Sunday, May 31, 2020


How's lockdown?

Are you having the 'Ups and Downs'?

I'm guessing we've all had a few things that scored a minus on our chart, plus a few plusses? It's how we deal with them that's everything.

The day before yesterday a friend of mine asked me to meet her in the park and sit at opposite ends of a bench. She told me that on a scale of 10 her anxiety was 11. She hadn't slept for 2 nights on the trot which was only making her state of mind worse. The next morning she texted me that her doctor had advised her to take 2 of the anti-depressants she'd ben prescribed and not to drink or eat after 5pm, and she slept for 12 hours. She finished by writing "I feel great. I literally can't remember what I was so anxious about!"

I remember.

She'd was worried sick about her parents who live too far away for her to have a day visit. Her dad is 90 and her mum - who has dementia - is 89. She's racked her brains how to get to see them; she could sleep in their front garden, but how could she go to the loo? A local B+B? All closed. A nearby holiday home? All shut. Sleep in the car? Same loo problem…

One day she couldn't be more miserable, next day euphoric.

Yesterday morning I took the dog round the block and met an elderly neighbour who is locked down with an even older husband who is becoming eccentric. She said that he'd bought a new computer on the internet which he set up during the night so when she came down it was all up and running and the old one - the one she knew how to use - had gone. So had her mobile phone, he'd chucked that too, all that was left of it was her sim card. It was clear the old man was mentally declining and for some unknown reason trying to make complete his wife's isolation.

I asked her where she'd been and she said she'd made a 5 minute trip to the newsagent to buy his Times last 45 minutes to be out of the house for as long as she dared. I gave her my email address and said she could email me if ever she needed to.

Then yesterday afternoon I had a Whats App chat with an old friend, someone I used to work with but had lost touch, I hadn't spoken to him for 20 years. He's a youthful 62 but he's been told he only has about eight months to live. He looked well and was cheerfully philosophical about his lot. We agreed to talk every week.

I've found that fostering has made subtle changes to who I am, and as far as I can tell they are all changes for the better. Many of the skills you need in fostering are skills we already have but haven't had polished.

This is where my Blue Sky social worker comes in. Since the lockdown came in she's been unable to visit, so instead she phones me at least once, sometimes twice a week.It's not a quick fine-minute call; we chat for about an hour-and-a-half. She's checking we're all okay, but she dresses her care up as a friendly catch-up. For example she asks about our foster children as a friend would, and if I have to say that one of them was out of line she'll ask how I dealt with it and when I tell her she feeds back. I get to understand my own behaviour and what works well for people who need kindness.

What I'm saying here is that foster children and their families have much to thank agencies like Blue Sky for. Some of them know it, some don't.

But almost everyone I know has reason to thank fostering and Bue Sky for how I am these days, and none of them have a clue and never will.

Friday, May 22, 2020


Every Thursday evening at 8.00pm we join in the Blue Sky Zoom clap for frontline workers which means we aren't among the clappers in the street. So one of my neighbours enquired why we were notable by our absence. I explained, but I could tell from the look on her face that she didn't get why anyone would want to virtual clap rather than do it in public.

I told her I'm applauding not only the nurses and other health carers who are accepting the risks and doing their jobs, I'm applauding foster carers who are in lockdown with foster children who are often challenging and especially so in lockdown. 

Most of all I'm applauding a special breed of foster carers during this lockdown; the ones who have made themselves available to take in new children despite the risk of exposure to the virus. I can see those people's faces on the screen and it feels right to applaud them face to face.

Chaotic homes are not on hold during this crisis, in fact many are going under BECAUSE of the crisis. Social Services are flat out supporting at-risk children and where necessary taking the children into care.

In an ideal world the children would be tested for the virus and if required somehow quarantined before being introduced to the foster carer and their family.

But it's far from an ideal world, so foster carers the length and breadth of the country (and probably elsewhere) are taking the risk. Our Blue Sky colleagues are going pedal to the metal to get everything as right and safe for everyone.

How big is the risk I know not, no-one does, but it's there. If a capable adult stranger you'd never met before had to be introduced to your home at this time you would consider asking them to self-isolate in their bedroom for a couple of weeks, they'd have their own towels and be expected to use the bathroom last and wipe and spray in their wake. They'd eat their meals in their room and leave the plate outside the door.

You can't do that with a child who has been wrenched from a wretched home and put in with strangers. The foster carers accept the risk and treat the child like one of the family.


That's humanity in action.

What's more the need for new foster carers has never been greater - and just think what a leap of faith it is to throw your hat into the ring at this time!

But if you're thinking about, please pick up the phone.

You're much needed.

Saturday, May 09, 2020


I mentioned in my last post that although I manage to keep an even keel, I have to let it out sometimes.

So, one time once my Blue Sky counsellor asked me if there's anything I dislike about fostering.

This is how supportive they are in counselling; she didn't ask what I dislike about fostering, that's a different question from is there anything I dislike about fostering.

I guessed it would seem fake if I said 'nothing'. Of course there are things wrong with anything, nothing's perfect.

My schtick is to make light of heavy, so I answered;

"Oh yes…pasta."


"Yes, pasta. Really. Sorry, I can't stand the stuff, there you are. Problem is that pasta is a staple in fostering, it's almost universally liked by foster children because it isn't green, has no mystery components such as seeds or skin and can be scoffed one-handed.

They love it. Look - I'm not a philistine; spaghetti with meatballs is almost okay. Penne doused in Dolmio is borderline. But.. help…mascarpone and bow-tie shapes, raviolis, cannelloni, tortollini, fettucine, linguini, vermicelli…aaagh! 


