Tuesday, August 28, 2018


When a new foster child arrives it's hard to keep up all your other responsibilities because you're so focussed on settling the newcomer in.

You're ever on the alert for things that help you build the fullest picture of the child, learning about their personalities and how to make best use of who they are to help them towards being who they want to be.

Take Ryder, who's settling in brilliantly. Okay, the odd glitch, usually around Contact with her significant others, nothing a couple of minor fixes can't heal over. On our way home from Contact I take her straight to the sweetshop. She knows this and it even helps get her to the Contact, she starts talking about her treat, it softens the complicated emotions.The distraction of choosing from the vast shelves of goodies works wonders. She knows she's free to spend as much time as she wants browsing, I never hurry her. She always manages to persuade me to go a bit over her budget, all part of the therapy; the distraction of having freedom of choice and entering complex financial negotiations distances her from the angst. Just to nail the whole thing I choose a treat for myself, agonising over what to have and getting her advice. I pick something, usually a packet of mints rather than a bar so she can sample my treat on the way home, it bonds us.

Then you get the moment when she offers you a sweet from one of her packets, and you know you're getting somewhere. 

Naturally I'd be happier offering her carrot sticks or an apple, but Contact is such a major upheaval for her she deserves what she wants the most, which is a sense of control and freedom. We have an ongoing competition between her and me as to who has the whitest teeth, which has led to her cleaning her teeth not only voluntarily but if anything too often. Sometimes the foster mum's tricks of the trade are almost too successful for their own good...

But like I started out saying, the first few weeks of a new arrival can result in other priorities dropping down your radar. 

I've noticed that I might cut corners with little things - the family might moan "Not pasta again...", I cram the pedal bin rather than empty it when almost full, cut back on the hoovering telling myself I'm the only one who notices a few bits on the carpet. I re-assure myself that it's down to having an extra person to feed and tidy up after, but the truth is I'm pre-occupied with helping them feel at home, and it fills my head.

The one mistake I try to make sure I never make is to let the others think I don't care about them as much as before. You have to up the TLC for everyone (even my other half, who is easily capable of feeling neglected...).

It's really important, most important of all, to re-assure any other children in the home, that you love and care for them just as much, maybe even more. The minute they get a whiff that you are doting on the new arrival, allowing them a bit of extra leeway while she settles in, they're going to get unsettled. 

So here's what happened...

At the tea table Ryder passed a comment which was, shall we say, adult in nature. Either she didn't know what it meant but had heard it said in her real household, or she was making a bid to raise her grown-up status. 

The table went silent. Everyone was waiting for me to react. In these situations you get no time to think and you usually feel afterwards that you said/did the wrong thing. I fell back on a tried and trusted trick of mine which was to say this;

"Er, Ryder, no more of that sort of talk please, I'll have a chat with you about it later."

Deferment. I love this device. I use it especially when I'm asked a really difficult question by a foster child relating to their fostering, or their real family. It gives me a chance to think my words through, if necessary get clarification or advice from my social worker. The children usually are happy that my head is filled with thoughts of them and their needs.

However, in this instance eldest foster child got the knock (only slightly) because he felt that if he'd come out with a remark like Ryder's the you-know-what would have hit the fan. How do I know he got the knock? Am I vested with mind-reading powers or supernatural skills? No.

He said so. He said, immediately;

"If I'd said that you wouldn't have said what you said to her to me".

Which was true, but I couldn't tell the whole family that a new arrival is entitled to individual treatment until they are familiar with our do's and dont's. 

So I did deferment followed by distraction;

"I'll explain later, meantime who wants vanilla who wants chocolate chip?"

But I did speak to each of them separately. I got to Ryder asap. She kind of knew what she'd said, and agreed she was only trying to act grown up. She did really well not to get upset with worrying she might be in trouble, because being in trouble at her real home was, we had been told, worth worrying about.

Eldest I planned a quality 15 minutes with, just the two of us in the garden, it was getting dark and quiet. 

Quality 15 minute chats one-to-one with foster children are a big hit. They know it's going to be just 15 minutes, which is long enough to get things said, short enough for them not to feel in jail.

I asked him not to pass anything we would talk about on to Ryder even if she asked (requesting his confidence was also a way of marking his maturity). I explained the truth, that Ryder got allowances in her early days with us. The clincher was that I'd done the same for him and it had helped him. Now he had to help me help Ryder. But it went further and we talked about him and the big things in his life. The mate he'd had a barney with, they were back on track. The teacher he thinks has a downer on him has been not so bad recently. The teacher he thinks is brilliant who gives him a fist bump. 

It got deeper. He talked about the dad he hadn't seen since six Christmases ago. 

Then he talked about his mum not paying him any attention.

