Monday, June 25, 2018


Something happened yesterday in our house which got me thinking.

The thinking led to me changing my thinking about something. 

The reason that the thing that happened got me thinking is that Blue Sky get enquiries on the blog from people who are considering or even actually getting themselves into fostering, and are worried that they have never had children of their own.

I used to think that it has to be an advantage in fostering to have raised a child or two of your own.

Of course it's by no means a disadvantage to have been a 'real' parent. But I've decided to believe that the advantages are a bit exaggerated.

After all, think about it; how much accreditation does anyone have to get before they can have a child of their own? Blimey, practically less than zero (as in you're supposed in law to be at least 16, but yeah right, that one and only 'qualification' is often out the window).

In fostering you are checked out from top to toe first. Quite right too.

And again; how much training, support and supervision do 'real' parents get? The answer is next-to-nothing. Nothing formal. To the best of my knowledge even if parents make such a mess of their parenting and social services intervene the struggling parents don't get the levels of regular written-up backing and guidance that foster parents enjoy.

Most parents get by on what they've picked up from their own experiences plus a few titbits from their sewing circle/in-laws. I'll never forget a train driver I fell into conversation with about getting children to go to sleep, he said "...Little drop of Drambuie in their last bottle. Works a treat." Do NOT try that at home. We had a foster child stay with us who had her own baby, she told us her mum had warned her not to eat ice-cream during the pregnancy as the baby would born blue.

There are good books on parenting aplenty, but do we know many parents with a stack of them on standby? Not me I don't. There's loads of videos about child development on YouTube but most parents are happier catching up Eastenders or doing Facebook.

I guess the hard truth is that 99% of us 'real' parents do it on a fry-up of common sense, things our older family members pass down to us, what we remember from being parented ourselves, and whatever we have the energy and dedication to experiment with after a long day.

That's not being unkind. Somehow most children manage to emerge from what you could term amateur parenting with most of their marbles intact.

It would be nanny-state incarnate if we had to sit exams before being allowed to have children, then attend night-school in how to tell the difference between a hungry cry and a full-nappy cry.

'Nanny' state.

See what I did there...

This is how come many potential foster carers show up hoping that the experience of raising one or more reasonably well-adjusted children of their own will cover the lion's share of what you need to know to foster.

And in terms of self-confidence and hard knowledge it takes all the beating. But...

...times change. I'll never forget in a Mother and Baby training session I learned that you no longer warm up bottles in the microwave. It became a no-no in between me having mine and then starting fostering. Turns out some microwaves can deliver a hidden hotspot. So much for my hard-earned 'experience'. I pointed out that if you shake the bottle after warming any hot-spots get evened out, but to no avail. We were told in no uncertain terms to heat it gently in a pan of warm water. I came back that if you've got a ravenous crying baby you can get a fridge-cold bottle up to glugging warmth in a tenth of the time in the MW than sitting in a gradually heating pan, but it was no dice. I added that any operation you can do with one hand while comforting a distressed baby in the other is a boon. Still no wiggle room, it was out with the old and in with the new. Fair do's. There are plenty of my tricks of the trade that still cut the mustard.

But like I said, something happened in our house and I got to wondering about all the things that happen in fostering that are new to adults whether they've had children of their own or not.

What happened was this; one of our foster children grew up about 5 years in 24 hours.

When I say 'grew up' I mean had an accelerated batch of developments which normally get spread separately over a wodge of time but with this child happened all together and in the blink of an eye.

It never happened to my own children, and I've not heard anyone talk about it happening to their 'own' children.

But when I spotted it (which wasn't hard), I realised that it's happened before...with children in care.

It was fantastic. The child suddenly, without warning, went from being a child with all sorts of burdens and insecurities which weighed down on happiness, self-esteem, peace, ambition... all those things and more. Child went to being a youth. A youth with both feet on the ground, confident body language, able to engage an adult in eye-to-eye conversation in an adult way. Share a joke, stand easily in front of the hall mirror adjusting hair before putting on a baseball cap happy with what they looked like in the mirror, all the while chatting over their shoulder at the adult in the kitchen who was suddenly and with no warning being spoken to as an equal. A respected equal, whose thoughts and views were listened and responded to.

