Friday, October 05, 2018


Eldest foster child is going through a tough time.

He's part of our family now, it hurts to see him sad. It's his real family that's the problem.

No matter how embedded a foster child becomes in his or her foster home, their real family's circumstances loom over them like a dark cloud threatening a downpour.

All foster children have one single big thing in common; the fact that they've been taken into care. When we go to Blue Sky family events the youngsters often feel comfortable with each other because they know that none of the other children is going to express innocent but piercing surprise that they are not living with their own mum and or dad. They are 'normal' for a day.

Being in care is the only thing foster children have in common. One of the biggest lessons I've learned in fostering is how unique is every foster child. More unique, if that's possible, than children who have not been taken into care.

How could that not be the case? After all, what little we know about the human mind tells us that any traumatic event will have all sorts of influence on a person's persona. A child in care has been through so much BEFORE being taken into care and then is taken into care on top of everything. 

It's the reason I'm forgiving if they get upset, which doesn't happen with every child by any means, and it's rare compared to what you might expect, but if they overheat sometimes how can you blame them?

Eldest doesn't get het up any more, not ever. He has reached an age where he digests his troubles; this is what solid people who stay on top of things do.

Not to stray into current affairs but by way of illustration it's what our beleaguered Prime Minister is managing to do, and what that US judge didn't do. A phrase I've heard which covers this skill is 'self-regulation'. I've also heard it described as 'getting on with it'.

What's going on with eldest is this;

He's adjusting to the fact that he probably will never go home. 

Can you imagine? Adjusting to the fact you may never go home?

Who told him? Who had the unenviable job of sitting him down and explaining this to him, now that he's old enough to understand?

Nobody. This wonderful amazing kid worked it out for himself.

Oh, he picked up things from me when he was younger, for sure. But I was never empowered to tell him his real family were effectively no more, because that would have been a judgement I wasn't entitled to make. Nor was anyone, because nobody has a crystal ball, and you have to deal in facts with foster children - and while it was unlikely he'd go home, it was never totally off the cards.

But like all foster children he's done a whole load of thinking. The longer they are in care the more time they have to watch an alternative family in action. They see a different approach to parenting. They experience a different type of care. They see new role models. 

In the case of eldest he benefitted enormously from going to secondary school. In junior school he was taught mainly by one teacher all day long, so his sample group of adult models was limited. At secondary school he has twenty different teachers which has given him the opportunity to see that adults are different. He discovered that some adults he likes, some he doesn't. Some he can depend on, others less reliable - and he's totally entitled to those judgements.

Once that penny dropped he began taking a serious look at his real family. 

He seems to have worked out for himself that they are highly unlikely ever to find themselves able to look after him.

If you don't yet foster you might guess that all is now rosy for him, he's in a family where he is looked after properly and can begin to motor away from his past. But we foster parents learn fast about the massive and enduring pull we all feel towards our own parents, our own family, our own home.

Look;  indifferent as my childhood was, if ever I'm driving near to the house I was brought up in I detour past it to have a look. My foot comes off the gas as we get near and I cruise past at a hallowed pace like a  pilgrim at a shrine...

This thing runs very, very deep. 

Reconciling oneself with the awful reality of closure on the family unit that used to be your entire universe takes the strength of ten men and women. He's got it.

He's started pushing boundaries; adult ones.

He's started asking permission to go to the One Stop at times of night that are too late. Started asking if he can go straight to a friend's house after school and stay late. Sometimes he asks if he can do a sleepover on a school night. 

At first glance he's just being a rebellious teenager, but my Blue Sky social worker helped me out with her trademark  stonking insight and advice;

She asked if he heated up when told "No". He doesn't. She said that he was following the usual paths to independence but that in his case it might be complicated because he had suffered so much pain from being part of a mixed-up family that ended painfully that whilst he likes his foster family, respects us - maybe even loves us a bit in his own way - he's protecting himself by not chucking his lot in with us hook line and sinker. 

Not just yet anyway. He's looking after his feelings.

Wow. I got that the minute she spelled it out. We had a dog once we all loved but she grew arthritic  and one day we had to take her to the vets. And that was that for me with dog's, I didn't want to risk the pain and sadness of those last days again.

My job now is to help him learn that trusting a family unit with all one's heart can be a great thing, and at the same time make sure he understands it's not the only thing. We are all free to shape our lives to suit our deepest selves.

He's come a long way, thanks to fostering.

Actually, I've come a long way myself. Also thanks to fostering.

Maybe it's time to think about another dog...


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