Friday, May 31, 2019


So; Ryder, our most recent foster placement, is going home soon.

Knowing as I do certain details of how chaotic her family life was before social services intervened I'm concerned for her. But the professionals have done their homework and we Foster Carers trust their judgement. They're a fantastic army of trained and talented people who simply want everything to be okay for everybody.

Ryder is giddy at the prospect. She's begun packing, begun planning and rehearsing her departure from here and her arrival at her real home - she's even fussed about getting her hair right.

I've seen this plenty of timers before; children in care want nothing more or less than to get back to the life they know well. Even if it's a difficult life.

One phrase that remains in my mind was uttered by a teenager staying with us;

"So I'm stuck here in fostering while the rest of my lot are playing happy families?!"

"Happy families."

The last words you'd use to describe her lot would be "Happy families"'.

But then that's the likes of us looking from the outside.

The logical Foster Carer would find themselves lying in bed asking themselves; "Why would anyone want to leave my home which is sweetly run and a safe place to live to go back to a home which is all over the place?"

I got one answer to this question in a favourite movie of mine;

Some years ago I watched the film 'Ghandi'.

Ghandi wanted to persuade  the British to leave India. He had a meeting with British officials in which he said he wanted India to be returned to Indians.

However India was potentially very chaotic, so one of the English generals said;

"Mr Ghandi, if we return India to you there would be chaos."

So Ghandi replies;

"Perhaps. But it will be our chaos."

There you have it. It's their chaos.

They have more attachment to their chaos than a stranger's  orderliness (of course there are exceptions to this, but it does seem to be the general rule).

I'm currently sharing Ryder's excitement at the prospect of going hime. I indulge her daydreams that everything is going to be wonderful - but only when we are alone together. I have another foster child who isn't going home and I'm careful to avoid setting him thinking any more than is necessary.

At the same time as indulging Ryder's anticipations I'm trying to manage her expectations, saying things like;

"I expect everyone will be busy and rushing around when you get back." Meaning "Don't expect a throng at the front door with banners saying 'Welcome Home Ryder".

I say;

"Your mum's boyfriend has moved out, but is still allowed to see your mum." Meaning "There will still be plenty of tensions and the odd ruckus."

And so on.

Where I can say exactly what I mean, and manage my own expectations is when I say to her;

"We will miss you so much. We'll never forget you. We'll always be grateful to you for bringing so much to our family and our home."

Friday, May 24, 2019


They say that having two dogs is easier than one, they play together and keep each other company. Whenever I hear that remark my thoughts turn to whether the same is true in fostering.

Here's what been happening between two of my current foster children;

The older one (by four years), male, is almost certainly never going to be able to go home.  How he feels about this depends on various things. He 'yo-yos'; sometimes he's cool about it and feels that life works out in the end, sometimes he not and feels life's unfair.

He has a really good foster-sibling relationship with Ryder (female) who is now 10. They like and respect each other, the more so as they are in the same boat. Foster children relax in the company of other children in care. It's one of the big plusses at Blue Sky's event days, I get to meet up with other foster parents and chat about fostering, and the children find themselves in the company of children NONE of whom will wonder about their circumstances because they all have the same key circumstance in common. For children in care being surrounded by nothing but other children in care is one of the few occasions when they can feel a measure of being the norm.

But as with any human dynamic, there can be tensions, and when I tell you what's going on right now you'll get it in one.

Eldest is never going home.

Ryder is. Soon!

Everything in starting to fall into place, a schedule is taking shape.

It happened quite quickly. Social services broke the big news a few days ago, Ryder's SW phoned me then came over and gave the youngster the news sat at the kitchen table with me making tea and all ears. Ryder was very un-bothered at first. Her point seemed to be "What took you so long?" But later she let her emotions out.

I can't begin to tell you what a mixed bag it is in your house when a foster child is preparing to go home. Of course one feels pleasure in the child's happiness, and pride in having done your job. But the child sometimes has concerns which the foster parent has to watch for and help with. There's a sadness that a child who has been family is leaving, hopefully for ever. It hurts, even though you know it's for the best.

The tensions are never higher than if you have a couple of foster children and one is going home and the other isn't.


