Sunday, October 29, 2017


This is a kind of a rolling blog on a recent emergency placement of 3 sibs with us.

They are gone now - which is why I have a chance to blog. I kept records of their stay, which Blue Sky RETAIN; I tweak any information which would allow then to be identified.

Last time I talked about the early morning wake-up of two of them.

I'm picking up about an hour later, the whole family is getting moving.

The 3 emergency sibs had arrived around 1.00am, completely out of the blue. One of our foster children, Ben, woke up and was unbelievably helpful. The other foster child, along with my own kids, are in the dark.

Ideally I'd have woken them up gently in their own beds and broken the news; children don't like huge routine-changes especially first thing on a school day.

But it turned out that all but one had pieced together that something was going on from noises on the landing and voices downstairs, and that hurdle was crossed without mishap.

THOUGHT: Our own children gain so much from our fostering.

It's true. I'm not going to pretend it's plain sailing always, what is in family life? But on the whole our children gain maturity, responsibility and a sense of achievement from being in a family which fosters. They see how hard we work as parents to make things work. 

They learn from the children we foster.

I've just remembered a little true story which illustrates this, if I may... I don't think I've mentioned it on the blog before, but it's amazing.

A mum of a girl who was in the same class as a foster child I was caring for approached me and asked if she could encourage her daughter to play with my foster daughter because; the mum hoped some of the characteristics of the foster child would rub off on her daughter. The mum saw my foster daughter as independent, forthright, feisty. Able to look after herself.

An accurate profile of her public persona. (Mind, she's all those things and a whole lot more when she's back home...)

So how about that! 

True story.

Back to the first morning, 8.00am;

We breakfasted all over the place, nine mouths to fill, then the house emptied. I had the 3 newbies rattling around exploring what toys were available and squabbling over the remote. Ben, my eldest foster child, went back to his own bed now it was free to "catch up on some Zeds".

The kitchen is a wreck, as are all the bedrooms. In fact the whole house is upside down. I have to steel myself to put the children first. The youngest is most needy, understandably. Our training teaches us to begin offering attachment as soon as a normal placement foster child arrives, but I'm out on a limb with how to behave towards a child who might be gone in a few hours. Might it confuse the child (a child who's confused enough) if I try to mother her, and then I'm gone from her life in a heartbeat? 

Maybe I should be neutral.

Who really actually knows for sure?

Thing is; I don't have a range of ways to behave towards some poor mite who's suffered goodness knows what nightmares and is entrusted to me for even a few moments. They can expect all the kindness I can muster, end of. 

Ten to nine in the morning, and I'm playing a kind of peekaboo game with her. I didn't expect any movement from social services on finding a proper home for the 3 new kids for an hour or two, I used to work in offices, no-one's available until 10.00am in offices.

But the phone went. 

Fostering never sleeps...

To be continued.

Monday, October 23, 2017


We didn't quite get through the night.

It's not unheard of for new foster children to need you during the first night.

So I tend to sleep in my dressing gown and with our bedroom door half open, and with their bedroom doors open too.

Sure enough I heard some stirring, voices.

I checked the time; 5.50am.

Slid out of bed in the hope other half gets a bit more sleep, he's got work.

Stood on the landing listening. The two who were sharing the bed were at it. Some kind of squabble.

We'd worked out all the safety precautions with our social worker; they were appropriately clothed, topped and tailed, and had slept in the same bed almost all of their lives.

And, presumably had found reasons to argue.

The whispered expletives were pretty coarse, but hey, they were keeping it down.

Fostered children often find comfort in conflict.

I whispered;

"Alright in there you two?"

Silence. Thing was, they sounded wide awake. In which case they'd struggle to go back to sleep and could well wake up the whole house. I hissed;

"Everyone else is asleep, so quietly as you can, let's sneak downstairs and have some fun."

Made a big thing of getting down the stairs quietly. I find that when you get a new arrival, the early bonding is a big deal. So here we were acting like a gang of burglars sneaking out, and they loved it.

One asked; "What sort of fun?"

I replied; "We've got lots of toys to see. And I need you to help me find some cartoons on the TV."

We made it into the kitchen. We've got a dimmer switch and I kept the lights low to keep up the charade we were somehow getting one over everyone else. I turned on the little telly, made cereal for them a cup of tea for me. 

Channel Five runs cartoons from 6.00, and luckily it was one I knew, 'Puffin Rock', so I could explain a bit about it, which was good for my stock. I didn't overdo it though; these kids are often fed up with being told stuff and are aching to tell adults things.

The commercials were more popular than the cartoons. Things to buy. A Play Doh oven, an electronic secret diary. A trailer for an animated movie; they said they'd like to go and see it.

