Friday, October 25, 2019

LITTLE THINGS THAT MAKE FOSTERING

Natasha was seven when she arrived at our house, at about 4.30 in the afternoon as I remember. 

The social worker who had supervised bringing her into care parked up outside our house, got out and opened the rear door of the car. I’m afraid when a new child is due I'm a bit of a curtain twitcher, eager to get my first glimpse of the child. It's probably nothing more noble than raw curiosity, but I tell myself I like to start my fostering the minute I clap eyes on the new child and get as many clues as to what they might be like and what their needs might be.

Natasha was quite sad, sad and slight. She had a lot of hair which fell over her eyes, eyes that were downcast. Foster children are almost always trepidatious on arrival. She did glance up halfway up the path I remember the look on her face as she took in the view of the house, a look of apprehension, certainly not hope or relief. 

The reason I remember the Tasha arrival is because of what happened next. Natasha froze, her tiny feet planted on my concrete path. With her free hand the poor girl tried to prise her fingers out from the hand of the Social Worker who stood firm. I resisted the obvious impulse to rush out and help but held back and watched. The Social Worker crouched down so that her eyes were level with Tasha's and the Social Worker's other hand went out behind Natasha‘s head and started gently stroking. I couldn't see the tears but I could guess Natasha was crying silently because the Social Worker fished a tissue from her cardigan's sleeve and dabbed  beneath the little girl's eyes.

It was such a touching sight I could feel my own emotions getting the better of me and I wanted to rush out and sweep the little girl up but the Social Worker was doing her social work very gently with Natasha and it was working. She waited 'til Tasha calmed down, I saw Natasha nod her head. Then the social worker gently picked her up and set off towards my front door carrying Tasha.  My doorbell went and I opened the door not sure whether to do my usual trick of crouching down to the child's eye-level because the child might still be in the social workers arms at adult eye-level but when I opened the door with my gentlest smile and my softest voice I took in that Natasha was standing next to the Social worker. So I dropped down and said; "Hello you must be Natasha, come in both of you. Natasha I’ve got something for you in the kitchen which I think you might like so slip your shoes off and come through."

I always have a little welcoming present for a new child, something to play with while the Social Worker and I finish up whatever business is needed, and I ask the child to slip off their shoes as the signal they're at home. If the Social Worker asks shall I take my shoes off I say no that’s alright visitors can keep the shoes on. 

As it turned out Natasha was more interested in the dear dog we had at the time and the handover went very smoothly. The Social Worker told Natasha that she would come and see her to make sure she was settling in in a few days. And settle she did And probably would’ve done so anyway - without all the tiny bits of effort - she was a tough cookie. But when you’ve been fostering for awhile and had a few placements you find yourself using the little things that you’ve learnt such as not to rush out on the street, to be down at their eye-level when you open the door, soft smile, little gift, shoes off. Oh there's others; their favourite meal for tea (served out in bowls on the table so people can help themselves thus avoiding the stress of an over-full plate or other food fears), make sure they know the bathroom and how to flush. 

Blue Sky run lots of fantastic training sessions, but the little details; especially the ones that are specific to me and my own character and personality and views about parenting and fostering, which I think are the spine of the job, things that are about the moment, you can't really be trained to do.

I was talking about this with my other half of the weekend. He's a, incorrigible football fan; past help really. He said it doesn’t matter how much training a team does in the week, when the whistle goes it’s up to the players to use the training to help them make the right decisions minute by minute as the game goes along. In the end the little decisions are the game-changers and it's down to the players.

I've about reached half-time in my fostering and I like to think we're in the lead.

2 comments:

  1. At the end of the day its all about the instincts and emotions that get you through, you've reached the half time and i hope you really finish off the game with a smile and Natasha too. :) https://www.theguardianonline.com/

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  2. Roger that Steph. I'm, aiming to play the full 90 minutes.

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