Tuesday, November 19, 2019

MEETING THE PARENTS

In fostering you sometimes meet the parents of your foster child.

Before I came into fostering I had no idea I would, but you do. Not always but often.

There's a law that says that children in care must have contact with their 'significant others', usually once a week on average. And it often falls to us - the Carers - to transport the children to these contacts. It might be at a Contact Centre or sometimes at McDonalds. We get to see, sometimes greet and even have conversations with our foster children's real parents.

Awkward isn't the word. But it usually works out.

It is never - in my experience - unpleasant (the real parents are aware they are under scrutiny so even if they feel any resentment I have only ever found it to be controlled and mild).

From time to time I put myself in their shoes. How must they feel?

The parents of children who come into fostering have, in the eyes of authority, got parenting wrong.

We all get things wrong and it hurts to admit it. Better to blame someone else. When I get a parking ticket it's because the signs weren't clear or the machine was out of order.

If my children were taken away from me - and I can hardly imagine anything much worse - I would be unlikely to accept it was because I got my parenting wrong.

So let me tell you how it seems to me for most parents of children who are taken away from them and  put into care. It's this; they don't know how innocent they really are.

When you bump into them, often in a car park for example, they are usually at pains to be model parents. Sometimes you believe you can see where they might be going wrong; they might berate their children for being 'naughty' - as in running across the car park towards them.

One thing I've noticed a lot is the real parent's demanding their children are 'polite' - which seems to be little more than the extensive use of the words 'please' and 'thank you', which is nice but a bit superficial.

Here's my thing; I often ask social workers what they can tell me about the parents. The problem here is data protection and privacy rights and fair enough to  all that, but that's balanced by our need, as Foster Carers, to know everything we can know to HELP our foster children.

The information that helps us sometimes comes from the foster children themselves who might tell us, unprompted, background they've learned about what happened to their own parents when they were younger.

You might wonder 'such as?'

Okay, here's an example.

A child who stayed with a Foster Carer who is a friend of mine had experienced a terrible time at home, her mother had mental health problems and the child had begun to become her mother's carer.

Her father, who had been absent for years but turned up every so often, spent much of his time in Lincolnshire. The child had heard him repeatedly telling her mother that his father - who he had never met - was believed to be working in Lincolnshire. She heard her father shout as she listened from upstairs to the arguments, that he wanted to find his father and have it out with him.

The child's mother had, at age 17, conceived her second baby. The child, from an early age, knew that her mother's father had been abusive to her mother but was still too young to understand what that meant.

The child's mother and father had themselves had an awful childhood. Yet they somehow thought they knew enough to get it right when it was their turn. Or did they give it any thought at all?

In fostering we are often aghast at the awful parenting that results in children being taken into care.

But meeting those parents often helps us understand how they came to be awful parents. 
















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