Normally I'd seize on that and promise a trip to the multiplex at the weekend if everyone behaved. Can't do that. They might be gone before teatime.

So there I sit, watching cartoons, my mind going ten to the dozen:

"This is my first emergency placement, I'm as green as grass. Presumably the placement officers at Blue Sky and the local authority will be going ten to the dozen the minute they get sat at their desks to find permanent placement for the three of them. But what if it turns out there's no home which can take all three? They'll have to be split up. They'll hate that; they've already experienced a massive upheaval....Social workers won't be able to feed me any news before mid-to-late morning at the best. Until they do it's down to me to tell them what I can. What do I say? The advice is to tell the truth.."

Then comes the $64,000 dollar question, from the older one. It almost always comes in the first few days, and you're never ready for it. The child didn't catch my eye, just stared into the cereal bowl and went;

"When are we going home?"

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Eldest foster child uses up the whole packet of bacon and puts a pyramid of sarnies (white bread, of course) on the kitchen table.

They pile in.

I ask their names.

Why oh why do chaotic parents give their children glitzy handles?

Emmanuel. Lotus. Ferdinand.

As though kids are just a bit of bling.

Blue Sky's 24-hour social worker arrives. She ducks into the living room to liaise with the police officers, who have been brilliant.

I ask the kids;

"Did they turn on their siren?"

I'm trying for a bit of light-hearted here. No dice. They shake their heads dismissively.

My eldest foster child, Ben by the way, articulates their thinking;

"Nah, they only turn on the siren if it's an emergency."

Ben is on their wavelength. His whole demeanour matches the new arrivals. He is world-weary, dismissive, resigned to life's bleak trials and tribulations. They have taken an instant warming to him. The  eldest of the three, Emmanuel, mutters;

"Or if they're late for their tea."

That gets a grunted gurgle of approval from the other two, and Ben rewards Emmanuel with a grudging guffaw.

This is going brilliantly. I take a chance and say;

"If you guys will excuse me I'll just go and have a word with the grown-ups."

Complete lie. I'm going out in order to help Ben break the ice with the new arrivals. My thinking is that if they can see that being in care can be cool, which is how Ben is positioning himself, they'll bed in better.

The police fill me in. They'd been called by neighbours to a domestic. When they arrived it was a drink and drugs den, four adults. Actual bodily harm involving a knife. Resisting arrest. A second police car attended, always a sign things are not going well. Then an ambulance. An officer accompanied paramedics and one of the accused to Accident and Emergency.

Flippin' heck! Here's me trying to make light banter!

Poor little mites.

I sneak up to the kitchen door to eavesdrop on the conversation. Ben is holding court:

"Did they take yer fingerprints?" he asks. They say "Nah." Ben says;

"My dad's finger was black wiv the ink for a week. It don't wash off.  Like they want you to stand out as having been banged up."

In I go, the bristling Mrs Sensible;

"Now, it's very late and although no-ones going to school tomorrow we're going to get ready for bed. We can catch up with each other tomorrow over breakfast."

I explained the sleeping arrangements and fetched spare pyjamas (we never throw children's clothes out, you simply never know what's round the corner).

I led them upstairs and showed them the bathroom and how the toilet worked in case they needed it in the night. 

I cursed to myself that I only had one spare toothbrush, and put them to bed, reminding them that if anyone felt scared in the night they could knock on my bedroom door.

Then I crept downstairs, our social worker had left. Ben was in the kitchen luxuriating; the new King of the World.

"They're alright," he said "That Emmanuel, he got a Man U shirt on didn't he, so I took the piss, he loved it."

Then he shook his head and murmured something like;


We settled Ben in the living room, he opted for the sofa rather than the sofa bed, after all he's a man now.

Husband and I crept up to bed, but I knew it'd be a while before I nodded off, if I managed to at all. So much to process.

Apparently the family was known to the police and social services and the children had been considered for care in the past. There were files and I'd be getting an email in the morning.

Nothing prepares you for sitting and reading what some children have been through...

To be continued...

Monday, October 09, 2017


Police car outside.

That'll keep the neighbours in gossip for a fortnight...

Two officers, one male one female. The male came up the garden path, checked they'd got the right address and went back to the car.

They shepherded three tiny shapes up the path and in.

I spoke to the children straight away;

"Hello" I said, as softly as I could.

They stood in a line in the hall looking at the floor; dressed in shabby garish tops and pants, each of them shivering despite a thin but new blanket over their shoulders.

I told them my name and who we were and that we had beds for them tonight.

Hierarchy of Needs training kicked in, I called out to husband;

"Can you turn on the central heating?"


"Who's hungry?"

Three pairs of eyes looked up, eyes red from crying.

