Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Ryder slept through on her first night (a Thursday) with us okay, or at least didn't wake us up.

But first early morning with a new child, you're alert.

On a school morning I need everyone to be getting going by 7.00am, the family knows how it happens, but when you have a new addition you are on your toes to mother the new child without being overbearing.

How to wake her up and make sure she's on track?

Take her up a bowl of cereal and a glass of apple juice and gently say; "Good Morning Ryder..."?

or treat her like family from the off as in calling out from the bottom stair;

"Oi! Everyone! Breakfast up! Let's go!"?

Last night she held her own at what could have been a daunting family meal. She spooned her food onto the plate (I always let them choose what to eat by putting everything out in separate serving bowls so they can control their plate, not only the content but the quantity).  Then she ate and joined in the chat, answering questions. Simple questions such as favourite foods and TV/PC games preferences.

Everyone is polite enough not to go near the $64,000 dollar questions such as "What the heck has happened in your life so far?"

Ryder gets meals at school, so that's one less packed lunch to make. She arrived on a Thursday, so has one day of school and then we're into that awkward first weekend.


On Friday afternoon I made Ryder my first pick-up on the school run home having fixed a 3.00pm meeting with her school Senco (Special Education Needs Coordinator) and her Headteacher. They report that Ryder is behind in most subjects; expected. They aren't specific about whether she has any friendship groups, and this worries me a bit. Children with deep-seated problems at home are frequently so troubled they struggle to get and keep mates. Being a loner they can be targeted in the playground by other children. 

I make the point to the teachers that playgrounds need the same levels of supervision and vigilance they give classrooms. I've been making the point for 30 years. 

When she got home with everyone else my job was to keep an eye on her but leave her free to feel her way around the house and the other children.  I manage to get her to sit at the kitchen table and have a chat with me. I finish with: "Any questions?" Interesting that she doesn't ask the usual: "When am I going home." She simply shakes her head.

It's Friday, 4.45pm, Ryder has been here 24 hours and has behaved impeccably.


Her trust in us develops so quickly that she has her inaugural wobble the following day, Saturday lunchtime. It was all very reminiscent of a first-time wobbly I had with a new foster child a while back. What happened on that occasion was this;  we'd agreed to get a goldfish for the child to keep in the bedroom. 
Child and I drove to the big pet shop on the retail park. Bought a glass tank the size of a toaster, some rainbow coloured gravel, a plastic plant, a rubber shipwreck and a goldfish.

I always remember we had to fill in a questionnaire at the shop to demonstrate that we were capable of rearing a goldfish. Amazing really, our society pays more attention to the welfare of a goldfish and her minders than it does children...

We arrived home and were about to start assembling the tank when the child began finding things wrong. The frustrations developed and grew to the point where everything stank and I was an idiot. My husband was in earshot but we've found that a crowd doesn't help with defusing an episode so he kept clear. I helped the child up to the bedroom and said he should stay there until he felt better and that pretty much solved it.

It wasn't his last wobbly by any means, but they lessened and lessened to the point of zero in time and that progress kept us on track.

His initial problem had been with what the professionals call some sort of "guilt".  He was being treated with kindness and generosity, and may have even suffered from the realisation that his previous experiences ought to have involved the empathy which we try to bring to our fostering.  The professionals use the term "guilt", but I see it as something that needs its own term. I think the poor kids have a watershed moment just after they come into care when, subjected to love, they discover that their early years were not the same as everyone else's, most other children didn't have the bad stuff they did, and they have been unfairly treated. 

And then they boil over. Wouldn't you?

I'll hold back the details of Ryder's Saturday morning episode for now, except to say it was also connected to what is called "guilt". My Blue Sky social worker is due to visit and I'm 100% sure she'll confirm that. The big question is, as always, how to let the wobbly exhaust itself, because unless the foster parents treat the child in the way they were previously treated , they will get these feelings.

Ryder attended some kind of dance class at some kind of centre across town on Sunday morning. She's been doing it for a while, paid for by social services.  We've been asked to keep that up. Continuity again. The travel arrangement used to be that the mother of another girl who goes to the dance class would collect Ryder and drop her off, but it's agreed that I'll take her.

And I'll stay and watch.

I always do, when I can. They like it. Even if I'm not their real mum I'm a supporter. They feel a bit more secure. Mind, you have to keep a low profile. They are ultra-aware you're there. They generally don't want you to talk to other parents (and reveal the fostering), and need you to be cool.

