Thursday, June 21, 2018


Fostering is a funny old game, to paraphrase my dad's hero the footballer Jimmy Greaves (poor man, these days).

It can give you funny moments, and I mean funny peculiar as well as funny ha-ha.

Our current situation (as much as it's right for me to reveal) is that we have a young teenage family of our own and two foster children but are up for a third. You might think we live in a mansion; we definitely don't. Our house has an attic-bedroom conversion going way back and an extension off the kitchen which was designed to be a granny flat, then became a study but which now takes a bed, so yes, thanks to the over-build of the former occupiers, we have 6 bedrooms counting the box room on the first floor, which was a laundry/ironing room before becoming a foster bedroom.

In case you ever wonder, last time I asked, the maximum foster children in any one home is 5. Any more than that and I was told you have to be Ofsted-inspected, and there's enough stress in fostering without that.

Back to funny-peculiar.

Our most recent placement went home a few weeks ago and we put ourselves forward for another. We knew it might take time because although there's a crying need for foster carers (there are tens of thousands of children in the UK who need to be looked-after), our situation is a bit harder to match than many, what with so many individuals to consider.

Even if the dynamic of a foster home is streamlined, placement offers don't come tumbling in; balanced against the need for more carers is an even greater need that the placement works across a hundred complex criteria. The watchword is patience.

We've had two near-misses (see "The Ones Who Don't Come"). Then the phone rang very late a couple of nights ago and I listened to an unusual pitch.

I can't relate all the details but you'll see the funny peculiar straight away.

The child who needed a bed had no known name, they were calling him "Ben". He didn't know anything about himself such as his parents names or address. Ben didn't know where he lived or any phone numbers that might trace him. He didn't even know his own age.

They said down the phone that he was somewhere between 2 and 3 years old.

The story appeared to be that he'd been found wandering the streets at half past nine at night. The police had been called and they'd knocked on a few doors nearby where he'd been found, but got nowhere.

And no-one had called them to report a missing child.

By midnight they had to give up on the idea of finding the child's parents and returning him, so were faced with a tricky one.  Much as the officers would have volunteered to take him home and care for him themselves, that couldn't happen for procedural reasons, as in they weren't qualified to do so. They'd taken him straight to hospital where he was pronounced A1. Then what for the night? A police cell?. The best bet was a foster home. They dialled the local authority 24 hour service. Long story short I got the call and said yes. The paperwork could wait 'til morning, the child is always paramount.

I got up, put on the dressing gown and set to work checking the box bedroom, not quite knowing how to set things up. An infant foster child is a fragile person, I had to steel myself that I may not get any sleep. I hadn't even thought to ask if the poor babe was in clothes or pyjamas. If he was hungry something porridgy would be a safe bet.

I made a cup of tea and checked my look in the hall mirror; I wanted the officers to see a fellow professional rather than a bleary-eyed housefrau.

Twenty minutes later the phone went again.

The child wasn't coming, a solution had been found. I was thanked and wished goodnight.

And that's all you get. Everyone's privacy is respected, and that's correct. But as is so often the case, you're left wondering what the heck that was all about?

Were the chid's parents derelict? Drunk or high? Out on the town? Perhaps they'd booked themselves a court appearance for negligence or worse.

Or. Maybe the child simply woke up and pottered off exploring. Or even sleep-walked. It happens. It's possible the child was part of an exemplary family but he let himself out and wandered off. The parents might have taken themselves off to bed without a last check on the child and their only mistake was not locking the house up like Fort Knox.

We can only hope that everything worked out for the child.

As I said, a funny peculiar one.

The second funny peculiar was that I had five minutes of feeling thwarted. No; if I get my self-awareness up to overdrive...I felt  rejected! I think maybe a lot of us foster parents feel the same way when we have a bed for a child and it seems to stay empty. I felt a mixed-up bunch of negative things. Maybe it was a wee small hours of the morning thing - it had gone by morning. I felt a bit hard done by/not appreciated/let down.

Blue Sky called prompt next morning, they know where to stick the sticking plaster.

I've been fostering long enough to know that when you've been fostering long enough your emotions can become a bit raw. Luckily one's social worker helps out whenever you're feeling thin-skinned.

Not really necessary this time; the morning brought the distraction of busy breakfasts followed by shopping then hoover and laundry.

I think that the second funny peculiar was actually a misplaced sense of rejection. Why would I feel hard done by? I've had plenty of placements and have two thriving ones right now.

Reminds me how much harder it is for foster parents waiting for their very first placement, or waiting with an empty house for the next child. Hang in there folks.

Love to those guys, love to all foster carers.

And to everyone thinking about signing up...C'mon!


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