Thursday, November 29, 2018


There's a multitude of experiences that make fostering one of the best things you can do.

There are a multitude of little moments;

There's the first moment a foster child calls you 'mum' or 'dad' (their real parents will always be their real parents, but sometimes they choose to call me mum and that's for them - and it makes me feel proud). There's the moment they refer to your house as 'home', the moment they slip their hand into yours without being asked when it's time to cross a road, the moment you first hear them chortle a carefree laugh.

A multitude of big moments;

Their first holiday with you, first trip to the corner shop alone...

Then there are the huge moments, such as when your Social Worker helps you see how much progress the child is making and what a great job you're doing.

But of all of the great times in fostering, nothing beats Christmas, in fact nothing comes close. IMHO.

Hey, Christmas in fostering is not seamless joy and harmony, but then Christmas isn't like that for anybody except the cardboard folk on the Christmas movie channels.

Looking back on my years of fostering the Christmases just get better and better. I'm going to enjoy telling you why, but I'm sure to shed a few sweet tears, because Christmas in fostering is very emotional.

There was the foster child who was going home for Christmas. She was 16 and the deal struck was she could go home on Christmas Eve and come back to us on the 27th. Christmas Eve is always a special day, but this one was doubly so.

We'd helped her buy presents for her family. Her budget was tight so we'd slipped her a little extra to buy the things she wanted for them.

Okay, just so you know, I'm filling up right now because I know what happens...

So it gets to about 4.00 o'clock on Christmas Eve afternoon and we're due to set off to drive her over to her home. She had her bag of presents from us to her which we expected her to take to open on Christmas morning, but no. She said she wanted to open them with us. So we got together around the kitchen table and she opened her smellies from the Body Shop, her new phone cover, her box of Quality Street and so on.

I knew why she wanted to open them with us; it was because she didn't expect the presents at her home to have the same currency (I'd built that into my calculations about what to buy for her). But it showed an emotional intelligence - a kindness - in her that we'd been working on.

Okay, so we climb into the car and it's getting well dark. And she's going home for Christmas.

I knew what she'd been through and what memories she had of her home (I won't detain you, trust me you don't want to know), yet here she was, absolutely made up to be going home.

Talk about the triumph of hope over experience, but it's something you see a lot of in fostering. The kids can be so inspirational in their desire to re-unite their family and make things alright again.

OK, I had to take a moment there and dab eyes, honest.

So now we're in the car and I put on a CD of Christmas songs my other half had recorded.

There was one I was itching to play for her, so I fast forwarded to it, and she loved it.

And she pressed replay over and over for the whole 50 minutes it took us to drive her home.

Driving Home For Christmas.

Driving Home.

Imagine her happiness.

We had another child one Christmas who had never had a Christmas - not for religious or high-minded reasons, but simply because the adults in the house were too disorganised, too swamped. I could add 'too self-absorbed' and 'too self-serving', but hey in the spirit of Christmas I won't. The thing is that this poor mite KNEW that everyone else was decorating trees, buying gifts, planning food, fretting over visits from aunties and all the other excitements.

For this kid, Christmas Day had been just another day. Another Tuesday.


He picked up the whole thing so fast it was obvious he knew what he'd been missing. And the joy he exuded throughout December was the best present I'd ever had. When we all agreed (as we do every year) that this particular Christmas had been "Our best Christmas ever", I resisted shooting him a glance but I will hope for ever that he took us to mean that his presence was the clincher. Because it was.

Many people in fostering will have a different kind of Christmas for any number of good reasons, and I feel sure they'll have a good Holiday, I hope they do and I wish it for them. Many will have their own celebrations at other times of the year which are no less joyous, maybe even more spiritual.

But for me Christmas -  with all its famous flaws of commercialism, expense and indulgence - offers us an abundance of profoundly pure feelings if we reach for them.

Perhaps the best feeling of all is to give our children the chance to enjoy themselves. Enjoy the build-up, the anticipation of great things to come. Gifts yes, but also happy people, people enjoying each other, people free from the yolk of hard work for a couple of nutty days of dressing well, seeing bowls of nuts and crisps put out straight after breakfast and serious cooking smells starting around 10.00am.

Christmas is about giving, but not the giving of socks. It's giving our kids memories of childhood Christmases which will stay with them all their lives. And that goes double or treble for our foster kids.

And when they're old and need a stick to get from the sofa to the Christmas table they'll help the child next to them pull a cracker and put on the paper hat and spend a moment transported back to happy Christmas memories when they were fostered.

Transported back to a happy place.

Driving Home.

For Christmas

Monday, November 26, 2018


Winter brings a curious high in fostering.

It's going on upstairs in our house today, started this morning.

One of our foster kids, Ryder, has a cold.

It's a proper cold too, not an exaggerated one - you know; the show-business coughing and blowing of the nose when there's nothing up there...

No, not this time, Ryder is proper poorly.

And very, VERY happy. In fact it's a joy to see and now that everyone else has gone to work and school, I'm looking forward to one of my favourite fostering situations.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't wish a cold or the flu on anybody. I'm now an enthusiastic flu jabber. And - touch wood - I don't seem to get colds since I started fostering, something to do with being too busy for the germs to come out.

But when your child gets a cold and has to have a couple of days off school, well I have to say it's blissful for loads of reasons.

