Thursday, December 31, 2020

THE QUICK FIX

I'm not one for quick fixes. Come to think of it I'm not one for anything done 'quick'.

For example you can keep quick drivers. And 'get rich quick' schemes.

Our children are facing the most chaotic academic year since WW2, all down to the covid pandemic.

Government UK seems hell-bent on getting schools opened asap despite the obvious risks. They tell us that if we don't cram hundreds of kids cheek-by-jowl under the same roof the children who were schooled during the pandemic will be disadvantaged compared with children who left school before 2020, and those that come later.

IMHO they're going to send kids back to school too quick, way too quick. 

Not even a 'fix' is it?

There is a solution. It's plain and simple. It levels the playing field and reduces unemployment at a stroke:

Forget the academic year 2020-2021. 

Just scrub it. 

Kids in year 10 right now should start year 10 again in September 2021. Kids who started school in September 2020 start all over again in Septemeber 2021. It means raising the school leaving age by a year which will mean unemployment will go down. Universities will experience a drop in applications but since they're run by people who are necessarily brainboxes they'll think their way out. Will commerce and industry miss a drop in job applications? Not if the avalanche of replies to every situation vacant ad is anything to go by.

Not only will this help stamp out Covid it'll take the heat off children, expecially those facing external exams. Make no mistake they're deeply worried about their future and parents (including foster parents) are having to constantly re-assure them that things will be alright for them. Exams are always a big worry, now they're even more so. 

It'll take the heat off teaching staff who are worried about their own wellbeing as well as getting the right results for the sake of the children, not to mention the matter of the schools targets.

I'd write to our MP but I'm anti-post at the moment, what with having to wipe down everything that comes through our letterbox…

Oh and PS;

BTW this is my own personal wheeze, not the policy of Blue Sky…

…yet. xxx


Monday, December 21, 2020

FLASHBULB MEMORIES

Foster children come and go and we're left with little flashbulb memories of them as souvenirs.

Kate was a big sixteen-year-old girl - I never normally include people's size when decribing them but in her case it was so significant that her social worker told us about it in preparing us for her arrival.

Kate had been removed from an abusive home.The father went to prison and her adult sister was allowed to stay partly to look after the mother who was disabled.

It had been a very abusive home, and it remained chaotic, but it was Kate's home and foster children always (almost always) want to go home.

Kate was allowed to spend alternate weekends at home provided she attended school. A crude deal but it was well meant.

However Kate wanted to go home every weekend. So this would happen every Friday evening when she was due to spend the weekend with us.

Kate would appear and say to me:

"I'm confused." Only she wasn't.

She would then whitter away about the deal, her home, her school attendance and finally come to her conclusion, namely that she was due to go home that weekend. She would always end her pitch with the same words;

"If that makes sense?" Only it didn't.

Thwarted she'd stomp upstairs and slam her bedroom door.

An hour later she would stomp back down in her hat and coat with an overnight bag and head for the front door. I would say;

"Kate, you're not due to go home this weekend."

There would follow a long and often passionate debate which would end up with me reminding her that if she left without permission I'd have to contact Blue Sky's Out Of Hours people and they'd have to decide if the police should be called. That decision would be based on how distressed she was and how vulnerable she might be.

The clock would tick towards 10.30pm which was the time of the last train back to her home town.

So far so bad..then things would look up. I would say;

"Look, I know how disappointed you must be. Is there anything we can do to help you feel better?"

And the answer was always the same;

"A Big Mac?"

So now the race is on because our McDonalds closed at 11.00. I'd hurry into a coat and we'd both jump into the car and hurtle (lawfully) down to the drive-through window.

The flashbulb memory I have of Kate came one Friday night as we were driving home and she'd had her first bite. She suddenly said, to no-one in particular, maybe just to herself;

"Don't the trees look lovely at night in the headlights?"

You've got to have some hapiness in your heart to notice suchlike.

Oh yeah, the reason she was overweight and it was a matter to be understood is that she'd made herself as unattractive as she could to ward off her father doing to her what he did to her older sister.

Dear Kate. I wonder where she is now?

Hope she's okay.


Sunday, December 13, 2020

A BIG SURPRISE FROM ONE FOSTER CHILD

Eldest foster child took a stance about Christmas that surprised me.

Eldest is tough as old boots, has never knowingly done or said anything sentimental in the several years I'm proud of having him in my brood.

