Tuesday, May 01, 2018


A foster child who'd been with us for a little less than a year has gone home.

The process was handled really well by the social workers and hopefully I did my bit too.

Remains to be seen whether the child's real family can keep their end up, I hope so with all my heart.

It's an emotional set of events, a child in care being returned home. For anyone thinking about coming into fostering it's worth a few words.

First up (and this is something I have to remind myself of throughout), it signals job well done by the foster family, for the simple reason that returning a child to their real home is a key aim in fostering.

There are other aims aplenty of course namely all the things you try to do for one's own children. We keep them well fed and watered, in warm clean clothes, encourage good behaviour, help them with their homework, try to put a smile on their face. Try to explain the world to them - just as we do with our own brood.

The difference is that our own brood don't leave, nor do they keep asking if and when they can leave.

And this is the second thing. Almost every child who comes into care arrives at your front door emotionally - and sometimes literally - bruised and battered by their home life, yet wanting to 'go home'.

I usually sit a newly arrived child at the kitchen table with biscuits and gently explain a few things about our family and how the house works. Then I ask them if they have any questions, and I've been in fostering long enough to expect that the first and only question almost every time is;

"When am I going home?"

Then they ask it again and again, as the days turn into weeks and months. They never stop wondering and asking.

You have to gird yourself for it, it doesn't mean they don't like you or your home, it's just that everyone feels most at home when they're in their actual home, whatever that home is like.

The third and last thing I'll mention here (there are millions but I want to mention a wonderful little moment), is that you never forget a single child. They jump into your mind over and over, for ever; which says everything about this great profession; fostering.

The little moment is this;

There comes the instant when a child leaves when it's time to say the goodbyes. 'Goodbyes' are always special, but in this case it's usually goodbye for ever, so it's a bit hard on the heart. The child is generally so bound up with excitement they get into a little bubble and I try not to intrude my own feelings, they've got their work cut out dreaming about and planning their welcome home.

Their heads are full of pink imaginings of their family and the family home, their high hopes fuelled by the proof that things at home are now better, or else they wouldn't be going home.

You can't help but share their dream of the future, even though a big element of their dream is a bit hard on the foster parent, namely...you're not in the dream.

So you put on a brave face, you're glad for them. You deny any doubts you may have that they really are going home to a happy family and a bed of roses.

You don't even expect a wave from the back of the social worker's car as they drive away.

So I definitely didn't expect what happened this time.

The car pulled slowly away with the child in the back, then stopped. The social worker got out and beckoned me so I trotted up. The back window slid down and the child said;

"I forgot to say...thanks. For like...everything...yeah?"


In the nicest POSSIBLE way, ouch.

I probably blinked to disperse the moisture that came into my eyes, didn't want a tear down the cheek, and said;

"You're welcome, I'm always here for you, remember that."

Then the child was gone. I watched and waved until they were out of sight.

When I got to thinking about it, I wondered if the social worker had played a part, maybe asked or suggested what happened. I doubt it, they try not to impose themselves.

Glorious little instant.

Any wonder I'm gearing up to go again?

The world doesn't give bods like me many opportunities to feel amazing.

Fostering does.


  1. You have a knack for noticing the little things, SFC! I finally got my first foster care placement 3 days ago, a 4 year old boy who is expected to stay for 3 weeks. I'm working with an agency in a foreign country that does short term foster care for children that haven't experienced abuse or neglect. It's more of a "Safe Families" model. Typical situations are incarcerated parents, medical issues or night shift employment, all with no safe support system around the parents to support them. We are only 3 days in, so everyone is still in the delightful honeymoon phase, but it's been going great so far. He's an awesome kid! Thanks for sharing all your wisdom and experience to give people like me the courage to sign up after a long consideration period.

  2. Great for you and great for your 4 year old. Interesting scenario, I'm curious about your fostering culture. Sounds profound.
    Happy honeymoon to you, who knows it might set in and last for good.
    Or else you're in line for a totally understandable (but frazzling) meltdown at some point.
    I wish you well, we all here wish you well.
    You say he's an awesome kid.
    You're pretty awesome yourself.

  3. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement, SFC. I live in an advanced country in Asia, one that is working very hard to modernize its child welfare system. However it still relies heavily on 'children's homes' (i.e. well run orphanages) as only about one third of kids in the system are in foster families and the other 2/3rd are in children's homes. They are working hard to recruit more foster families, but it isn't easy of course. The country has also seen a sharp increase in child abuse reports in the last few years, because the government has been doing more public awareness campaigns encouraging people to report things that were traditionally considered "family matters" like domestic violence and child abuse. I have a biological child and an adopted child (internationally adopted from a different country). My adopted child spent the first 2 years of her life in the foster care system in that country, and she had an especially easy transition with the adoption, much of which is just her great personality but also I think a big credit to being raised in a family environment. So I'm a big fan of foster care. The agency I'm with does this halfway version of foster care, serving a need for families who want to parent their children, but have a short term issue (jail, health or night shifts) and no support. It allows the family to keep the child out of the official foster care system, allows them to retain their parental rights and have weekly contact with the child(ren). Since most families won't ever willingly relinquish their child to the foster care system (because it is so hard to get them back out again), it also means they don't have to leave their child with an unsafe person who they don't trust but have no other options, which commonly happens with families in their situations. Hopefully that prevents child neglect and abuse from happening in the first place. With this agency, there is no financial support to foster parents given but they do help provide logistical transport assistance at least. Maybe one day when my situations is a bit more settled, I'll be able to do "real" foster care but for now, I'm the best fit for this different model. Do they have anything like that in the UK?

  4. Thank you so much for that fascinating background of yourself and your country's system.
    Your commitment to children and a better future is inspirational.
    Winston Churchill said something like "What's the point of life if not to make things a little better in this muddled world so that things will be better for those who come after us."
    In answer to your question; the UK does not have anything in place along the lines of the system you are involved in; not to my knowledge.
    I hope I'm right in saying that UK courts would consider carefully the alternatives if a jail sentence meant that children's parenting was removed. But as far as health reasons and night shift work goes; I suspect a great many children in the UK suffer hardships in the home for suchlike reasons but their plight goes largely undetected.
    And listen; what you do is totally 'real' fostering; your 4 year-old is very lucky to have your care, as is your adopted child and your own child.
    Best wishes