It's just boiled dough!!!

Ever heard that line that a squirrel is nothing but a rat with great PR? Pasta is nothing but  boiled dough with great PR."

She said; You can't hate pasta, surely?

"Look, it's boiled dough! They take a decent bread dough which they could have baked and have something proper to chew on and eat, but no. They cut the dough into fancy shapes then dry it hard as bullets. Then you have to buy it. Then boil it.

Boil it. Boiling dough gives it the feel of shark liver without the flavour. It slivers around at the bottom of the pan like a rubber alien from the old Star Trek. Cooked pasta has the death glaze of a Vampire's victim about it; is there any other food which is such a bloodless grey?

Unappetising at best, revolting by itself; the Italian who invented it couldn't serve it up to his worst enemy like that. But he had a card up his sleeve; he gave it a rinky-dink name. Something Mediterranean romantic/heroic like "Merilionne Pucinniatta" or "Gucciiatta a cannelliara"

Job not done. Now the heap needs a sauce to hide its absence of texture or flavour. Heaven forfend anything with bite or crunch, the sauce has to slither even more than the pasta slivers, and the sauce, like the pasta, needs a name that has more vowels than consonants; Amatriciana, Puttanesca, Alla Norma...

Top it off with a handful of ludicrously expensive parmesan cheese (the packet stuff truly tastes of baby ick).

And a couple of knobs of stodgy factory robot-made garlic bread.

C'mon…pasta? Really?

Me, I'm a straightforward pie and mash person. Fish and chips, yes please. Sausages, every time, yes. Sunday roast and the works? Oh yes, God is in his very Heaven. I like to EAT. I'm only a 27 on the BMI; I could drop 10lbs and I will start on Monday as I have every Monday since about 1995, but eating what I like is one of my top ten things.

Only in fostering you eat what they want. Which is...


Oh, I don't mind much. In fact not at all really. Foster children's previous eating is usually shocking to learn. 

I can have beans on toast for lunch when no-one's around.

Foster children need their pasta.

The one thing I find delicious about pasta three, four or even five nights a week?

A bunch of foster children looking and feeling happy.

Thursday, May 07, 2020


We're all finding out things about ourselves during this lockdown.

That's eight billion of us earthlings locked down, so there's a heck of a lot of self-discovery going on.

How about you then?

Yes you. You who's looking at the screen with these words on it. What have you discovered about yourself during this strangest time in the planet's history.

As you're on this page I'm guessing you're either in fostering or thinking about it.

Either way you care about children and young people. So you possibly have a clearer picture of your own childhood than the average person. It's probably a solid fact, though it's not been researched yet, that adults who are good with children have a clearer memory of being children than those who don't understand or sympathise with kids.

I try not to talk about myself if I can avoid it but it's the only way to go on with this thought.

See, I've sometimes been told I'm 'stoical', as in someone who puts up with whatever it is and doesn't whinge. So, yeah, not a bad thing to be, especially in fostering. Only this; with a bit of time on my hands I thought I'd look up 'Stoical' in case it's more than just another word. And it is more. Blimey, it's an actual philosophy. Imagine..laa-di-daa me…someone with a philosophy.

When I say I looked it up, obviously what I mean is I YouTubed it. It turns out the Stoics were a whole movement of ancient Greeks who basically decided the best way to be happy is to accept that much of life sucks so learn to live with it. Or better yet allow your pains and disappointments to make you feel good because of the way you've stood up to them. They said things such as;

"Welcome with affection whatever fate sends."


"Be like a rock that has waves crashing into it Be grateful to the waves for they allow you to see how strong you are."

and (my favourite);

"Use obstacles as your fuel. Build a fire in yourself so great it laughs at rain."

The Stoics reckoned you should forget what other people think of you, it's your own opinion of you that is all that matters. They told each other to be good; to do good things and think good thoughts.

Thinking about it, I guess I try to be like that - although I'm only human too, I can rant and rave with the best of them but tend to do it alone when walking the dog.

Getting back to childhood memories. One of the support systems that Blue Sky has in place to help Foster Carers is counselling. I asked to talk to one of their psychologists a while back when I'd been upset about a foster child who had left us. After waving him off in his social worker's car I sobbed my eyes out and couldn't stop wondering how he was getting on. When a foster child goes they go. You almost certainly will never meet them again and never hear any news of them.

I told the counsellor, she started asking me about loss. The losses I'd had in life. She helped me unearth something awful which I'd almost completely buried but which she helped me see what a big impact it had on me. 

When I was seven my younger sister died. My parents were so badly shaken they thought I was too young to be affected, and hoped I didn't need them to help me - they wouldn't have known how to explain it anyway.  I was deeply shocked too of course, but decades later, being asked to let that dear foster child go and know I was losing him forever might have triggered the feelings I'd suppressed at my little sister's death, a very powerful thing and, you'd think, a totally negative one. But maybe not…

It might have also been the experience that taught me that no matter what misery comes along (and there's not much that's more miserable than the death of a child), you mustn't let it control you. In fact the best thing to do is get going and help the people around you who are going to pieces by behaving towards them as they need you to behave.

Check out your own childhood. I hope you don't have anything as dreadful as the death of an infant in it.

Enjoy a little time thinking about your childhood and who you are and why you are who you are.

And think about who loves you and why they do.

If you are in fostering, I love you and so does everyone in fostering.

If you're thinking about fostering; we all love you too.