I don't know about anyone else, but my boat to the Land of Cool sailed a long time ago. 

I have no tatts, no piercings, no purple streaks. 

Not even the latest badge of 'cool'; mild self-harm stripes on the forarm. I'll come back to that.

So Ryder had another meltdown in the car home from dance. This is one reason why we have foster children sit in the back. She gave the back of the front passenger seat a couple of mild kicks, didn't mean them. The rest was just a bit of shouting and tears.

It was a smaller wobbly than Saturday's. 

Fingers crossed we're on our way with her.


  1. I don't think self harm scars could ever put anyone in the realm of 'cool'. As someone who has several hundred that I have to live with (and cover up for work etc) they're certainly not. They represent a period of intense trauma and the coping mechanism for. Whilst there may be a small minority of children who mistakenly think it's fashionable there is usually an underlying cause and finding that out - and helping is important.
    Also I think some don't appreciate the lifelong negative affects of living with serious scarring. The looks from others the questions, the concerns over judgement.
    On the flips idea, having recovered from this 'habit' of over half my life, which was initiated and sustained by a series of negative events I'm confident I can help children with the issue, whether they are trying yo be cool or not. Suspect not mind;I rather suspect they're hurting.
    I'm open about this with my SW too btw. I can't exactly hide it now. Tshirt weather (that is something to watch out for - is your LAC wearing long-sleeved despite the heat). We've changed it into a positive- how I can help others.

  2. PS I didn't mean to comment as my work handle. Whoops

    1. It's a big topic Dana, as you are more than aware. I'm going to use it as a post.

    2. It is indeed a massive topic. I tell you though, no matter how comfortable you are in your skin, having to sit there and explain to a SW you've only recently just met as part of your approval process, the ins and outs of one's life that led to self-harm and then recovery is no one's idea of fun. And then having to try to reassure that its all over, and hope your GP agrees when doing your medical report (he did).
      For me it is the past, and something I can (try to) help others with. I guess its a different perspective, and its good to see things from other sides too. I see it as an addiction in part. It becomes a habit that takes hold, and its darn hard to break. But different from some others bad habits, you are literally left with the after effects for life. The scars dont even tattoo over.
      A post would be great.

  3. Dana, you're a gem.
    I'm working on that post today.

  4. Hi, I was wondering if you could share your experiences of dealing with contact between the bio parents and the children in your care. What kind of behaviours do you experience before and after? We have court ordered contact, but our son hasnt seen his Mum for atbleast a year. The last contact involved Police being called and the supervision being insufficient for our son to feel safe. He is very nervous about seeing his parents again. Understandably. Thank you.

  5. Oh dear Lily, poor child. And poor you, I hope you keep safe and as well as can be expected under such harrowing circumstances.
    Your situation seems a case in point, and as such anything I can pass on by way of my experiences of Contact will be a bit generic.
    In the UK the government passed a law that all children in care must have regular meetings with significant others.
    This was a well-meaning law aimed at keeping bonds alive during care, with a view to reconciling all parties. However I don't imagine many foster carers were consulted, or if they were, their input taken into account. I guess things in NZ are similar but from the sound of it not an exact match.
    My views (not necessarily those of Blue Sky) are based on what happens on almost all occasions in my experience before and after Contact.
    Which is:

    The child starts to become increasingly anxious the day before and by the time you get them in the car on the day are wound up like a coiled spring.
    During the Contact the child is subjected to a range of powerful and conflicting emotions. No-one - not even the child - knows or understands the feelings of a type of love and longing , paired with perhaps a fear and resentment towards the parent. Imagine; the child has learned that their parents have officially parented them so badly that they have been taken away, and now they're being stuck in with the same parents. They want to go home. They don't want to go home. They believe the break-up might have been their fault. They long for proper love from their real parents. And don't get it during the Contact (it seems - we foster carers have to wait outside)
    After the Contact they are usually distraught. And the foster parents, plus the entire foster home, has to deal with it.
    Lily, my thoughts are with you at this time. Contact is such a huge issue that It's worth a whole set of posts, which I will do.
    Meantime, stay safe, stay in touch and look after yourself.
    And your amazing foster child.
    I hope you are as proud of your efforts and skills as you should be.