask as our current FC’s had a poor attendance record, and SW confirmed that getting up in the mornings was a bit too much for Mom. Any excuse was acceptable for a day on the sofa. When they came into care “pulling a sicky” was a normal thing.

    To re-educate the kids that getting up for school (and eventually work) are pretty essential we’re now tough about sickness. Unless there is genuine evidence of illness (vomit, temperature etc) they go into school. If they are sick the nurse will send them home or we have a call we always go pick them immediately and make a big fuss of them. The kids get verbal acknowledgement of being good and brave for going into school when they said they felt abit poorly, which seems to work well.

    I guess as with most things it’s horse for courses and you have a judge the situation based on the needs and nature of kids you have at the time.

  2. Repeat sickies, one of the banes of fostering. Actually one of the banes of parenting, though fostering seems to intensify the problem.
    There are all sorts of strategies one can try, in the end we have to do what your'e doing; stick to our guns.
    Trouble is it can make every weekday morning a bit of a misery.
    My own views are my own views; not official or Blue Sky policy:
    * Schools are too driven by their precious 'attendance figures' - not entirely their fault, Ofsted use it as a lazy gauge.
    * Who else besides children are required by law to be in a place they don't want to be? Convicted criminals, anyone else?
    * Who else goes to work they don't want to do for absolutely no reward? Nobody, not even in third world sweatshops.
    Who else:
    * Get told they're not very clever.
    * Get told they're badly behaved.
    *Get told in the playground they're fat, spotty, got no friends.
    *Get teased they're a foster kid.

    I can entirely see the child's point of view.

    I changed a child's school once, that worked ( a bit, not a lot).

    I've used rewards, they can work (a bit, not a lot). Hard; there's not a bottomless pit of affordable treats and things like promises of late nights, favourite food for tea, aren't as beguiling as a day in school is horrifying...

    Mostly I stick at what I'm guessing you're sticking at; lots of praise and love, setting a good example, and trying to work out each child; why they are as they are and what they need and how to help them get there.

    You're a great foster mum Mooglet, I hope you feel the burn every day.

    1. Thank you for saying that – I haven’t been feeling like a good parent lately! Brightone has hit the hormones at full force so things have been a little more challenging at home.

      I'm trying to take it positively, she’s comfortable in our love so knows she can lash out and be mean, and we’ll still be here, loving her and caring for her.

      You put so much care, empathy and love into your role that I always imagine your home is like a warm sweet bath - calming and comforting.


  3. Praise is much due, you clearly bring a sharp mind and a big heart to fostering, and those are key credentials.
    There are others aplenty; patience, love, insight, strength - and you have them all too.
    ps It ain't always a warm sweet bath at my end...

  4. I admire my little one daily as she ventures out to school, a place where from day one, pre-fostering she was the outcast. Where now some years later she still carries those traumas, where her attachment issues ensure praise frightens her into the unknown. The warmth of praise goes against everything she feels about herself. School is a daily torture for her but she still goes. I love the days when she is too ill to go and if I'm honest I love the days when she is better here with me needing something that school won't give her, having a bit of home teaching mixed with whatever else she needs. Home school? I would in a heartbeat

  5. Thank you for your lovely inspiring words. Your point about praise going against how she feels about herself is so true. I had a child who would pull her pullover over her head and run out of the room shrieking if you praised her.
    As for home schooling, have you explored it? Schooling isn't only about book-learning. I always say I don't care if they can't spell 'psychosis' I don't one them to develop one.