Saturday, February 27, 2021


 Is it only in my house? My current foster children and my own lot are finding sleeping more difficut than before the pandemic.

It's a real headache when they have to get up for virtual school, can be very upsetting.

One of the first things you learn in fostering is how to deal with the middle of the night. Blue Sky put on masses of excellent training but there are some things they can't really train you for because they are so child-specific, and the middle of the night is one of those things. Luckily you can chat things through with your Social Worker, but in the wee small hours, you're on your own.

Many foster children find sleeping hard, almost all of them in my experience. Their first night is like our first night on a new bed or in a new house or on holiday. The strangeness can keep sleep at bay. Then their minds turn to the overall strangeness of their lives, and dark thoughts start swirling such as why the whole break-up of their family is their fault, and how they might be in trouble when they go back.

Today's a Thursday, they have distance lessons this morning.

One of mine texted me at 02.28am last night asking if I go to the corner shop later could he have an energy drink. I don't think he actually enjoys them, he's just worried that he's going to underperform.

I think these distance-learning classes can be a bit fretful for some children. When they're in class among twenty or thirty other students they can switch off for a couple of minutes here and there, take a breather from out-and-out concentration. People can't concentrate non-stop. You need to be able to look sideways out of the window for a moment, even if your eyes appear locked on the whiteboard or the teacher as if you're rivetted.

I went to an old primary school back in my day which had been built in Victorian times. The classroom windows were so high our teacher had to stand on a chair to see out of them. This was because the schools didn't want children looking out of the window when they should have been paying attention. The teacher stood on a chair one sweltering afternoon because a boy had asked if the could 'be excused' - go to the toilet. The toilets were outside, across the tarmac playgound. She gave the boy permission then, when he'd departed, climbed onto the chair to watch him. I'll never forget the triumph in her voice when she muttered;

"I knew it! He's gone straight to the drinks fountain!" She'd got him!

I mention this because in a couple of decades time many of the fears and pressures we currenly put on our children in the name of education will be seen as just as harsh and as those things from the past. These are my own thoughts BTW, not Blue Sky's or anyone else's. It's just that I notice things keep moving forward nicely and maybe one day we'll have a nation of children all of whom really, really really want to go to school to learn...

My dear little foster child, who's been to hell and back and will live with awful memories all his days is this morning so frit that he'll mess up his electronic lessons that he's begged for a caffiene-packed fizzy drink to help his energy levels after a sleepless night. His sleeplessness is caused in part by his urgent efforts to nod off and we all know that doesn't work. Then the mind starts working overtime and he pictures himself being dumbstruck when asked a question or struggling with a task as his eyelids droop.

I went to the corner shop specially and bought a bottle of some sort of low-sugar non-caffiene fruit drink which I'll pour into a glass, top up with sugar-free tonic water and take into his room where he will be at his PC and tell him it's what he needs. He'll buy it…I hope.

But what to do about sleeplessness in this pandemic? 

Maybe the additional screentime they have to put in is playing a part? Maybe it's the fact that they can't go to school because a potentially lethal disease is out there? Maybe they can sense that the whole house is also struglling to fall asleep.

See, I was awake myself when my phone pinged with his text, at 02.28am. I texted him straight back to let him know he wasn't alone in his wakefulness.

I also texted him to say I knew how hard he worked and he replied;


Then I texted him that I know he hates praise, but that I'm very proud of him.

I'm proud of every foster child who's stayed with us, you couldn't not be.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021


 Took littlest foster child for a walk with the dog. We have to trek along a few pavements before we get to an overgrown sprawl of greenery where dogs are allowed off the lead.

Dog loves being off the lead, as do us foster parents…

On the way there we met a lady neighbour I hadn't seen for some time, her labrador had grown old and had needed to make his last trip to the vet a couple of months ago. 

She was standing in her front garden with another dog, a replacement. The first thing she said was; "He's a rescue!" She told me the dog had been bought as a companion dog for a child who had autism, but two years on the child still hadn't taken to the dog and there was increasing argy-bargy. 

