Monday, September 10, 2018


A friend has lost someone dear. I've helped my friend, and my family have helped me. Our foster children have been marvellous.

Experts say there are 5 stages of grief when you lose someone. The stages are said to be; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

One of our readers commented about feeling a bit daunted that she is going to Panel (where foster carers go to be approved to foster), and a bit daunted about the prospect of fostering. Interesting, because now that I think about it, there are clear stages that characterise many fostering placements and it might be useful to mention them.

They're only as I see them, I'm not a psychologist. Mind, I've probably done more fostering than your average psychologist, so there might be something in my thinking even if it's only raw experience.

The stages are mainly from the foster parent's viewpoint, and apply to full placements rather than respite or emergency care.


The prospective foster parent begins the process of gaining approval to foster. The excitement begins, but there's always that human fear of falling at the last fence. Alongside the daunting feeling that we might not be approved, we keep asking ourselves "Can I do this fostering thing?"

(You only go through this stage once, unless like me, you take a long break from fostering and need to get approval over again).


You've passed! And now a child is coming! The phone call said you've been selected. So many good buzzes! A chance to help a child to shine! Someone out there thinks you are good enough! A child's chance to find a way out of somewhere bad. Who will it be? What will the child be like?


The child is (usually but not always) shy and respectful, co-operative and compliant. The foster parent learns mainly about the child's brighter side.

Stage Three DAUNTED

Some foster children come to trust their foster parents enough to let true feelings out. There's surely no such thing as a human being who wouldn't feel unfairly treated being taking into care as a child, even if they can see it's for the best. Their family's breakdown wasn't their fault but they often imagine it was, and don't understand what they did wrong. Injustice, confusion, fear... makes us all agitated and cross, the child is right to get upset. For foster parents the task of trying to help a pitifully sad child is a tad daunting. But it's fundamental to our work, and we have people to help and support us. The process is under way.


The child discovers she is still with you despite testing your love. Now the core work begins. She'll still have her moments but they recede and shrink. It doesn't always feel as if the child's heart is mending, but our social workers can and do show us the progress we are making. She begins to look, act, speak and feel sometimes as though fostering is some kind of extended spa holiday where the treatments are not the physical facials or gym-based weight loss, the aim is to strengthen and shape up her feelings and emotions.

Stage Five BONDING

The child and the foster family form their own unique unit according to the deep-rooted identities of each and their hopes and dreams for the future. There is the warmth of familiarity, the reassurance of people being consistent. They love the inclusive feeling they get from fair boundaries, of feeling loved when they know the answer should be "No" and the answer is "No", because the parent cares.


There are only two outcomes; either the child goes or stays.

 The first resolution, she goes: hopefully back to her real home, job done. Or else maybe (not the same but good too) she goes to another foster home or to some other form of care. Job done too, but in a different way. The foster family rests, the child gets another chance. Nobody failed.

The second resolution is that the child stays. Gets Christmas holidays with you. Goes on summer holiday with you. Gets a second Christmas holiday, second summer holiday. Starts to recognise the landmarks and milestones in her foster family's year.


You either get a child who becomes part of your family in one capacity or another, or a complete newcomer arrives and you start the job again.

Or both happens.

However it goes, the end feeling is one of SATISFACTION


  1. Great post. Hehe for me I'd add a stage at 1.5. Impatient. Can't wait to meet the boy I'm likely having, but wait I must for health n safety sign off.

  2. Yep Dana, impatience to get going, too true.
    Exciting times!