For a start I enjoy playing nurse. I love making a fuss of my concerns for a little one who is under the weather. 

On top of that I get a better chance to have a few meaningful one-to-ones with them when I take them a bowl of porridge or tomato soup or whatever comfort food.

If they're old enough for me to leave them for 10 minutes to pop round to the corner shop I can take orders for a Dr Who magazine, and a tub of chocolate chip ice cream for when they finish their soup.

It's always touching the gravitas with which they take their medicine, whether its Calpol or some other Junior over-the-counter preparation. They treat the matter with due importance, knowing I've had to unlock the cabinet where we keep our aspirins etc - they know it's actual medicine and not a spoonful of sugar.

I'll be totally honest about this next reason I get a high from when they need nursing; giving them a deserved day off school makes them happy. Happy because a day off school, a day of being looked-after and cared for is delicious for them and I get to feel their delight. Not least they are relieved that their under-the-weather head cold has been perceived as the truth, that they have an honest (minor) illness and have earned a recovery period followed by a convalescence.

But the biggest reason the house glows when the house is part-hospital is this:

Many foster children have been starved of the kind of mothering (and fathering) kindness that children need to develop properly. All too often when they arrive at your house they are confused by normal parental love and  some foster children find them selves resisting it. They come round after a while, but new Foster Parents are often surprised by their inability to accept simple kindnesses.

The big reason the house is blissful when you're nursing a foster child is that they quickly come to accept and love your kindness because it's disguised as nursing. At first they're a bit taken aback that someone should put them first above all else. Often they have been marginalised in their home. Now here they are the centre of kindly attention. People in the house ask how they are feeling and what their needs are.

I usually send them back to bed and say that if they are feeling a bit better they can come down in their DG and watch TV under a duvet on the sofa. Actually I do a bit more than 'send them back to bed'. I help them upstairs and straighten their bed, plump the pillows then tuck them in. A gentle hand on the forehead to check if they're overheating is an affection they might have squirmed at on other occasions, but when it's nurse/patient they take it. Then I go downstairs and cook up my crowning medical poultice.


Age cannot whither nor custom stale the infinite benefits of taking your foster child their first hot water bottle (not too hot obvos). It seals the deal, especially when you check on them at about mid-afternoon and say;

"Well I think you're not 100%, and they don't want people in school with anything contagious, so I think we'd better keep you home one more day". They struggle to suppress an exuberant; "YESSSSS!".

And you crown it by asking "Is your hottie still hot?"

And off you go for a re-fill, the pair of you high as a kite.

Happy as Larry, whoever he was.

Monday, November 12, 2018


One of the challenges for Foster Carers is when there's not much in our own personal experiences that are of much use in our fostering of today's children.

I've met a few carers who themselves had been fostered, that's a start.

But the world just keeps changing so fast, so very fast, that the things that my generation of kids had to worry about at home and at school and outside the chip shop (you know, all those places we used to hang out at), well those things don't seem to be so big with kids any more.

Especially not with children who have been taken from a home where they were considered at risk.

The big new thing at the moment wasn't even a thing at all in my day; gender.

When I say 'new', I'm not saying that gender issues weren't a problem 20 or 30 years ago; it's clear that a great many young people have always, down the years, faced agonising fears and uncertainties, but they had to face them alone. And deal with them under the threat that if their personal problems became common knowledge they might be subjected to ostracism at best, bullying and maybe violence at worst.

Very little of what we now know and respect in this day and age about gender was barely suspected a generation ago.

What I'm saying is this; as a Foster Carer, if and when I have to support a foster child who presents as being other than what is now called binary, I can't draw on any personal experience from my own childhood.  Nobody in my schooldays was perceived as being anything other than what people (sadly) called 'normal'. Mind, there was pernicious rumour-mongering from the sort of youths you'd expect aimed a few vulnerable pupils and even certain teachers, nasty.

Today it's a totally different outlook.

One of the foster mums at our most recent support meeting is looking after a child who came to her as a male but has announced that he wishes to identify as female. Aged 15.

She's MTF. Male to female.

We (the other Foster Carers and the Blue Sky Social Workers at the meeting) had a fascinating and revealing time discussing and learning about the placement.

The young person had given enormous thought over a great deal of time to her decision. That's the first thing, from the moment the person's decision is delivered and accepted as their decision it's incumbent on those who accept their decision to remember that it's HER and not HIS decision any longer.

Which takes some getting used to. The mum said that if and when she gets it wrong the child accepts it if the mum says a quick cheerful "Oops, sorry".

One thing that amazed the foster mum was the amount and quality of support available. The school got it in one - it turned out they already had another pupil in the same boat and a couple of as yet undecided. They've allocated a toilet as gender neutral, where they can change for PE and games. The school offers counselling. The child's local authority social worker came up with a list of groups and clubs for young people with similar profiles. They are all extremely well run by knowledgable professionals. Her Blue Sky SW brought books and video links on the subject and arranged for her and her partner to attend a series of training sessions run for parents with children who also have gender issues.

The child's friendship groups have been massively supportive, and all the other pupils at her school respect her courage and conviction, apparently it would be uncool not to!

The other thing to pass on is this; the child's foster mum says that she has never seen the child so happy, so contented, so footsure and fulfilled as she was from the very day she presented.

As ever, thanks for reading, and happy fostering!