Saturday, August 15, 2020

COUNTING SHEEP

Some people in fostering stick in the mind. I'm often reminded of one particular foster dad I met a while ago at a support meeting. Blue Sky set these sessions up and a Blue Sky person or two are in attendance but tend to take a back seat and let us foster parents sound off. They hop into the conversation as and when we need a professional steer or a top-up of facts or information.

This dad was nearing retirement age but quite new to fostering. He started talking about the child he was looking after. I think it was his second placement, the first one had been just for a few days. He had previously worked in the NHS, some kind of nurse. 

He was a man who sat arms crossed, chin on chest, talking out loud and not taking anyone's eye. He spoke softly and you could tell that a joke or maybe a gentle twinkle of insight was never far away.

The reason I often think of him is because he said;

"I'm  no stranger to night work. Hospitals don't know night from day so you feel ready for a kip at 2.00 o'clock whether it's 2.00am or 2.00pm. Back when I was  a squaddie I stood sentry through the night in Berlin, first line of defence against the Red menace. That was all nothing compared to fostering this lad. I can go weeks of thinking I've not had a good night's sleep."

He made a good point. When a new carer starts in fostering they often find it hard to get into a deep sleep, what with a largely unknown child in the spare room. Hardly surprising. 

Whenever a new child arrives we make sure they know where we sleep and that it's ok to tap on our door if they wake up frightened, that helps them sleep.

We also make sure the front and back doors are all locked; we've never had anyone wander off but worth being sure. I also keep their bedroom door ajar, even the older ones are fine with that, and the landing light on too. 

I find myself waking up at odd times and instead of turning over and going back I lie there listening, sometimes even get up and sneak a peek into their room to make sure they're okay.

One night I remember well, way back, I couldn't get back to sleep, it was about 4.00am.

I slipped out of bed, put my dressing gown on over my fostering sleep-clothes (track suit bottoms and a tee shirt) sneaked a peek at the sleeping child and went downstairs and boiled the kettle.

Five minutes later, sitting at the kitchen table, I heard the creak of the stairs. It was the child, looking tousled from sleep but plainly, VERY plainly, delighted that someone else was awake and they weren't alone.

I fetched her a bowl of Shreddies and we sat and talked - it was one of those great talks between foster mum and child. No holds barred, everything on the table, honesty was all.

She had been in the process of coming over to us; there comes a passage of time when a foster child feels themselves able to give some sort of commitment to their fostering. It shows in different ways, sometimes a decision to call me 'Mum", taking sides with either me or my husband in an argument about nothing, buying something to enhance their bedroom such as a poster.

This child crossed the bridge that night/morning, I slept better too.

Of course, we all made sure she was ready to cross back to her real family when the time came, which it did.

And a new foster child was with us not long after. 

Back to waking up every couple of hours...









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