Wednesday, July 31, 2019


One thing that's always struck me in fostering is that the poor dears who come to us for care often open up about their lives; but not always to their Foster Carers.

We find out in roundabout ways that they have talked to their Physics teacher, or maybe they've opened up to your nephew at a family barbecue.

I know it's pathetic of me but every time it happens I feel a tiny bit jilted. My logical brain tells me that a troubled child would surely seek out the person who cares for them, shelters, feeds and protects them.

I have to remind myself that my own children didn't reveal much of their fears and frailties. My friends said it was the same with their children. I put it down to some sort of natural order of things.

This happened once;

A foster child called Ricky had been with us for six months. He was a lad who spent most of his time being silent, some might say sullen but I found him simply in need of an arm round his shoulder. Every so often he'd let off steam and you just had to facilitate. In other words just stay away, let the child expel their negative feelings. The emotion doesn't last very long and they're at peace for days and weeks, sometimes months  afterwards.

I wanted to try to get to the bottom of his sadness and anger. I hoped I could help him. Fix things.  But Ricky was an absolutely closed book.

Well, towards me he was.

But he clicked with...his hairdresser!

This hairdresser is the same one I use. One day Ricky told me that the haircuts I gave him were not up to much, so I booked him into the place I go to and his hair was cut by Trish who is a nice person, very trendy. She wears black, has various piercings, a few bits of body art, and has a girlfriend.

Ricky opened up to Mandy to such an extent that Trish felt she should chat with me about it the next time I was in her chair. I should say at this point that Trish is such a good friend that she's part of my network. That said, I wouldn't tell her anything about my placements that would compromise their privacy. But if a foster child of mine confides to a third party I'm right to hear what transpired so I can assess whether to build it into my fostering.

So. Ricky told Trish that he was a bit gay. Well; "maybe".

Of course I could see straight away he was never likely to tell me that. Or probably never tell anyone, at least not for a while, except luckily my hairdresser.

Obviously once I discovered this my feelings for him went to a new high; this was a foster child who needed all the support I could muster. But I couldn't reveal what Trish had fed back to me.

I raised it with my Blue Sky Social Worker and we agreed that if Trish had become someone Ricky could trust and wanted to talk with we should allow it to happen; but that it would be confined to professional encounters (only when Ricky is getting his hair cut. Trish is a £30 per cut hairdresser, but it was worth every penny to book Ricky in for a 'trim' once a fortnight.

The end result was a relatively happy lad.

Who had excellent hair.

And a Foster Carer who was also happy that the job was getting done one way or another.

Listen; if you're thinking about trying fostering. Do it.

The good you will do is second to none; especially when you learn how to mange things from the background.

Friday, July 19, 2019


I used to go to Sunday school when I was little and found out after a couple of years why my parents - who doubted the God thing themselves  - sent me. I'll save that bit to last, it's quite juicy.

Only, I remember exactly where I was when I too began to doubt the whole God thing. I was in church. At Sunday School.

A guest vicar got up to give us a sermon and he started it like this:

"Hello children. I'm sure you all have bicycles. Well in a way, Jesus is like a bicycle..."

And on he went. And on.

And on.

His thing of liking something to something it clearly is very unlike began the thought in me that maybe it's down to me to come up with a code to live by, and St Peter can fact-check me at the gates. And basically that's how I get by.

The guest vicar also turned me off poor metaphors. But there are some I like, such as this one:

"Fostering is a bit like the internet."

As in;

Sometimes you try to log onto the internet and can't get a connection. Or else it's painfully slow.

So you restart. 

No better.

You switch off and leave it for a minute.

No better.

You go to Settings and check your connection. You re-select your wi-fi code. You check your phone and it's not connected either. You turn off your router and turn it on again. Your phone is back on wi-fi but the PC ain't. Hmmm. You go back into settings and try...anything.

Then...suddenly...for no apparent's working again!!!

You don't know which fix fixed it or even if it was none of them...who cares? It's FIXED, so on you go!

Same with fostering.

Your foster child has a thing about not saying please or thank you. It's no big deal but it might serve them well to fix it. So you try mentioning it. You try asking for the magic words. You try to get them to practice saying "Can I ...please". You offer quaint shortcuts "You could say "Ta" instead of "Thank you". 

You keep at it. Then one day, out of the blue, you put an apple of the sofa arm next to where they're engrossed in Fortnite and say "That'll hold you until teatime", and  as you're leaving the room you hear something. Something that came from the child. What was it?

Some sort of grunt. It wasn't a word as such; if it was a word it was spelled something like "Gnu".

It was a tiny, grudging, embryonic, barely viable...

"Thank you"

You don't know why, when, how, or even if your efforts have been successful. All that matters is that the child has come on. Just like with the internet, you simply breathe a small sigh of satisfaction and get on with things. 

Like I often say to myself "Ain't fostering grand!"

ps Why did my God-doubting parents send me to Sunday School? Well, one fine Sunday the School decided we'd all go for a walk, so we paired up and crocodile-marched down the road, round the corner and straight past my house. My parents bedroom faced the street and as I looked up I noticed that their bedroom curtains were drawn shut. This could only mean that my mum had gone down with one of her 48 hour migraines. The other explanation was unthinkable.
When I returned home I found my mum in the kitchen singing along to a Jim Reeves number on the radio. I asked her how she was, she replied something like;

"Fantastic! Never felt better!"

Aaagggh! To discover your doubt about God AND that your parents are nothing more or less than human flesh and blood, all thanks to Sunday School, is a big journey.

