Friday, February 10, 2017


There's plenty of things that fostered children do that can upset you if you lapse and make the same expectations you make of your own children.

We have to remember that we are professionals, dealing with someone else's child on a professional basis.

Take tidiness.

We think of tidiness as a simple function and expect certain standards from our loved ones, and they rise to our requests, up to a point.

But when it's a fostered child, their standards are different.

Foster children usually have so much on their mind, so much turmoil and inner tumult that they are often not in the now. They're not conscious of the present moment half the time unless you pull them into the moment by engaging them. We all have day dreams, we are all guilty of being off with the fairies sometimes, but with foster children it's not day-dreams, it's daytime-nightmares - which are both disturbing and distracting.

That's why the young ones absently slip an apple core under the sofa cushion, meaning to dispose of it properly but forgetting.

One young mother we had as a mother and baby placement, we found out months after she'd gone that every time she'd prepared to bathe the baby she'd remove the dirty nappy and put it at the back of the airing cupboard in the bathroom. I don't remember what one of us was doing to go looking behind the hot water tank one day, but we pulled out maybe ten or twenty neatly taped up nappies. The girl had no malice or even bad intent, she was consumed with the raucous detail of her life and probably forgot each and every time to fetch out the nappy when the baby was safely in her cot. Oh I'm not blind to the fact that the girl was what people term lazy, that was a part of it, but she was so knackered with being up all night feeding and cuddling the wee one, she was well forgivable on that score.

Another lad, a teenager, got up and left the toilet every time he used it for number two with mighty skid marks down the back. I reminded him about the use of the brush. I say I 'reminded' him, in truth I'm not sure he'd ever seen one before, but anyway, I asked him to clean the loo after use. But he did it again and again. I tried praising him for using it whenever I noticed he'd been in there, even if it was probably for a pee, just trying to drum it in. I tried scolding - for want of a better word - to no avail. He was a lovely lad, kind and gentle and, when his mind was in the present, capable of great acts of thoughtfulness. But when he locked himself in the loo he was transported back to when he used the bathroom in his old home. It was the one time in his old home he could lock the door and therefore lock out the world. For ten precious minutes he was free from the negative chaos that was in every other room in his house. The arguing, the fighting, the drugs, the booze, the shouting, the malice, the despair. Then he had to wash his hands and go back out there and his mind filled as he'd brace himself to face his life again. So of course he didn't think to check the state of the bowl.

Then there was the child with a short fuse. So used was she to being chastised and derided that if you said something like "Is that your crisp packet on the floor?" you'd be in for an episode of aggressive defensiveness as she re-lived old repercussions. Consequently I got into the practice of simply picking up the crisp packet and saying nothing.

It's absolutely vital to develop a set of tidiness standards for each foster child according to their needs.

And equally important to try to make sure your other children, if they are around, understand why your foster child is apparently being treated with special leniency when it comes to tidiness.

I don't give up on trying to improve standards though. One of the joys of fostering is watching children progress, but we have the bar set at one height for our own children and lower in certain aspects for the foster child. Nevertheless everyone can be expected to eventually clear their height and have the bar re-set a bit higher.

I've got my own bar currently set to try not to get irritated at stuff left lying around for me to tidy up or clean, not to take it as a snub, not to feel walked all over.

I have only cleared my new height a few times, but I'm getting there...


  1. Oh the joy the first time they put a glass in the dishwasher unprompted or repond with "already done it" when you remind them to open their curtains & make their bed in the morning. It's like a unexpected gift and proof that what we say and do is sinking in, only a little bit but baby steps can become big strides over time.

  2. 'Sright. Deep joy.
    You decide to keep to yourself the fact that putting a plate piled with pasta, sauce and a crust of garlic bread into the dishwasher and expecting it to act like a waste disposal rather than bake it onto the rest of the crockery is not entirely helpful.
    Because, you're right, it's baby steps in the right direction.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this post! We are in the early stages on becoming foster parents (in Canada). I hadn't ever thought about the tidyness + having their minds other places for our future foster kids. Makes so much sense! I found your blog about a week ago, and have been reading some each day. It really is such a delight and an education to read. Thank you for taking the time to share about your experiences!

  4. Hi Becky, thank you for your kind comments, and thank you even more for coming into fostering. I'm so proud that you have found my experiences and observations useful. Please stay in touch as you go along, it will be fascinating to learn how fostering works in your wonderful country.