I didn't get his stance until I heard someone say something on TV about Christmas and the penny dropped.

The programme was on Sky Arts which we watch sometimes for Tales Of The Unexpected.

It was a discussion between 5 film critics about the best Christmas Films.

There were some surprises; Fargo, for example. There were some obvious ones like White Christmas.

The thing that drew me in was that the film critics were truly enjoying each others company, sat at a mock-up of a Christmas dinner table with a stately home giant fireplace behind them. 

What was refreshing was their sheer love of good films and their shared respect and liking for each other.

Then one of them (I think it was Stephen Armstrong the Sunday Times critic) said this simple thing that stopped me short;

"The reason we love Christmas Day so much is because for one whole day we all step out of our lives."

Isn't that it in a nutshell?

Obvious really, and yet I'd never noticed.

I had spent decades thinking the reason we love Christmas is all the stuff: decorations, tree, presents, turkey, bucks fizz and of course family.

Wrong. They're nice, but they're not the essence.

The essence of Christmas is that for 24 hours we blot out the mundane bits of living, we eliminate work or school.

If we're concentrating on it being Christmas Day we're free of our worries, bad memories, lurking fears.

THIS is why Christmas is such a day of days for foster children.

It's even more important for them to have a day out of their lives than the rest of us, because they have had a much harder time than the rest of us.

Eldest foster child had come downstairs to find me dying a bunch of white socks red. 

"What you doin'?" he asked.

"Making some small Christmas stockings to hang this year."

"WHAT!!!" he roared…"WHY???"

I replied; "The huge ones are too big now, it costs a fortune to fill them and the wrapping of a hundred stocking-fillers is a killer. And I have had to make them because you can't buy small Christmas stockings, not even on Amazon."

He stared at me eyes blazing;

"You CAN"T use anything but the usual ones. Everybody expects it. We love getting all the stupid things like Post-It notes and an orange!"

I gave in quicker than you can say a partridge in a pair tree.

Christmas to him, to foster children everywhere, is a precious day when things are as they should be in their lives, or at least a lot closer to how they should be.

It's the most different day of the year, and yet it must be either exactly the same as all the previous ones or exactly the same as they imagine it will be.

A day of lovely surprises, which are eagerly expected, looked forward to for weeks and cherished.

A day out of their lives.






Saturday, December 05, 2020

FOSTERING FAMILY MONTH

 December is Fostering Family month at Blue Sky.

We (me, my other half, and our children) used to be a family, now we are a fostering family.

When we were just a family we were typical of many families; we managed to stick together through thick and thin, we had likes and dislikes about being a family, and like most families we didn't pay enough attention to the likes, instead harped on mostly about things that got our goat.

If we got anything wrong big time it was that we never once realised how lucky we were to be a family.

Fostering changed that, totally, and overnight too.

In a trice our being a foster family made us a happier family. Not merely because helping someone less well off than yourself is something that should make everyone feel better about themselves, it went deeper.

They say you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, well our family didn't have to go our separate ways for us to begin realising how lucky we were. We got to know and understand the sheer horror facing innocent children whose families are no more; probably never were.

We had failed to notice and enjoy the warm feeling of connection you get when you struggle home through the door and someone is prepared to shout an enquiry as to whether you were born in a barn. We missed how lovely we felt when someone moaned that we'd used all the hot water and they wanted to wash their hair. 

Instead we had to imagine what it must have been like to have your single mother screw a padlock onto the outside of your bedroom door so she could go to the pub every night, and burn your toys in the garden on Boxing Day to teach you a lesson. Those things had happened to our first placement, they were there in black and white in the child's case notes.

Such things bring you to the surface with a jolt and make you appreciate the things you've got going.

You can't learn about things like that happening to children and not feel like hugging every one of your family. You also can't help wanting to give the world to that poor kid, every foster child who comes your way, not just because they deserve it but because they help you see your own family in its true light. They help you feel warm feelings for the home you've created.

Fostering is as good a tonic as "It's A Wonderful Life".

Which it is, obviously (a wonderful life). A Fostering Family has a wonderful life twice over, once because of the good we get to be involved in (with Blue Sky along for the whole ride, and as rides go it's the best roller coaster in the world) we also get to realise how lucky we are as a family to have avoided chaos, to have swerved the crash and burn stories of all too many families.

If you're one of the growing number of people who are wondering if fostering is something you might be able to do, now's the perfect time.

Contact Blue Sky the minute you click away from this page.