I heard the following while driving them across town, eldest to the cinema, Ryder on her way shopping with me;

Ryder: "It must be s**t for you, man."
Eldest; "Not really. Who cares."
Ryder: "Seriously. You be okay?"
Eldest; "Dunno. I suppose."
Ryder;  "You did tell me you thought it was better you were here than what you had before."
Eldest; "Yeah. I guess."
Ryder; "I'll miss you mate."
Eldest: "Yeah? Go on then...why?"
Ryder: "You're cool mate."
Ryder; "Like, when I came here I couldn't believe that you wasn't the family. I thought how could a guy in care be so cool about being fostered? But you was. And that made it better for me."
Eldest: "Yeah. Like it's no big deal."
Ryder; "Yeah but if you'd been like; 'Oh s**t I hate being here and the world sucks' and that kind of stuff, I'd have probably flipped."
Eldest; "You did flip that time about the goldfish."
Ryder; "Yeah, but I chilled when you came downstairs, I was like; 'Oh I don't need him to see me wrecked."
Eldest; "You've never been wrecked. If they'd let you have a goldfish the goldfish would have been well wrecked."
Loud laughter.
Ryder; "Seriously, you be okay?"
Eldest; "Shut up man. I said yeah, alright."
Ryder; (talking to me) "Can me and him, like, stay in touch and that?"
Me;  "I'll see if something can be arranged. I'll talk to your social workers. I'm afraid they tend not to be keen for good reasons. You might have to pass messages via them."
Ryder; "What?"
Eldest; "Forget it!"
Me: "I think you'll be able to write to each other, that could be the best thing."

With that their conversation turned to which was the best superhero, with Eldest nominating Blade (clearly a specialist's selection), and Ryder going for Iron Man. I chipped in with Superman, and was roundly condemned for choosing an alien - apparently the new take on superheroes is that they have to be human.

I was tempted to come back with an ironically witty political-correctism  about discrimination, but I was still glowing with the moment; two children who had all the cares in the world, getting all the care I can give, and caring for each other.

If I've done nothing else for them I hope maybe I might have helped them learn to care.

Friday, May 17, 2019


For anyone reading this outside the UK; a TV host called Jeremy Kyle is (or should that be 'was') the UK's answer to Jerry Springer.

You know the sort of show, I expect TV has them the world over. Shows where real people perform their domestic disputes for audiences.

There's a reason I want to talk about this type of show on a blog about fostering, and the reason's this; teenagers in care seem to love the format.

Here in the UK the Jeremy Kyle Show went out about 9.30am, so to catch the first transmission youngsters had to be either on school holiday or off sick. 

BTW the reason I refer to Jeremy Kyle's programme in the past tense is because he's been taken off. A member of the public who went on the show died several days later, first reports say he took his life. It's alleged that during the show he'd failed a lie detector test related to his fidelity. The episode will never be aired.

Although we know few details at the time of writing, the press and large swathes of the British public are howling that they'd known all along that the show was a disgrace. Stories are emerging from people who previously worked behind the scenes on the show suggesting stuff such as that guests waiting in the wings were wound up to go on the offensive.

On a personal note, I'm pleased the show is finished, and feel sad and sorry for the family and friends of the deceased and for that matter each and every individual who was in any way damaged or diminished by the show. And that includes the one million viewers who frankly ought to have found their entertainment in something more noble. 

But I want to think about the part it played in the world of looked-after teenagers, because many of them found a connection.

Let me be clear that I never allowed younger children near it, only the young adults who came to us.

The two questions I ask myself over and over - and I don't yet have answers - are 1) Exactly why did they find it so irresistible and 2) Did it do them any harm watching?

Here's one foster child of mine; Tish. Tish is heavier than her age, she's 16 years old and 17 stone. Her family consists of one parent in prison for crimes against another family member and a second parent that can't fend for them-self.  Also present in her home was an elder sister who had been made pregnant by the parent now in prison.

When Tish arrived in our house she had a serious resistance to going to school (she said it was down to her being bullied because of her size) and spent her first few days with us at home all day while I and her Social Worker developed a plan to get her back to school.

She spent every morning watching Jeremy Kyle. In fact I began to think that a big reason for her resistance to school was that she had become fixated with the show.

Every morning was built around Jeremy Kyle. Tish would come downstairs 10 minutes before the show in her sleep outfit, hauling her duvet (there was  no-one else in the house), and settle on the sofa. I would offer her breakfast and schedule it to arrive as the show started. Then I would sit with her and we'd watch. Watching TV with foster children is a great bonding thing.

Tish would take control. She would pontificate on every aspect of every show and how she could spot the serious scallywags from the mere dodgepots. She would tell me what was wrong and what should be done. 

