Tuesday, May 08, 2018


We're offered lots of training at Blue Sky.

Okay, so it's a bit like going back to school. You sit facing someone at the front telling you stuff, sometimes with a big board behind them. Then you break for coffee and have a catch up with all your fellow foster parents' gossip.

Then lunch courtesy Blue Sky.

It's usually 10.00-1.00. You pick up some tips, gas away with friends and enjoy free catering. Beats rushing around Lidl any day of the week.

Down the years I've learned plenty from experts, but I have a feeling I've learned as much - maybe more - from myself and from fellow foster parents. The practical stuff.

My self-taught techniques stick with me and I use them all the time because I discovered them myself and they work for me. And since it's an extension of me I'm naturally a big fan.

It seems to be the same for most if not all foster parents.

For example, yesterday I reminded myself of one of my favourite devices for getting a foster child talking freely.

Foster children usually aren't great talkers. Yes they might gab on about kids stuff once they get to know you. They'll lecture you on how little you know about phones and music. But ask how they are feeling, what's on their mind, how are things at school...those sort of big questions and they clam right up.

Totally understandable. People like to own things, and these poor mites who've been pulled out of their homes and put in someone else's house with little more than they are standing up in; they own almost zilch.

The one thing they own is their experience of being themselves and I sometimes wonder if they feel it would be like giving up their last possession if they blabbed. Plus, foster children usually think they were at fault personally for their family being broken up so they'd better take no chances with maybe betraying more of their failings.

I had a child stay with us who kept scrubbing his hands raw at the sink, turned out he'd convinced himself he was in care because he hadn't kept himself clean.

What happened yesterday was this;

Eldest foster child's best mate was coming over to us for a sleepover as we have a spare bedroom at the moment (Blue Sky are aware we'll take another child asap).

The friend lives half-an-hour's drive away and I offered to go pick him up. Foster child agreed to come. He's allowed in the front seat of our car (foster children are best in the back, but he gets car sick).

So we set off. Him and me. Both going in the same direction, seeing the same things through the windscreen, experiencing the same roads, same lorry in front, same traffic lights, same music on the radio.

Plus he couldn't see my face.

Nor could he get up and go.

The conversation started; first a few grunts, then words, then sentences, and finally a full-blown monologue. What started as a single drop of rain became a flood.

He steered the outpouring himself; I learned about his friends at school, the teachers, and which subjects he likes. I learned about his frustrations about girls. His job prospects. How he hopes things turn out for his real family.

I found out that he likes me.

I'd asked him who he trusted most to talk to if he needed to talk. He replied "You. Obviously."

As soon as his mate climbed into the car they started speaking in tongues, 'teen-speak'.

I didn't mind, I was cartwheeling inside. I'd gleaned more ammunition to help me help him than I'd normally get in a month of Sundays. And why?

Because foster children open up when it's just you and them in the car, provided it's a decent length journey.

Why? I mentioned it to my social worker who said it sounds like "a classic Nuero Linguistic Programming technique" where you centre with someone and mirror their behaviour to develop trust.

That got us talking about psychology and she said that  NLP defines people as one of three kinds; Audio types (who say things like "That sounds good to me") Visual types (who say "I see" and This looks good") and the third type who are emotional (who say "That feels like a good idea" and "I have a feeling that...")

What are you? I'm not saying what I am.

I have a feeling you might be a ...


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