Monday, May 21, 2018


It's Fostering Fortnight, a good time to stress the positives in fostering.

Fostering needs more fosterers. If you're someone who's thinking about it, go to the next step and make contact. Please.

Fostering isn't all plain sailing, but being on board is the best way I know to sail the seas to some amazing places...

Melanie stayed with us for eight months, Melanie and Trellawny, her baby.

Mel was a nice person, very compliant, very obedient. Persuadable. Trellawny was her second child. Both fathers weren't on the scene.

Melanie was not nearly seventeen years old.

She'd been given the option of abortion with both pregnancies but wanted the babies. Her reasoning, the social workers figured, was that she hoped the babies would bring some stability into her life, and I guess going from sofa surfing into being fostered is comparatively very stable, so her strategy worked. For a while.

'Sofa Surfing' - if you don't know (and I had to have it explained to me) is sleeping on other people's sofas until they get fed up with you and you surf to someone else's sofa. There was other troubling jargon; Melianie's extent of cooking was "Ding meals"  and Thursday, when she got her benefit, was "Pay day".

Melanie had been sofa surfing since her single mother had thrown her out onto the streets for not bringing in any social security money any more. I met the mother once, went to her social housing detached home with Melanie to collect some belongings. "Mum" was a pocket battleship of a woman with a voice like a chainsaw. She looked after herself in every way.  Her black leather micro-skirt matched the upholstery throughout,  all the artwork was on black velvet, she smoked Bensons to keep her weight down and she de-fumigated by zooming around in her yellow open top sports car. Her looks and image were important to her, because they meant men. Men who, according to Melanie, must have money. Melanie said her mother would milk the men of their money then boot them out. 

The mother had shown Melanie that children are nothing more than cash machines, that relationships are about material gain. There's no such thing as love.

The branch of fostering where you look after a mini-family is called Parent and Child. 

Parent and Child fostering can be a bit hard on the heart because part of the job is that you are asked your view as to whether the child should be allowed to stay with the parent. 

Your view is important. They take your view very much into account.

Parent and Child fostering is not for everyone what with having to go back into the world of nappies and night-time feeds. Making the judgement of Solomon proportions  is harrowing too.

In Melanie's case it was with a heavy heart that I took the view that it would be best for baby Trellawny if she was adopted. 
Melanie just didn't chime with her baby. It wasn't her fault. I remember suggesting to Melanie she sing nursery rhymes to Trellawny, but she didn't know any, nobody had sung any to her when she was little. That summed up a lot of things for me.

I can't put into words how difficult was the day when Melanie had to say goodbye to Trellawny who was so tiny she didn't know what was going on - one hopes. There were tears all round. Although; something in me told me Melanie was distraught for herself more than for Trellawny. Melanie's mother had shaped her that way. 

The decision to remove Trellawny was about breaking a cycle. If Melanie brought up Trellawny as she herself had been parented the pattern would probably be repeated.

Melanie recovered quickly and was allowed to stay with us a little longer while they sorted a room for her in a hostel. I had many chats with her about going forward in life. She seemed to be getting her head around the shortfalls in her upbringing and its effect on her.  She told me she was going to avoid the same mistakes again.

But did she?

Melanie moved out. I expected to hear nothing more except maybe gossip on some grapevine or another, maybe that she had got herself pregnant again.

Then, after nearly a year, thanks to Facebook, this happened. Melanie contacted me. We chatted and she asked me if I would do something for her. She wanted to learn to drive but the lessons were expensive and she needed to practice. Would I do what mums do for daughters and go out on the road with her?

Flippin' heck I thought. This is above and beyond the call. Long story short I ran it past my social worker who said it was up to the two of us as adults what we did in our spare time. So I agreed. Melanie passed her test second time. She and I had spent quite a few hours together.

My social worker says that, whether she knew it or not, maybe Melanie wanted to replace her mother as her role model with a better one.

And soon she'll be put to a bigger test. Because, yes, Melanie is pregnant again. 

Perhaps this time she'll have enough empathy and the baby will stay with her. I'll not be asked to foster her again and I hope that whatever happens it's for the best for both of them.

But if she keeps the baby, my social worker will keep reminding me that maybe it's because of the fostering she received and that I should feel proud of our fostering. 

Fostering keeps sneaking up and patting you on the back.


  1. I love your blog so much. I'm not a foster parent...yet. I'm into my 30s but I still have some sorting out to do in my own life before I am set up to take care of a child. But I have had a desire to foster since I was a child, and have spent a lot of time reading blogs and stories from people in the trenches. I've been reading your blog for a long time now, and you empathy, warmth, and wisdom always inspire me. All these lovely stories recently are a wonderful counterpoint to the doom and gloom one often hears about fostering. I know it's far from warm fuzzies all the time, but somehow you make the struggles and rollercoasters of it all sound like something that can be handled with enough common sense, kindness, patience, and support. It might take me another decade, but I want to be you when I "grow up". Thanks for everything you do.

  2. Goodness, your kind words are very humbling, inspiring even, thank you.
    I hope you manage to sort things, partly for the sake of your own good self, and partly for the children you will be able to help when you come into fostering.
    Might be worth making a phone call soon and talking to either a fostering agency or a local authority about your hopes and circumstances. You might be closer to ready than you think.