Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Went to a really useful Blue Sky training session.

I remember when I first got going in fostering I wasn't sure about training. I was never top of the class back in my schooldays and getting my feet under a school desk again...well it didn't sit easy.

But things have changed in the world of education; or maybe learning is a different concept when it comes to training. Thing is; it's more than plain painless, it's fun. Perhaps it's that the content is practical and applies to real life. Maybe it's that the rest of the 'class' is  fellow foster carers one can relate to. Maybe it's the visuals. Maybe it's the refreshments. Whatever, all in all it's a good morning out.

This particular session was about a child-friendly practice called PACE.

PACE stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy. It's a method for getting onside with kids.

Even kids who are hard to charm.  And in fostering that's sometimes the challenge.

When a new child arrives you make sure they have their basic needs; food and shelter. You keep them and their room clean, you launder their clothes, get them to and from school - in other words the practical stuff. On the whole the practical stuff is easy, at least inasmuch as you know how to work a hoover, how to cook pasta, how to drive.

But how to get onside with a mite who's been metaphorically bashed about by the world (or sometimes literally)? 

We foster carers start by offering our foster children the same affection we offer our own children. It works with some, but only so far. 

Fostering is a job in which, during one's start-up days, one hopes the child will be grateful for our home and parenting and respect us for our effort. PACE helps one realise how things are for them (in the EMPATHY bit).

PACE gives us tools to help them trust us, help them like us even. Bring about a coming together.

Every so often I come home from training and I've learned something that helps me with my whole family never mind about just the foster children. Helps me out with life in general!

Example; the hall in our house had become a jumble of shoes. The 'rule' is that everyone takes their shoes off when they come in and put on their slippers/house shoes. Everyone's supposed to keep their footwear neatly under the telephone table.  Fact is that by half-past six it's a sea of shoes and trainers.

The "P" in PACE stands for playfulness.

There were six pairs of assorted shoes. So I laid them out so they spelled "HELLO" on the mat.

Each time someone came in there was a jokey conversation. A couple of times they crept into the hall and changed the word.

One obvious anagram of "HELLO" was the source of suppressed but very real laughter.

The joke is still going on every evening. Along with a bunch of other stuff where I've abandoned rules and regs are replaced them with fun.

It's even lightened things up in our marriage.

I'm looking forward to out next training session already!

Thursday, November 16, 2017




I'm just taking a breather from talking about our recent and unexpected emergency placement, I need to go off on a tangent.

I'm just back from a Blue Sky training session on 'Minimum Standards'. Interesting; for example I didn't know that Blue Sky should be notified if you get the builders in.

One thing I've come to expect at every training session is that it will be mostly women. It's probably not politically correct to notice such things, but there it is.

At a guesstimate something like 70% of the carers at training sessions are women. I know that fostering is partly or wholly shared in many homes between the partners, but the fact is that the country depends primarily on women for its foster care.

And fostering is one of the most important jobs going. Not to mention the most demanding.

The need for new foster carers has become a crying need, and the crying is being done by hundreds and hundreds of children who have been dealt a wretched hand and find themselves in desperate need of a safe home while their real parents sort themselves.

Children of all ages, all races and creeds.
Children whose only chance lies in finding a foster mum and/or dad who can gently set them on their way in life.

I'm wondering if one of our most dependable institutions can help; the Women's Institute. 

They have more members than the Conservative party (220,000) and their dedication to righting social wrongs is famous; from climate change to equal pay for women (which is a given in fostering, btw).

My bet is that the overwhelming majority of WI members fit the bill to a tee; they have a stable home, a spare room, a clear head, and a big heart.

The WI could wipe out the fostering deficit single-handed. They'd be able to offer each other extra support for their fostering members (on top of agency/local authority back-up) at their regular meetings.

One look at their website shows a lot of love, and you need a lot of love in fostering. 

There's a lot of humanity in the WI, and the fact they're human, and only human, is underlined by the endearing spelling errors in their jams on sale in my supermarket!

Sunday, November 12, 2017


The emergency placements, which I've talked about on the last few posts, were found a home the following afternoon.

Amazing really; social services managed to find a foster parent who could take all three. 

We weren't told much about where they were going, that's normal. I'll come back to that aspect of fostering.

Their new and permanent foster home wasn't perfect; they were a bit too far from their old home but social workers like to keep children who come into care at their regular school for continuity so the school run was going to be a long round trip every day. The family were dog-lovers, big time. Four apparently - too many in my book, the dogs could get the idea the place belongs to them -  but the kids all voiced enthusiasm about dogs (I've always found pets and foster children are a good mix), so good luck to all who sail...etc.

Come about five o'clock in the afternoon a social worker arrived at our house and the business of collecting up their stuff (not very much) and getting them ready for a longish drive went fairly smoothly.

Except for the littlest one who started crying, then sobbing, then wailing. It was one of those cryings where the child is as taken aback by her own tears as everyone else. She was simply sitting bolt upright on a kitchen chair, not rubbing her eyes or holding her face, just crying. Loudly. Staring at the air in front of her face.

Any child crying is awfully hard on the heart; I've been known to leave the supermarket if a child won't stop, it's such a soul-destroying sound. 

It's worst of all for the child of course. And in this case the child was wailing at her plight, railing against the whole world. There was despair in her weeping, it was the stuff of hopelessness, fear and loss.  The little mite had nothing, only the hand-me-downs she was wearing. No parents, no home, no love. No granny and grandad to suddenly show up with mischief and gifts, no pals next door to play with. No corner of a family home to call her own. No toys, no bedtime teddy. 

No nothing.

She was in a strange house surrounded by strangers, about to be shipped across the county by another stranger to another strange house occupied by strangers.

It's witnessing moments like this that leave you in no confusion why there are so many mixed up youngsters (and adults). Why there are so many mental health problems, so much anger and sadness in the world.

And the more I said to her; "There, there. It'll be alright..", the louder she wailed.

All three of them straightened up when the social worker started loading them into the car. The littlest one, bottom lip all atremble managed a look in my direction and returned half a wave, but I knew enough not to be making a meal of it. I resisted the temptation to blow a tiny kiss, instead I came inside and shut the front door.

I made a cup of tea (I always say I spell 'fostering' with a capital Tea) and savoured a momentary relaxation in responsibility and workload. I cupped both hands round the mug and sat at the table. I find that whenever a foster child leaves I start picturing a happy ending for them. It's probably way off the mark, but I imagine them in the sunshine, all grown-up and smiling with a happy family of their own. They have worthwhile jobs and troops of friends, a shiny new car and two holidays a year.

I'm not religious, I haven't got the time, but maybe it's my way of praying.

As I said earlier, we weren't told much about the new home where they were being taken. This is normal and at the same time you never quite get used to it. Foster children you've had in your home and are long-gone suddenly pop into your mind and you float off wondering about them.

Older foster children, nowadays, thanks to Facebook and the rest, often stay in touch, or at least let you see how they're doing. Which is fine as long as you don't interfere. I had a call once from a child who'd returned to her real home (she had my number on her phone from when that was a necessity) to complain about social services not providing her with something or other "that I'd been promised."

I phoned the social worker, meaning well, just to let them know the child had contacted me (and, I hope, get the promised deal). And got slightly short shrift. Which was fair enough. 

Fostering is a professional job, and I'd been behaving like a member of the public.