Thursday, June 28, 2018


Big day in our house. A new family photo is going up on the wall. More about that in a moment.

Still waiting to fill our spare bed.

Totally get that we're a tricky home to place a new child as we're many and getting a match is harder than most other ones.

Try not to let it overshadow the main focus; looking after the family I've got around me.

Also; very important - try not to attach more thought and energy to our fostered children than our own children.

This needs awareness because with your own children you're not filing reports and constantly thinking about your parenting from an objective point of view, it just kind of happens.

I sometimes think it would be a good thing if I had to write up reports on my own children's welfare and progress, just like you do with your foster children. And get visits from someone who cares about them almost as much as I do and who double checks them and supports your efforts.

To be fair, our Blue Sky social workers constantly ask after the whole family; but nevertheless the onus is mainly on the fostering.

I don't bang on about my own children on the Secret Foster Carer blog partly because the blog is about fostering, but also because they deserve every privacy. I believe they don't know I'm the Secret Foster Carer but if they ever find out and read these pages, even if it's ten years from now I'm going to say this out loud to them;

I love you dearly and have a mountain of respect that you don't just let me do fostering - which I know can be tricky for you at times - but actually seem happy for me that I love it. THANK YOU.

Anyway, yes; I bought a frame yesterday for a photograph I'm hanging on the landing wall. 

Putting up pictures used to be an expensive business until recently; you had to take the negative to a photographers and ask for a blown up copy and they'd try to sell you one of their frames.

Which reminds me; I'm a bit of a sceptic about school photographs. At the school of one of our former foster children we signed the form (after checking with social workers) for the child to have his photo taken, and a week later got a fat envelope with a small sample of the child's half-smiling face and bags of bumph about how to order different sized copies. There was also a price list for framing which was necessary because...all of the different  sizes you could order did not comply with the sizes of the frames you could buy in the high street (which were cheaper than the ones the photographer was 'offering'). It was a borderline con. 

We gave the child a framed school picture of himself to give to his mother at his next contact. A few months later we were asked to take the child to the mother's flat for a contact as the child was due to be going home to her shortly, if everything went well. I was disappointed for the child that his photograph wasn't hanging on her wall, maybe she was miffed that the picture came to her via his foster mother, I get that.

It got me thinking about the whole business of family photographs.

Must be hard for a looked-after child who comes into a foster family that there are pictures of the family in groups and singles, either smiling down from the walls or propped up on dressers . But no pictures of her or him.

So. I have a thing now which is that if a child has been with us for a sufficient amount of time; and even if the plan remains that one day the child will go home, I frame a picture of them and hang it alongside the others.

Hanging photographs used to cost the earth, but nowadays with a laptop a printer and a box of photo-quality paper you can get your own A4 image for ten pence. 

It's just another fostering trick I vainly like to think is my own, but I'd be surprised if other foster parents don't do the same. 

I know it's a big deal because whenever a new social worker comes to our house and notices the pictures of the foster children they get a bit gushy, which is cool by me.

You have to balance out family photographs that are on show. The number of singles of your own children have to be pretty much identical, and in our house they outnumber all others. Photos of you and your partner come second in number. Pets get a look-in, about the same as extended family. Deceased have special status.

Only now, in our house, we have particular protocols for pictures of our foster children. 

First, we make sure they are happy to have their picture hanging. They usually voice objections that they look bad in pictures but I offset that by using a photo which is more about an occasion, such as their birthday for example. Or sometimes (I did this with one child who is long-gone but the photo stays up) I use a group shot of the whole family on a day out.

Yes, I do take pictures down after they leave. And re-use the frames. But I give that thought too. One child was with us a long time, I kept all the pictures up of the other foster children he'd shared our house with so that he'd believe we'd keep his picture up for good too.

Sometimes I think I over-think things in fostering...

But y'know what? 

If anything deserves over-thinking it's fostering.


  1. Thats lovely, something I hadnt thought about doing, but now will :-)

  2. When we knew our foster daughters were going to be long term we got a family photo done of all of us together ( including our two ex foster sons who are still 'family' and my birth son's fiancee. It was a great way of demonstrating our new even bigger family!

    1. Hey Ros, okay so I have to say to you; Wow.
      Not merely that you got the family photo thing yourself, good work.
      But that your foster son is your birth son's fiancee.
      Congratulations to both of them, and to your wonderful bigger family.
      And to you.
      You are one foster parent.

  3. Hi, I just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to take the plunge to start the process of becoming a foster carer. At the end of last year I found your blog when I was researching fostering. I read a whole year's worth in one day and have kept up-to-date since!I'm late 40s, I don't have children of my own and my partner has an 18-year old son at Uni. He (partner) will be the primary carer and I work from home so will be taking a major role too! We were approved at panel last week and are just waiting impatiently for our first placement. I have picked up so many hints and ideas from you - thanks again. Claire

  4. Hi Claire,
    Thank you for coming onto the blog, but more importantly thank you for coming into fostering.
    Congratulations for getting approval, it's a tense day, but a great one and I hope you and your partner are still glowing from the success.
    Roll up your sleeves mate, game on. The best game you'll ever play, full of everything life and the universe has to chuck at you, which will be a lot; but not half as much as the stuff that's been chucked at the children you are waiting paused to help.
    Stay in touch.

  5. Hi there, thought provoking post. I hadn't thought about photos on my walls as I'm likely to be doing respite and very short term emergency placements (one to four days). But, in talking with my social worker, had thought about giving any short term placement a picture to keep when they go onto their there next place or back home. Not of me mind, but of my cats. Have been hoping any staying over child might get on with the cats, and if they do may ask if they want to take a picture of the cats with them. maybe even not a photo but a crayon drawing. Perhaps even something we can do together. I wonder... Dana.

  6. Hi Dana, thanks for your thoughts. Just as you recognise; the photo on the wall thing only works with a child who's been with you long enough to get a feel that they are semi-family (or more), but I'm confident you'll come up with strategies that are great for respiters. We've found pets are a boon in fostering. Lots of conversations to be had about them, care of them to be shared out, you can make up stories of their 'adventures'. Best of all the child feels less isolated, there's someone else in the home dependent on the adult (not that cats act very dependent even when they are.) And drawing is great too, I find if I leave crayons and scrap paper out, say on the kitchen table, they often go at it without being asked.