His mum not paying him any attention. I could have kicked myself to the end of the road and back. The big thing I give this child is attention, constantly. Except (the child was telling me via his subconscious) when there's a new foster child in the house - or at least that's how it can feel to him.

The quality 15 minutes turned into nearly an hour and I came indoors geared up to give everybody else in the house a quality 15 minutes (or hour) sooner rather than later.

And yes, including Ryder.

And yes, actually, including me, because things turned out for the better in the end.

As is so often the case with fostering.


  1. Awh I have these little things to look forward to.
    I'm around a week away from panel. Getting very nervous, but in a good way. Ive read the report on me the panel will see, and its an odd thing seeing you life in 50 pages. I wonder what they will ask. Hmmm

  2. We're all very hopeful for you Dana, and though they haven't met you yet, a great many young people would be hoping too - if only they knew - that you're almost there.
    I often wonder how nervous some members of the panel get, especially when meeting prospective carers who have skills and personal dimensions which are beyond their collective experience.
    Remember, they're on your side. They might even ask a question you find helpful, which would be fair exchange because my guess is you're going to inform them of useful stuff they may know little about, and will find very helpful in future.


    1. Thanks for the good wishes.
      I know a few foster carers so have an idea of the qs that could be asked, but you know, still nervous.
      I've had a good wedge of referalls sent, which must be a good sign. All teenage boys with from one up to half a dozen issues each (anxiety, depression, self harm, identity issues etc etc). Most for two days respite per month. None of the issues are areas I'm unfamiliar with, either from myself or friends/relatives, but still its daunting. Am hoping to ease myself in a bit.
      Its all very exciting too. I've even bought myself new trousers for panel otherwise I was going to have to wear football shorts. :)

  3. Daunted is day 3 in fostering. Day 1 is exhilarated, day 2 is exhausted. Day 4 is...oh I feel a post coming on...thanks Dana.
    ps Deffo trousers over football shorts.

  4. I've got panel later this week. It's nervewracking for sure. But I'm hopeful. I'll be so glad when its over mind. Then i can get to it with the fostering. Still havent had my H&S signed off though as I have a few tiny DIY jobs to do (jobs for today and tomorrow). Once I'm approved and my H&S is signed off, I think the earliest I could have a kid is around 15th Sept (as initially I'll be w/e only due to work hours). Still receiving a trickle of referalls for respite. Obv I cant do them all. Wish I could. - I have a work colleague who is a f/t carer and he says respite is vital for him - helping give him a break, and just time to himself, and he says he has an even better relationship with his two girls once they return from respite, as in they miss each other. So I wish I could give all the f/t carers a break, but there is only one spare room here and I've got to fit fostering around work hours too.
    PS did you see the current episode (No 6) of Love Your Garden on ITV is all about a foster couple who look after older children. Its still available online at the mo.

  5. Hi Dana, keep up the DIY, distraction can be the best relief in times of wracked nerves. Your appetite and enthusiasm for fostering is truly commendable.
    One thing I would suggest; enjoy some little pleasures in your last few days before approval, for example at the moment in gardening terms (since you mention gardening) the seeds are sown, the bulbs are in, all you can do is wait.
    It's about to burst into colour.

  6. Hey, I got approved at panel today. Was quite long, probably longer than normal, 90mins. They wanted to ask for more details on a number of issues in my report which id expected but had hoped they wouldn't raise. I was surprised they asked about my mental health past when it was covered off in the report. I had about 10 questions, but some multi part. Approval was on two conditions to be met/maintained which is a ok to me. They both relate to my health which is fine with me. I will get my first child in four weeks I've believe due to health and safety sign off. So relieved but I had a horrific headache afterwards. It was draining.

  7. Fantastic! Congratulations Dana, and welcome to fostering. Sounds as though your panel were thorough which is as it should be for all.
    Before moving on and gearing up for your first placement take time to reflect on what you have already achieved.
    It's important in fostering to keep our focus on the many positives.
    Once again, congratulations, well done!

    1. Thank you. Great minds. I've just booked a three day break before I start fostering to give me some relaxation and 'me' time before it all kicks in. My first placement is all but lined up so I've got a month to prepare for them which is grand. I am definately going to have a pause first, and spend time sitting in the garden with a good book. I doubt I'll get the chance in the future, hehe.
      Panel was weird when they summed up my strengths and weakenesses at the end. Like a school report. It was a bit embarassing to be honest.
      Also I think they expected me to cry at the end (perhaps that is what most people do), but i was so drained all I could say was thank you and thank my SW for their hard work.

  8. Hi, our report has just been signed off and we have panel in 2 weeks. Like you have said above, it's weird reading a report about you. How has your first placement been Dana?