Lord love a duck I'm getting the vapours just remembering it.

But I now remember it happening previously, but only with looked-after children.  Not all, by any means, only those that were ready to process and consign the past and face up to the prospect of a future.

Hormones might be in there too. Maybe a shot of self-esteem from a flattering remark from a teacher or a school friend. Probably a coming-together of those things and others.

Foster children have had such a bumpy ride, I guess that as foster parents, if we keep our eyes open, it's perfectly likely that they can shed their old skin quick as snakes, burst out of the cocoon as butterflies.

Ordinary children seem to pace the growing-up process. It happens so stealthily it's only when you look back at videos it hits you how much they've come on.

My point is that there's so much to be had from fostering, and so much to discover yourself, that nothing really prepares you for it, you just have to enjoy the ride.

A twig on the back of a stream I've heard it called...


  1. Hi there, interesting post. This is lgbt anon again btw (I'm gonna go for Dana Scully now as a great character, and need to differentiate myself).
    I don't have any children of my own and on my initial training course only 4/12 people had. I don't see the absence of your own children as an issue. Actually my LA said for certain roles they prefer people without their own children as they're better at following social worker's instructions as they haven't already established their own way of dealing with a, b and c from their own children. They have a fresh perspective.
    Besides I think if you have a wide support network, it doesn't matter too much if you've had birth children or not. Dana

  2. Hey Scully (great alias) thanks for your feedback, your story and adventure helps a lot of people from outside the nuclear family matrix focus on fostering,

    The fact is that the 'normal' family; hetero couple, 2.4 children, volvo, labrador have a lot to offer fostering.

    And all the other family units have just as much to offer. Including single people with no children.

    You make a great point about the wider support network (hugely important) available to foster parents outside the bog standard parameter.

    Keep on Scully.


    SFC or...Mrs Emma Peel (my hero, my new alias?)

    1. I agree that the average family totally do have loads to offer, but equally, as you say, so do other family units. I think some people in the latter category could worry that they don't though.
      I've just drawn up my ecomap (the diagram that shows the strength of your relationships) and I have about 15 strong connections, so despite being single, have a good level of support around me.
      As it happens one of my friends and neighbours (who is on my ecomap) has been picking my brains about the application process for ages, and finally spilt the beans. He's thinking of semi-retiring and doing respite foster care. He's 60ish, gay and thought he was too old and too 'not a standard family' to foster... His age is totally fine with my LA... so I've been prodding him. :)

    2. Well done Dana, keep prodding.
      Your friend and neighbour will probably find the process of approval highly revitalising.
      It helps each of us focus on our lives and separate out the good things that make us the people who are drawn to what is, let's face it, a challenging but fine practice.
      I agree; virtually no personal dynamic can be ruled out of fostering potential.
      I remember being told way back by a SW that our only problem might be that our family was a bit too er...can't remember the exact phrase.. but the implication seemed to be that we were a bit too... 'normal'.
      Mrs Peel

  3. I was a teenage Mum, now that Im in my 40's Im an empty nester. Im filling my house up with kids again, this time other peoples not my own. My own kids are ECSTATIC its taken all the grandchildren pressure off them! It takes all kinds to be a foster family :-) our current foster child is bitterly disappointed there are no other kids in the house, but I think the advantages are beginning to sink in :-)

  4. Hello Anon, wow; an empty nester in your 40's, good on you!
    So pleased to hear your own kids are up for your fostering, hey, there's more to that than the pressure off on the grandchildren. You are clearly a cracking mum and heading out to help busloads of kids.
    You make a great point. Foster children often start out wanting to hide behind a big houseful of other children. Sounds like you've manoeuvred things so that current child sees the plusses of the set-up.