Maybe Jesus IS like a bicycle..?

pps, I never told my parents about the Sunday School trip past our house, that would have been wrong.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


Does anyone think they get paid enough for their work? I bet not. Somewhere in the darkest recesses of all our minds is the sweet notion that we are worth more.

I bet that Jeff Bezos thinks that the family members who invested a few thousand dollars in his Amazon start-up don't really deserve to be worth billions of (his) money in return, and that he (Jeff) should actually be even richer. And at the other end of that chain I bet everyone who works for Jeff thinks they're being short-changed.

I get fed up with people in public services oozing; "Look, don't over-ask for things, don't you know we're overworked, under resourced, unappreciated and under-paid."

Not all of them, but too many. Too many health and education workers. 

The only professionals in public service who don't do this one seem to me to be Social Workers. Oh and the police. Even though those two professions probably have a better case than most.

Mind, working out how much someone should be paid is a minefield. Who'd be an employer working out the value of someone's efforts?

Actually, all of us Foster Carers are stuck with this exact dilemma, namely how much money to 'pay' someone.

I'm talking pocket money.

Our eldest foster child has been campaigning that his pocket money should be upped. His manifesto is rich in sporadic detail. He's persevering too.

He's aged 15 and gets £10 a week, regardless of whether he does anything around the house. People who've never managed a teenager will scoff that I'm lax, but he's 15 okay? 15 is the arch-age of teenhood. Give him a job and he turns into the Incredible Sulk and you get a job so badly done it takes twice the time to rectify it that it would take you to knock it off yourself.

So, yeah...he gets £10 and one of the main challenges is what would it get upped to if I upped it? £10 is a nice round sum.  £10 actually sounds like it's worth more than £10. 

£11? - stupid fiddly number. £12.50? - give me a break, I'd be asking him for change and you can't do that. So obviously £10 naturally goes up to...£15, which is a 50% rise.

See, pocket money has to be more than inflation linked, more than cost of living linked; it has to also be age-appropriate linked.

One mite who came to us told me she got 10p pocket money per week, which I found shocking because there's literally NOTHING she could buy unless she saved for weeks. I figure it was a ruse by the parent to get out of being asked for things in shops. Rotten.

My 15yr old cites the pocket monies allegedly paid to his friends, linking this to our shame at being stingy by comparison and causing him embarrassment that besides being in fostering he's also in poverty. He makes the case that we are out of touch with the real world, in which a trip to Cineworld can consume 2 weeks-worth of income if you include Pick'nMix, Coke and Taco Bell.

I don't think many families manage the heat of how best to award pocket money. It's even more pyrotechnical in fostering.

It ought to be a reward and remuneration for things well done. Otherwise we're teaching our children you can get something for nothing. The majority of children in care come from homes needing benefits, don't get me wrong - our benefit system is something we should all be proud of. But it can be perceived as unearned income. Then their Foster Carers give them pocket money for nothing, it must seem like their life on benefit has begun! There's something here that could be better.

So I've had this idea, right. And when I tell it to you you'll think the same as everyone else I've told it to. It's brilliant.

Parents STOP giving their children pocket money. Instead they give a fixed amount to the child's school. Every Friday afternoon each pupil gets a pay packet which reflects their attendance, behaviour and academic performance. 

Child puts in a good week; get's a decent reward. Like how life should be and (kind of) is.

My scheme would improve school and home life.

Great idea innit?

I recommend this Bill to the House.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019


Being a Foster Carer keeps you up with the times.

You have to know your Brendan Urie from your Shawn Mendes, and your Game of Thrones from your Lucifer. In contrast you cannot let on that you like Love Island and have a good idea of who is doing what with whoever because that belongs to them and they don't want you in on that sort of private stuff.

Children have always had their own languages designed to exclude us adults.

Not long ago the kick was that something 'wicked' was the opposite of wicked. Prior to that the California kids came up with their own language; they would say something was "Grody to the max", meaning it was as disgusting as could be.

I've long noticed that children in care are more comforable having text-chats with me than actually talking, and while I persist with actual conversation it's good to get a meaningful dialogue any which way you can.

However. Yesterday I got a text message asking to be picked up from school as there was a problem with the bus. The problem probably had to do with an argument with some fellow pupils who used the same bus. These little conflicts run hot and cold but when they're hot they're hot so I was prepared to pick up. I suggested the foot of the footbridge outside the school, the reply was;


I had a guess this meant "Yeah"

So I replied "Your reasonable. The argument will fix itself by Monday"



Now I'm in trouble. I feel a need to reply instantly, but to what? Aaaagh! I Google "JK". Get directed to a plethora of forums ridiculing me for not knowing what "JK" means. 

I reply: "Sorry, what?"



Turns out "MK" means "Hmmmm...okay". This time Google informed me it's a phrase derived from a character in South Park (TV cartoon) who underlines his indecision by saying in response to any suggestion by any other character "Mmmmmkay" (one word).

I SWEAR I found it easier to learn Darin (the Persian dialect spoken in Afghanistan). I've mentioned this before; what happened was we were asked to look after 3 young Afghan brothers who had smuggled themselves all the way to Dover. I said yes and had to track down a Halal butcher (20 miles away) and start learning their language because the boy's English was non-existent.

I get the kid's needs for their own language. They don't own very much, yet they're nearly adults - they need to own some things.

I have my own language, oh yeah.

A good example is a word I would spell like this:


I don't say it with any emphasis, I kind of let it out the side of my mouth when  I'm on my way out of the room.

Try it. Say it out loud, see what it might mean.

It's my way of beginning to say to a foster child that they are loved. 


(Do you know what I mean?)