Thursday, July 05, 2018


It's early evening.

It's a tense time waiting for a foster child to arrive. She's now in her bedroom sorting her stuff. 

4.00pm Earlier today

During the school run home I told my real and foster children that a new arrival would be joining the family later this afternoon.
They were only slightly curious, maybe a tad worried - in secret - about what it would do to their status, rights and privileges, but acted nonchalant (or, as they like to put it 'cool').


My Blue Sky social worker shows up, all smiles and enthusiasm.

I don't know how these people do what they do. Social workers get the worst press ever, the newspapers are always at their throats for intervening or not intervening. On top of that they are permanently up to their necks in human suffering, afloat on a sea of paperwork, often at odds with other offices and officers all in aid of the child.
Not to mention having to deal with foster carers, and when I say 'deal' I mean everything from drying our eyes to giving us mental hugs to chivvying us to attend training and supervision (oh yeah, did I never mention that foster carers can be as lazy as the next sack of potatoes).
There are times when I exasperate even myself, but my social worker is always there to be the rock.
Ask them how they do it and they level with you;
"At least we get to go home, kick off our shoes and turn our mind to other stuff. You guys are on call 24/7."
That mutual respect is what makes the relationship tick.

She sits in her usual seat at the kitchen table. I brew tea. Both of us constantly looking towards the front gate (we've a through-kitchen/lounge so you can see front and back gardens).

They are due.
I can feel the tension in myself. It's a mix of first-day-at-school nerves, driving test collywobbles, Christmas Eve happy jitters; a longing to get the show on the road. In my time I've welcomed a bus-load of other people's children into my home, but the excitement never gets any less.
I know I worry too much about the initial greeting. It's because of that darn phrase "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression".
On the other hand, I want their first impression of me to be the real me.


Okay, late. They said 4.30ish. No big deal, the traffic thickens up round here about now. The conversation with my Blue Sky social worker had just got properly superficial when I saw a woman at the gate who was double-checking our street number on the gatepost.
"Hullo?" I said to my social worker; "Who's this?"
Social workers can spot other social workers at a hundred paces whether they've met or not.
"This'll be them...!" she said.

Nothing on earth makes you want to stare as much as wanting to stare at a new fostering arrival, to glean everything you can from their shape and size and gait and demeanour.
If you do watch them coming up the path, they must never know your eyes are on them.
I've settled the dilemma of whether to wait for the doorbell or open the door as they are coming up the path; I go and open the door, smile, and if the child is small, drop down onto my haunches so we're eye-level and gently say;
"Hello, you must be Ryder!"

Ryder is quite small for her age, despite the crisps and biscuits. Neglect can do that. The child can almost wish itself to disappear into thin air and no longer be the nuisance everyone tells her she is.

Ryder has long yellow hair. And is wearing what I can only describe as a party dress. A pale pink frock tied at the waist with a tired purple bow. She has white ankle socks and scuffed trainers.

Her social worker is carrying a suitcase with Ryder's wordly goods and Ryder is half-hiding behind the social worker. Lost, lonely and bewildered. If the kid had a floppy hat she'd be Paddington incarnate.

"Hello!" said Ryder's social worker on behalf of both of them. The woman is young, with a gentle face and open smile. I discovered later that she used to be a nurse but wanted something meatier to get her teeth into. She got what she hoped for.

"I'm Abigail, I'm Ryder's social worker.."

I confirmed who I am, ushered them in, and introduced the two social workers to each other. Kindred spirits; social workers, they are always pleased to meet a fellow SW. They got on with the formalities. I squatted down again and whispered to Ryder;

"This must be a bit scary for you, but in this bag is someone who also arrived here today just like you and is a bit frightened. He needs a friend to look after him."

And I gave her the bag with the fluffy bear in it (see last post).

I have never yet had my arrival-present thing blow up in my face. It might happen one day, but I'll keep doing it. This time it hit the bullseye. Ryder lifted him out by one ear, dropped the bag on the floor, had a good look then gave him a cuddle to her chest.  In a surprisingly clear strong voice she said;

"What's his name?"

I said I didn't know, I hadn't asked him, and suggested Ryder ask him. She rolled her eyes at me;

"He can't talk. He's a teddy bear."

And we were off. Her and me. Chatting. My new kid, my project or whatever you want to call it, which will last until she and her mother are ready to go again.

I reminded her that Paddington was a teddy bear and that Paddington can talk. She replied something like Paddington is not a Teddy Bear but a real bear although it's only a film, and real bears can't talk in real life  and nor can teddy bears. I came back that we love Paddington because of the things he does and says even though we know it's make-believe, so we should make-believe that her new friend, who needs looking after, can talk.

Turns out Ryder's new bear's name is "Mauvie", due to his fur being mauve-coloured. I'm having the chat while making more tea for the SWs and fetching a glass of apple juice for Ryder. I open the biscuit tin which goes down well; there are digestives, pink fingers and Oreos. I ask Ryder if Mauvie Bear wants a biscuit. She replies he doesn't as they are bad for you. Ryder however goes for the Oreos, informing me that they are expensive and American, and that she wants to go to America when she's old enough.

We foster parents know full well that this period in fostering, just after the initial arrival, is called the Honeymoon.


  1. Hi Lily, thanks for your comments. Interesting the differences, especially since we get told that the foreign country which is most like Britain is NZ!
    The team at blue Sky tell me the blog has most readers (outside GB) in the USA. It's mainly (but not entirely) English speaking countries. It gets enough gobbledegook spam for me to guess there are some robots who 'read' it too!

  2. Lily, I'm sorry. I don't know where the post of yours that I replied to above vanished to; somewhere in the internet...
    For other readers; Lily pointed out some of the differences between fostering in the UK and in her country, which from her NZ sign-off I take to be New Zealand.
    Lily also asked about readers of the blog in other countries; Lily I have a bit more info on that: NZ is 5th on the list, with 31 page visits for the first week in July (Mind, I don't know how many of them are yourself).

  3. Hi, Im now awaiting the arrival of a sibling group, my stomach is in knots and so nervous at doing or saying the wrong thing. This is our 2nd placement, our 1st broke down as the needs were much more complex than we could handle and took a step back did some training and rethought our expectations. Any advice for settling new arrivals would be much appreciated, for us and them as they are also new to care. I have pinched your idea a teddy bear each already and im making my way through all your blogs, which is helping greatly so thankyou for writing them.

  4. Hi, thanks for getting in touch. It's a nervous time waiting for new arrivals.
    My experience of sibling groups isn't huge, but other carers I've talked with who've had twos and threes (in one case a four) sometimes say that the first difficulty they are confronted with is a renewal of old tribal squabbles. In other words they feel they trust you enough to have a go at each other.
    I suspect every sibling group has a unique dynamic and the job of the foster parent is to spend time learning how the top dog works, what the underdog's coping strategies are, what brings them together. One trick I know works well is to make them a team. Write a quiz in which they team up against someone who doesn't mind losing, and gear it so by co-operating they win. Turn jobs into team games; eg every morning have a third party inspect everyone's teeth and give marks for the whitest with the winning team getting a prize at the end of the week.
    Exhausting, but hey, who came into fostering for a bit of peace and quiet?
    Our thoughts are with you as your stomach's knot...