"Come with me." I led them into the kitchen, husband took over the official stuff with the cops; I was up and running as foster Mum."

Apprentice foster carer (our eldest foster child) was sat at the table. I introduced him.

"Who'd like cereal?" I asked.

They said nothing, each gave a slight shrug.


Nothing. I tried again.

"Coco Pops?" I thought I saw the middle one give half a nod.

Meanwhile eldest foster child had rooted bacon from the fridge and started himself a bacon sandwich. Didn't ask. Acting the man. 

I whispered confidentially to the kids "He doesn't like cereal." ...but he heard me.

"S'alright innit if you can't be arsed.." he said from the cooker "Anyone else want a bacon sarnie?"

I saw the eyes of the eldest of the three flick from left to right, then he grunted;

"Go on then."

And we were away!!!

What I mean is, they'd started to arrive. Their heart had started to arrive. And who'd begun the bonding? Another child who was himself in care.

A thought jumped into my head. I spoke to the bacon chef;

"Have you decided where you're sleeping tonight?" He'd offered up his bedroom so that two of the new arrivals had a proper bed.

"I'll be alright on the sofa." He said manfully as he could, before adding;

"Probably be a bit knackered for school though..."

That seemed a fair deal. I looked at him and nodded, my mind mostly on how to get some sort of a bead on what sort of children we'd just taken in. 

Who are they? How are they doing? What do they need?

I'm fostering blind here; the only thing I know for sure is that our senior foster child is now about ten years on from where he was an hour ago...

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 04, 2017



Been a hectic period, I've had a lot on.

We've had an interesting time alright; and a moment of pure magic, one of those ones only fostering delivers.

It started with a phone call in the middle of the night.

I say 'The middle of the night", fact is once you're past the first flush of youth half past midnight is exactly that.

They were looking for an emergency home for the children of a family where an 'incident' had occurred and the police had been called.

All the adults in the house had been arrested and charged, leaving three junior-school aged children with no support.

I'll never forget the words I heard down the telephone;

"The usual emergency foster homes are busy. If you say no they'll have to spend the night at the police station."

I replied; "They have accommodation at police stations?"

"No, they'll have to be put in cells."

Short silence, then I said;

"Bring them here."

Well, what would you have done?

Emergency foster carers are a real lifeline, I don't know how they do it. In 'normal' fostering - if there is such a thing - you get a bit of time in advance and all available information about a potential placement so you can make up your mind if the child is likely to fit into your setup.

Compared to the rest of us the foster emergency carers fly by the seat of their pants. Not only that, the children are often re-located to a permanent home as quick as possible, so it's hello today and goodbye tomorrow, no chance of any useful attachment. 

Come to think of it, emergency care might suit some carers, especially start-ups who are looking to put their toe in the water. But boy, do you need to be adaptable.

So back to the middle of the night.

We are up and out of bed, throwing on clothes and trying to work out sleeping arrangements. No way do we have 3 beds in 3 separate bedrooms. We've one spare single room with bed, there's a sofa bed in the TV room off the kitchen, there's a big enough sofa in the living room, it'll all depend on what we make of the children when they arrive.

Unbelievably, Blue Sky's 24 hour officer is also slinging on clothes and is going to try to zoom to our house to be there for the children's arrival. You're never alone in fostering.

We started moving silently about the house, I rigged up the sofa bed, other half  got a sleeping bag from the cupboard under the stairs. One of us boiled a kettle, you can't foster properly without tea on the go. 

We're peering out into the street wondering who will turn up first when we hear someone on the stairs. It's senior foster child in dressing gown;

"Wo's goin' on?"

I explained. Foster child was up for it. Helping, I mean. This is what you are always hoping for, moments when they put their own woes to one side and start dishing out help and support. They get memories of what it was like to be taken into care, and let's face it unless you are a foster parent who yourself was a foster child (and there are quite a few) you don't know the feeling.

I outlined our sleeping plans.

"Nah." said foster child "You don't wanna sleep on some old sofa your first night in foster care. Not downstairs, not on your own."

"I'm going to stay up all night," I said, "To be awake if anyone gets frightened."

"Frightened?" said foster child "They're already sh**ing themselves ain't they."

Then this;

"They can have my bed."


"Put two of 'em in my bed. My bedroom's next to the spare room so they'll kind of be together."

You could have knocked me right across the room with the world's smallest feather.

I made more tea, three cups this time, after all there were three adults up and about in the wee small hours of the morning.

Three foster carers, two official, one unofficial.

I made it clear to our fledgling carer that we'd take up the kind offer provided it was appropriate and approved.

Headlights in the road.

Deep breath, head for front door...

To be continued.