Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Wow the pandemic is causing waves in every direction including us fosterers.

I had to go to my doctors with my new persistent backache; I thought it might be kidney stones - I've had them before so I know what they feel like.

She said it was probably just a muscle spasm or a rip or the like.

She asked me how were things, what was going on at home. I reminded her I fostered.

"Ah," she said "Enough said."

I asked;

"I suppose you have a few other foster carers on your books. How are they doing?"

Her reply was interesting;

"Well they seem to be doing better than most."


"Really? How come?"

She explained that GPs up and down the country are starting to get waves of patients coming to see them suffering from the mental effects of the pandemic. She said it seemed to be turning into a big problem particularly for people stuck at home with time on their hands.

"Some people are experiencing too much 'think-time'. They pace around the house, go to the shop where everyone is dressed like a bank robber and can't talk to anyone. They miss people."

She went on to say that perhaps people who foster have got plenty on their plate and are too busy to start listening to their own thoughts all day. 

"People's thoughts turn to death and disease and their loneliness. If they go out everyone seems to look hostile. Pedestrians give everyone a wide berth with a look of suspicion. All you can see in the supermarket are shoppers' eyes and they seem to dart around menacingly."

I saw the point; in a typical day I don't get more a than 5 minutes here or there to think. If I'm lucky I have a Houseparty half-hour with the same couple of friends on my iPad. I've got a Blue Sky long distance training session tomorrow, my social worker is coming the following Monday. Every day I've five different breakfasts to make at different times of the morning (and sometimes the afternoon…). Each meal is a battleground; this morning it was over butter v margarine because eldest FC (Foster Child) didn't know they were different and ended up at my throat because he decided after I'd used butter on his toast that he preferred Flora "Because it's vegan" even though the other components of this breakfast was bacon and scrambled eggs, go figure...

Then my doctor said;

"We have patients coming in with depression and anxiety and we have things we can do for them, mainly medication and counselling.  But we also have patients who are questioning the very point of their existence. They feel their lives are on enforced hold thank to the pandemic, but they also question if their lives were on hold anyway - before the pandemic."

Fostering keeps you busy.

It also gives your life a clear and burning purpose.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020


We've had fantastic support from our social workers at Blue Sky through this pandemic.

Really, I'm not exaggerating, I won't embarrass the person - in any case I've every reason to believe that her level of support goes across the board for all Blue Sky Foster Carers.

When I talk to friends and family who are dealing with the whole thing on their own; dealing with lockdown, hand-washing, social distancing, masks, and anti-bac wipes I realise how lucky we are to have professional help and support.

Every time we turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper, log onto our favourite news feeds it's all about pandemic fears and dangers.

The absence of certainty about how long it will go on, the concern it may come back bigger and worse, the awful prospect that we may be living with it for…

I'm not going to finish the above sentence it's too awful.

It's easy to think we're all of us in the same boat, right across the planet, but we're not. The vast majority of us are taking it seriously and doing our best, but there seems to be a thick wedge of people who are simply too ignorant to try to get their heads around what's going on. I took a train this week and was shocked at the number of groups who were trying loudly to attract attention to the fact they weren't wearing masks. 

Then there are the people who are letting it get to them so much their mental health is in danger. You see them in the street and the supermarket, mostly the vulnerable, their eyes darting in terror and anger at everyone.

Both these groups have no professional help. They are reliant on Donald Trump and their own inner voices for advice.

Not so for people who foster.


Our social worker arrived at our house for 'supervision'. We chatted, socially distancing, wearing masks. She said how excited she was going to be wearing a mask, it would be fun. She always starts with "How are you?" - only she means it; it's not a polite extension of "Hello". She wants to know how I am.  And it's no good doing a lazy "Oh fine thanks". Stupid she's not, No-one's absolutely fine, especially not at the moment.

She makes me stop and actually think about how I am. Then I tell her. Then she goes to work to help us both get 'how I am' in perspective. 

I told her I was in a bit of discomfort with a bout of renal colic (aka kidney stones). 

Instead of doing what so many people do when you tell them you've got a bit of gyp "Ooo my grandad had those" or "Yes my rheumatism's bad, is it the weather?" She said:

"Oh no! What happened?"

I told her I'd had them before, after I ran a 10k years ago. A couple of weeks back I decided to get in shape so I started a bit of mild jogging combined with drinking 8 pints of water a day. The result was that one or a few little pesky crystals jiggled free of my kidneys and set off towards my bladder, scraping and jagging my tubes.

We chatted away about it, the focus on me and my aches.

When she left I felt 500% better that someone had cared. Her chat helped me get a stronger perception and understanding of my discomfort. 

Two days later I got a text;

"How are you? Any better? I could tell you were in a bit of discomfort but you were putting on a brave face, like you always do. No-one else would have guessed but then again not many people know you as well as I do. So pleased the fostering is going more ups than downs. You do a fantastic job, as I'm always telling you.
PS If you don't book that weekend break for the two of you I'll do it for you! Don't worry about the children we'll sort them out."

If you haven't got anyone like that in your life at the moment - I'm talking about a professional aide - it's because you're not in fostering.


