Friday, December 29, 2017

FOSTERING; YOU MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK

We're hoping for a new placement in the New Year, with a bit of luck. Who knows if a child who needs a home will get us and it turns out to be lucky for them? One can but hope.

We have one spare bedroom. It's small to be honest, but some foster children like compact rooms, they feel safe, snug, cosy. 

Our house is hectic but I've often found that foster children like the company of other foster children. They don't feel quite so stand-out. They can melt into the house a bit more easily, sneak away from what they otherwise might think of as claustrophobic attention.

One time we had two girls staying with us, they'd never met before, and there was a big age difference; one was 7 the other 16.  The eldest was big, the youngest tiny. You wouldn't think they had anything in common, and were incompatible. About the only exchange  that happened in the first few weeks was that the older one slammed her bedroom door one night, and the next evening the little one could be heard practising her door slam. Luckily for all she gave up on the idea.

To get these two to school I had to combine two school runs into one, not unusual in many families, but with foster children you sometimes get one school ten miles east of your home, the other ten miles west. As with Blue Sky guidelines, I sat them both in the rear seats, and every morning off we set. First port of call was the little one's school (their gates opened at 8.15am and the playground was supervised). Then I'd drive across to older one's college, she had to be there by 9.00am.

They'd usually sit in silence, but one morning the level crossing gates were stuck down, so we had to do a huge diversion and the traffic was gridlocked. I pulled in and phoned both their schools to say they'd be legitimately late and both offices said that loads of other pupils were in the same boat, so I passed this onto the girls and they relaxed. They relaxed so much they started talking to each other, as if I wasn't there;

"So how come you're in fostering?" asked the 16 year old.

"My mum used to lock me in my bedroom and go to the pub." the 7 year old replied.

The older girl didn't do sympathy. None of your "Oh how awful for you" stuff that we adults habitually chirp up with. Instead she just went; "That all?"

Little one replied; "My social worker said we wasn't getting fed properly."

Silence. Then the big one said;

"Y'know what? My mum don't even know how to use an oven. All we had was takeaways and ding meals."

Another silence; they were plotting their way into each other's confidence. Little one said;

"Have you ever had McDonalds?"

Big one scoffed;

"Wot? Yeah! Love it! You ain't ever had one?"

"We weren't allowed." replied little one.

"So what was you given?' asked big one.

"Cereal. Toast. Crisps and that."

Big one summed it up; "Eeeeuurgh."

The little one asked;

"How long you been fostered?"

"About...a year." said the 16 year-old.  Then she realised this news would be a bit daunting for the little one, who'd only been with us eight weeks and was still in denial that she'd be going home any day, so she added; "Goin' home soon though".

"When?" asked the little one.

"That's what I keep askin' 'em." 

They were bonding, two waifs gaining strength from sharing with another child in care. The older one passing on her experience and wisdom of fostering; the conversation ranging from the general quality of fostering (I came out not too shabby, phew, compared to the two homes she'd been in previously. Mind, their perceptions can be skewed...). They talked about what social workers are like. I remember the comment that they are easily persuaded if you; 

"Go on and on and on, that's how come I gets to go home every other weekend".

To how the system works; 

"They've said I ain't goin' home for good until my dad's appeal, 'cos if he gets off he'll come round our house and they don't want me and him in the same room and nor do I."

The younger girl held her own, then asked me;

"Can we have McDonalds for tea tonight?"

And we did. It became a weekly treat, the big girl indebted to the little girl for having had the courage and the canny to ask for it. Little one knew I was all ears. Actually they both did, but bared their souls anyway.

So.

Like I say, the more the merrier.

We're a bit harder to match in our house than most homes because it's a busy house.

'Matching' is the process of finding the foster home that's best suited to the child and the family.

The house/flat/caravan/whatever is a big part and parcel, especially the location. It's best if the child can attend the same school they did before they came into care (assuming they went to school at all), so the greater the distance to their school the more difficult.

I work on the basis that if the Blue Sky Placement team think we are a good enough match, that's good enough for me. 

We've a 100% record so far, maybe that's down to them, maybe us, maybe just good luck.

Although I find in fostering you make your own luck, not that I'm superstitious.

Touch wood.

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