She was undeniably better informed about family chaos than me. I found many of her insights amazing, and her views on how to solve the problems sometimes quite sophisticated.

In the light of the reason why the show has been ditched not to mention its recurring misery I'm not prepared to even contemplate that it may have benefited Tish or any foster children in any way shape or form, because though young people in care need all the help they can get, and we Carers need all the help we can get to help them, some things are beyond the pale.

But the question remains; why was the Jeremy Kyle Show such compulsive viewing for them?

Some seemed to take comfort that many of the chaotic families on display were; "worse than my lot".

Others were drawn to being able to show their expertise in domestic conflicts. 

Maybe it made some feel they weren't so badly off as others.

One Social Worker advanced another theory; some teenagers find home comfort among the shouting and hostilities coming from the TV. For many of them such an atmosphere was reminiscent of their home life, and the fact is that almost every young person in care wants to go home again regardless of the chaos.

Did the Jeremy Kyle Show help or harm them? I definitely valued the way it opened up conversations about family life, so it was a good tool in that single respect. But I also definitely found it too disappointing for words.

I can say for sure I'm glad I won't have to wonder about it any more, now that it's been axed.

I can't speak for the millions who watched - it was the highest rated show on daytime TV, and it wasn't alone in focussing on people who are struggling; there are also 'shows' about topics such as people with bad debts, insurance fraudsters, a quasi-court for settling financial disputes.

You might have wondered about Tish and how we eventually got her going to school. It was a bit devious of me, but my SW thought it was for the best. 

I did what I usually do if a school-shy child spends a day at home; I make sure their day is a bit boring; "After all" I tell them "You've got a sore throat, we don't want you tiring yourself out on your phone, you need your energy to recover." 

In Tish's case I turned off the TV Cube, saying that we had a signal problem during the day...

Monday, May 13, 2019


It doesn't matter how long you've been in fostering, you don't know it all.

Actually, I find the more I learn the more I realise I need to know.

When I started fostering I thought the experience I had in life and parenting would cover most things; and I did alright too, I think. But obviously, I'm probably doing a bit better now I'm armed with a whole load of knowledge and tricks of the trade.

But you're NEVER too old to learn, and I picked up a couple of revelations last weekend that I'm aching to share because they're absolute gems.

What happened was this; my eldest foster child had a sleepover. There would be four of them, and of an age where I wanted to provide them each with their own bed. Not easy as there would be the other family members in the house, but I managed it by putting up our youngest on sofa cushions in our bedroom and fishing a spare mattress down from the loft.

The spare mattress had to go on the floor.

When the guests arrived they congregated. On the mattress on the floor. A discussion started about who would sleep where. Everyone wanted to sleep on the mattress on the floor, even my own foster child who has his own bed in his own bedroom. Even he wanted to sleep on the mattress on the floor.

They must have drawn lots or something, but as the evening wore on the mattress on the floor was like some kind of a honeypot and they each took it in turns to 'chill' on it with their phone.

Next day, eldest foster child came to me and said;

"Can I have my mattress on the floor?"

I responded to type, something like;

"Don't be daft, you've got a lovely bed. Why would you want to sleep on the floor?"

"I just's cool!"

Long story short, I let him. And it's been an absolute winner.

1. No bedside cabinet for things to fall off.
2. No space under the bed for stuff to collect and where the hoover can't reach.
3. No space under the bed for boogie monsters or spiders  to hide.
4. No long drop to fall if you worry about fidgeting off the bed during a funny dream.
The main thing;
5. It's cool. 

I can't exactly pinpoint this 'cool' thing about it. I know a mattress on the floor is vaguely 'studenty'. It's got a kind of hobo schtick, an air of unconventionality, makes him out to be a bit of a drifter (which in a small way foster children are).

Maybe that song sums it up; "Wherever I lay my hat that's my home.."

It has some drawbacks (small). Making and changing a bed that's further away is a slight drag.
Plus I started worrying that the mattress couldn't breathe, but it's going to be a doddle to flip every so often. Not only that, it's free from the build-up of fluff and dust that goes with the under-the-bed space.

We even talked about doing the same thing with our bed as I've got a bit of a back and surely it can only be good for the spine.

Anyway, later the same day came the second revelation from the same foster child. I asked him right out why he wanted to sleep on the mattress on the floor.

Be careful reading this next bit, it makes me fit to weep. He said;

"I used to be made to sleep in the floor when I was a disappointment. I want to push through it."

Here's to him.

And here's to fostering.