Monday, July 13, 2020


Middle foster child is supposed to be moving up to secondary school in about six weeks, whether he does or not depends on the pandemic.

Maybe I've been lucky, but foster children seem to cope with the transition better than most, maybe upheaval comes naturally to them.

I've made a discovery worth sharing; it's this; today's generation of teens, the ones my generation tends to think are irresponsible on social media, communicate better with parents and teachers on Whats App/text/Twitter et al than face to face.

When I say 'better' I mean they are more open and more polite. More 'open' to a proper conversation, more 'polite'... speaks for itself.

I noticed it first way back when mobile phones were little more than phones plus texting.

We had a foster daughter who was big and blunt, the best you could get out of her by way of chat was a grimace and a grunt. She hated school and it was a struggle to get her there. One day she had an important exam, I got her there in time for it but when I got home found myself frantic that she'd a) stay there b) do the exam c) avoid causing an incident.

The conversation between us in the car to school had been;

Me: "I'm sure you'll do fine."
Her: silence
Me: "I said, I'm sure you'll.."
Her: "I 'eard! FFssake.."

The exam was set for 9.00am. I was going spare wondering; so when it was morning break at her school I texted her:

Me: "All ok?"
She replied immediately; 
Her: "Yeah. It wasn't so bad actually. I answered about three quarters really well, there was one question I didn't have a clue about but you expect that."

It took me a moment to conquer my suspicion that she had paid someone to write her texts, like pop stars and footballers do. I went;

Me: "Oh good. Are you staying for the day or do you need a lift now?"
Her: "Actually I've got a free until lunch then Art which I like. I might skip Science but Greg's in that class and he's like, y'know, fit."
Me: "OK"

More than "OK" of course, I was totally made up! 

And it's the same only more so with middle foster child. His phone enables him to communicate with me in ways his mouth simply does not. 

Here's one from last week; he's upstairs on his PC. I texted;;

Me: "Tea about five. Do you want Mascarpone and penne or a Cornish pasty and chips?"
Him: "I'm not hungry yet, I can wait until dad gets home and we can eat watching the end of The Winter Soldier."
Me; "Fine. We're having baked potato, you're not keen on them."
Him: "Cover it in beans and yeah."
Me: "Want an apple to hold you?"
Him; "Nah, I'm not religious."

Put simply, that exchange simply WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED AT ALL FACE-TO-FACE.

Not at all. So. How come?

Maybe it's to do with not seeing my face, hearing my voice, not being able to notice anything judgemental coming off me? I don't know.

Maybe it has to do with them seeing in black-and-white what they are about to say written down on a phone screen and know that they might have to stand by it. Once they press 'send' their words are set in stone for ever, a stray bit of bad language or snide remark doesn't disappear into thin air.

I still use speech and all it's add-ons with him. But I get the best off his phone.

And come secondary school I'll get more text chats; he's going to be travelling to and from  school by himself and he'll welcome me pinging messages at break times and lunchtime because a pinging phone makes the owner look in demand. His peers don't have to know it's his mum.

Or even more embarrassing, his foster mum.

Thursday, July 09, 2020


Here in the UK, at the time of writing, the coronavirus pandemic is abating. Whether it's on the retreat or taking a breather only time will tell.

Social distancing is easing, pubs and hairdressers are open;  but the big one for parents and foster carers too is simply this; when should our children go back to school.

One news report I read has said that when they go back it will be compulsory on pain of penalties.

I have two questions which haven't been addressed by anybody, any politicians or journalist as far as I'm aware, yet they are huge.

They are;

1) Has anyone asked the children?

2) Is any other group of people in the UK required TO - on pain of breaking the law - expose themselves to possible infection? On pain of breaking the freaking law?

Answer to both, of course; not on your nelly.

It makes me mad.

Fifty years ago there was a programme on TV called the Black and White Minstrel Show. We now know that was wrong and can't believe our parents and grandparents couldn't see that. It was far from the worst example of racial prejudice. But much of the abuse was out of eyesight for most of the public, the Black and White Minstrel Show was there for all to see, and people did nothing.

Twenty years ago sexism against women was such a thing that the author of Bridget Jones Diaries has just said in embarrassment: "You couldn't write that these days".

Those problem were caused when ignorance gets together with herd mentality.

Amen to the changes in the way we in the UK regard ethnic people and women.

I'm not one for predictions but I'm absolutely certain that in a short time to come people will be aghast at the way ignorant adults continue to treat children like they are the voiceless second-class citizens that ethnic minorities and women were until recently.

We still have a long way to go before racial and gender equality is achieved, but we're on our way and those voices are being heard. But our children remain unheard.

What, they don't have opinions and feelings?

The poor people who were slaves in the kitchen or worse; slaves in the plantation, should have had a voice and people should have seen that.

My foster children are scared of the virus. They don't want to go back, but government will force them to. Force them.

And in a decade or two will be castigated and ridiculed for suchlike contempt.

Contempt? It's borderline abuse.

We'll all have a lot to answer for.

Rightly so.

Power to our beautiful wonderful children!