Monday, August 12, 2019


"Why are you so nice?"

The above question remains a memorable moment from my early days in fostering. It's up there  among the reasons why I've stayed fostered and keep on doing it.

His name was Kevin.

He didn't like his name, he told me that.

I asked him what he'd like to be called and he said "Jamie".

So I called him Jamie. How hard is that?

Jamie was very compliant the first few days. Then, when he was confident that we would love and respect him even if he let it all out, he had a meltdown. Nothing big; tears at bedtime, toys out of the pram. It was a Thursday night.

I remember with chilling clarity this dear little boy saying to me...

(Look, as the Secret Foster Carer I must ensure no child - or anyone who knows them - can ever identify the child should they happen upon this blog, but if this child ever reads this he might possibly recognise himself and so I apologise to him now and hope he understands that his courage and courtesy is worth passing on).

He said to me...

"If you were away from your mummy and you thought that something terrible was going to happen to her then you'd be frightened."

He was seven years old.

Jamie (Kevin) had learned that his job in the world was to find ways to protect his mum. Aged seven. Go imagine.

If you try to remember your life when you were seven years old, I bet that (like mine) yours wasn't perfect, but compared to having to...what? Stand in the way of men ten times your size? Find tricks to lessen impending violence? Keep your mum from doing another needle? Help her stagger upstairs and get into bed? Talk her out of jumping?

What did he mean? I asked but he was too anxious to tell me.

I reported all to my Blue Sky Social Worker and she and I pieced together that Thursday nights (it had been a Thursday) was a big night in Jamie's house, people had money. Thursday was what they called 'Payday' - when the benefits (as was) were paid out. Thursday night in Jamie's home was probably pub, pick-up, takeaway... back to her place...all the trimmings.. all sorts of goings on.

I tried to talk to Jamie about his home life, and keep him informed that his mum was straightening out. And it slowly dawned on me what he meant about me being 'Nice'.

It wasn't any big thing such as getting an overview on his case and developing a programme of targets and markers aimed at reconciling him with his significant others. That's the job, BTW, right there. That's the scientific role of the Foster Carer.

It wasn't even that I tried to provide a warm loving environment, and re-channelling information about his situation, re-defining his world in such a way as to ease his troubled mind - although that's the humanity of being a foster mum, right there.

It was just that I looked up with a smile when he came into the kitchen. I never said a word if he was late for the table. I cut off his crusts without ever banging on that they were good for him. I tidied his bedroom when he wasn't around and never mentioned the apple core under his bed.

I don't want to be seen to judge other parents, but I've seen a lot of parenting going on.

And blimey, don't some parents go on? On and on;

If I had a pound for every time I heard a lazy mum or dad look round from their chats with each other at the school railings and shout "Oi! Be careful!" because their child is running I could upgrade our Peugeot.

When I say 'lazy' I mean they don't take the trouble to understand what information the child can take on board and process what they say so that it doesn't come across as constant rebuke.

That is the world of the average child - whether they're in care or not. An unending chorus from adults of what NOT to do and what they have most recently done WRONG.

You see it over and over again when you take a foster child to Contact and their real parent claps eyes on them. Nine times out of ten their first remark is telling, here are a few genuine ones I remember;

"Look at your hair, forgotten how to use a comb?"

"Stop that disgusting sniffing, where's your handkerchief?"

"Come straight here. Now! Stop wandering everywhere."

"Charming. No nice hug for your mum then?"

Parents will say that they mean well, but I've always thought that defence is a cop-out.

All they have to do is show they care, really care. Show it so the child feels appreciated.

When Jamie's mother barked at him to get down from the foot-high wall which lined the stairs leading up to his Contact Centre I saw his spirits fall. 

When we left, just him and me, I said to him;

"You've got fantastic balance. See if you can walk down the little wall."

So he did. Got to the  bottom without falling off, and jumped down the six inches to the ground with aplomb.

Job done. Great job too, is fostering.

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