Monday, January 07, 2019


Every so often a child in fostering gets het up.

Not every child does so, but in my experience a great many do.

Not all the time obviously, or even often.

How could they not, when you think about their lives?  I have no illusions that no matter how comfortable and safe my home is, no matter how much care, kindness and even love - yes of course love - I provide, foster children will boil over sometimes with the frustration of their lives.

So it came as no surprise when, two days before she was due back at school after an exciting Christmas and New Year, things got on top of Ryder. She just needed to let off a bit of steam.

The first I knew that she had triggered was a little shriek of frustration from upstairs and the clonk of something colliding with something. And a few choice words you would never hear in church.

I learned a long time ago not to explode out of my chair and bolt upstairs. In fact I did nothing, just waited silently because sometimes these little moments blow over.

Then again sometimes they don't. In fact sometimes the signals are a cry for foster mum to come, so when I get that vibe I start off towards the kerfuffle, but slowly.

See, a parent running up the stairs towards a child can stir up unpleasant memories for the child. So can a loud voice calling out. Even a face that's supposed to express 'What's the matter?" can be mistaken by the child for "I've had enough of you and now you're gonna regret!"

Instead I go up to the child with a sympathetic smile and say quietly "Alright mate?"

It turned out the things that had made the clonking noise were 1) her  mobile phone and 2) her bedroom wall.

Not a good combination. The phone was still on the floor. I was hugely tempted to reach for the phone and either relieve myself of the worry it was damaged, or at least have a chance to work out how much it was going to cost for a new screen.

But Ryder is far more important than any mobile phone. She was sitting on the bed, crying. Her eyes were staring vacantly at the air in front of her face, and from those eyes tumbled huge tears that were chasing each other down both cheeks.

I've also learned that there's not much point asking them what's the matter, because the thing they think is 'the matter' is usually just the trigger. In this case it turned out that the problem started when she'd lost a life in some phone game or another.

In this case it was, as usual, a whole army of things that were 'the matter'.

She didn't know where her younger brother was and that worried her because she'd become the boy's surrogate mother.

She didn't know where her mum and dad were and she was worried for them too.

She didn't know when, or even if she could ever go home; the authorities are still unable to determine which of the parents is a perpetrator and which is a victim. They are probably both both, if you see what I mean.

Losing her life in an app game reminded her that she'd lost her life in real life.

There's not much point putting an arm round a shoulder either. It's a disappointing fact, but an important one for the professional Foster Carer to remember, that in difficult moments we can seem to be a manifestation of the things that have gone wrong in their lives.

Instead I played my tried and trusted master stroke, if I say so myself.

"I only came up to say I've made my mind up about Black Mirror Bandersnatch."

The sobbing paused, the rhythm briefly interrupted  by Ryder taking on board what I was saying.

"So, it's got some strong themes but parents reviewing it say it's okay for someone your age, so I'm going to push back supper and ask you to set it up so everyone can watch it now it's getting dark outside. While you're doing that I'll bowl up ice cream, what do you fancy? Chocolate chip or caramel?"

Ryder came racing down that stairs sixty seconds later, my guess is she'd messaged school friends to make sure they knew she was going to have seen the must-see interactive TV thing before back to school time.

My only concern had been that there is reported to be certain words in the thing.

But Ryder's near-miss with a wobbly had helped me know that the film would not corrupt her.

She'd learned certain words many years before...and was learning to keep them to herself.


  1. Thanks for sharing this insightful story - I am not yet an approved foster carer, though am completely excited by the idea of having children in my house, with all the quirks, fun and love that this will bring, both to them and me. Your comments gave a great insight into 'situational management' and positivity - I hope to be able to contribute in the same way in the near future. Thanks for all the love and support that you offer Ryder!

  2. Thank you for your kind comments, if they are anything to go by you are going to be a fantastic addition to our proud profession. I remember the excitement of anticipation you are feeling, but I can tell you that all the positive emotions you are enjoying now are heightened ten times over when you are doing the job. The excitements are matched by fulfilment and reward as you see and feel a vulnerable child achieve and grow while in your care.