Saturday, March 11, 2017



I have to keep this one short, because it's just an inkling.

Our new placement, Glenn, has been with us a couple of weeks and is settling in.

And then again he isn't.

And the ways in which he isn't settling in leads me to an unsettling thought.

In fostering, usually, the child finds it difficult to fit into the foster family and that's no surprise, what with what they've been through.

One of their fears is that the break-up of their real family was their fault. It's heartbreaking when you find out, for example, that a six-year-old child whose family fell to pieces thinks that it was his fault because he didn't keep himself clean enough.

The above case actually happened with us; the poor boy blurted out that he'd tried everything he could to make the family work; washed his hands 'til they were red before every meal, cleaned his teeth for five minutes after every meal, washed his face and combed his hair with water, you name it. But still the arguments, the drinking, the different people in his mother's bed.

All his fault for not keeping himself tidy enough.

Back to Glenn. He has depression, but it's low-level and manageable, if it wasn't he'd be in specialist care. He is an older foster child, more fully-formed than the average, stronger, less likely to be accepting of new ways of thinking and being.

We (other half and me) are learning his ways and sit up in bed most nights discussing what to do to help.

We know we have to be on our toes with Glenn because we are learning the little things that unsettle him.

We are wondering how much he requires unsettledness.

It's difficult asking him abut himself. Fostered children often clam up when you ask anything about their past or the way they feel. They can make you feel like you're the Spanish Inquisition.

The thing that's in our mind is that maybe, just maybe, in Glenn's case, he did contribute somehow to the deterioration of things in his real home.

Having your own children is not plain sailing by any stretch of the imagination, especially nowadays in that we don't have extended families round the corner, mums have to go out to work, childminding can be expensive, and childhood seems to end around the time children reach double figures, or sooner.

I imagine the burden of bringing up children is sometimes a nail in the coffin of some people's attempts at happy families. After all it's the hardest job and the one with most responsibility that any of us ever do, and yet it's the one thing nobody gets trained or taught how to do.

The job at hand for us right now is to be alert to Glenn trying to unconsciously re-create the home life he was used to, one of trouble and strife.

So we've got two things in our mind now that Glenn is here;

One; did he play a part in the breakdown of his real family?

Two; is he unconsciously trying to lead us towards similar chaos?

And Three, three things, (God I'm starting the Spanish Inquisition sketch from Monty Python), the Third thing is; Do we let him be or try to turn him round?

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.


  1. Two lines really rang a bell for me: “how much he requires unsettledness.” And “Is he unconsciously trying to lead us towards similar chaos?” I think you know the answer to both. He requires unsettledness, chaos, disorder and yes he will be trying to lead you to it. I’m sure a little background tension, some annoyed voices, a little friction between family members (and perhaps feeling a bit to blame for all that) is as comforting and familiar to him as a soak in a warm bath is to most of us.

    “Do you let him be or try to turn him round” is far harder. I would want to try, because I think his need for chaos will follow him to every home he has, including ones he creates for himself later in later.

    Our teen Drama-llama is a similar instigator of tension and chaos. Rows had been a constant part of her life for so long she too thought it was normal - that feeling of tension, hostility, of screaming when you can’t get your own way and then lashing out when you run out of words. She’s calmer than she was, and we now know to pick our battles carefully, walk away, or ask her to take a time out when she goes off on one. We also preempt rows and try to head them off before they can start. We use age appropriate versions of Grey Rock (making ourselves as boring as grey rocks, and not worth arguing with) and JADE (do not Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain). We’re a few years in so can speak to her about her behavior, pointing out some regular triggers and behaviors, how much we all avoid her some days as no-one wants to be her target. She takes more onboard now than she used to. But some days, rare days when she has pick, pick, picked at me, and I’ve danced round her enough – I will snap back. I’m never proud of it, but oddly sometimes it works – she knows she’s pushed too much if I raise my voice.

    I look forward to hearing how you tackle this.

  2. Thanks for such quality feedback. I'm going to Google Grey Rock right after I write this, sounds a great device. JADE also; it's so tempting to try to win an argument with a foster child because, so it seems, you (the foster parent) are right by such a wide margin of logic how could you lose? And the other temptation comes from the little voice in your head that says "If I win the argument with logic they will accept my view and comply". Which, of course doesn't happen.
    Like you, we have another child who started out with us by taking herself to the edge of anger. At first it happened a lot, then decreased in time. I'm talking years, like you.
    In fact (and I'm whispering this because I don't want to tempt fate) I can't remember her last wobbly.
    Like you dear Mooglet, I have sometimes snapped back. And instantly regretted it. But similarly, the child seemed to feel strangely loved by my short-temperedness, or maybe just relieved that anyone and everyone (even old goody two shoes foster mum) gets things under their skin from time to time.

    Going to let newboy have his chaos, as long as I can map that it's receding, which hopefully, with love and time, it will.

    Thanks for your thoughts and news, here's to your fostering skills. And stamina.