We got to the field and I let dog off her lead, she went for a wander. The child ran free too, kind of 'off the lead' and having a wander. I was off the lead too, and I let my mind have a wander. Wanna come with me?

The announcement "He's a rescue!" peeves me a bit. I got to having a nice peeve about low-rent virtue signalling.

One lady I bumped into a while ago with her "He's a rescue!" dog asked me this;

"Do you know where I can get a template for a brooch-sized hare? You see I'm making some jewellery to raise money for the local pet sanctuary."

Bully for her; pretending she was asking for help when all she wanted was to  celebrate the fact that her compatability with Mother Theresa and Tracy Emmin was coming to the rescue of unwanted pets.

I was really enjoying myself, getting peeved about bargain-basement virtue signallers.

"Surely,' I peeved to myself, "There are bigger and better ways of setting the world right than being boastful about having a 'rescue' dog. If anyone's entitled to virtue signalling it's nurses and teachers and vaccination centre volunteers and they don't make a meal of it. Nor do careworn partners of elderly victims of dementia, the scourge of our times. Nor do social workers who are beset by other people's misadventures day and night while putting up with bouts of scorn from some newspapers and an ill-informed public." 

Actually people who foster could toot their own horn louder than most at the drop of a hat, but we tend to hide our light under a bushel.

I remembered that the woman with the new dog had told me that she couldn't let her dog play with ours because it hadn't had any innoculations. A two-year old dog without it's jabs? Made me wonder about the potential for chaos in a house with an autistic child and an incompatable 'companion' dog you don't get innoculated.

I watched our foster child playing happily with our pedigree dog, a dog we had to pay through the nose for. My mind was racing across the grass, free as a bird...

Why didn't we get a blessed 'rescue' dog? I'd have been able to counter "Yes, ours is a rescue dog too". The reason we didn't is because in fostering you have to take care that any pet in the house is harmless to children, and while rescue dogs can be good as gold there's a greater chance they may have had bad times which could throw them off kilter, especially with children who might want to play rough and tumble.

So we bit the bullet and paid through the nose for a dog whose background we could be sure of. It still doesn't mean you can take anything for granted, but you've done your best.

Letting one's mind off the lead it can go off and find all sorts of interesting nooks. I found myself experimenting with a new opinion namely that there are two types of people on this earth; on the one hand there are those that broadly can't get much right in life and their haphazard behaviour sours things for those around them. On the other hand there are those that broadly can't get much right in life but their haphazard behaviour makes things better for those around them.

Even people whose haphazard behaviour makes things worse for those around them.

I looked up and saw littlest foster child heading back to me, and here comes the dog too, hoping for a treat. I've got ten seconds left off the lead.

I told myself that rescuing people is what we do in fostering.

I did a little dance of virtue signalling to myself, in the privacy of my own mind. 

Then I did a bit of other people's virtue signalling for them, like this;

If you are a Foster Carer you are the salt of the earth, a modern day unsung hero. Totally unsung. We keep it to ourselves.

After all you never hear a foster mum or dad say out loud; 

"He's a rescue child"

Wednesday, February 17, 2021


 Triggers are massive in fostering.

Triggers happen in everyone's head all day long. You know how it goes; one thought leads to another that leads to another then is followed by a thought that gives you a feeling, the same sensation you felt at the time when the thing you've found yourself remembering actually happened.

Example; like many I've been doing lots of things 'virtually'. Blue Sky Social workers can help and support us long distance using laptops or phones. The word 'Zoom' enters my head ten times a week. 

And it's a trigger.

It makes me feel happy and nostalgic in a way it probably doesn't for anyone else. It's a good trigger.

Many triggers, maybe most triggers, are bad. From nowhere we find ourselves remembering things that don't make us feel good, they set us on edge. We find ourselves feeling anxious or embarrassed about something that happened way back. Funny how we have sharper memories of things we'd rather forget than things we'd love to be thinking about all day!

This phenomenon is especialy true for children in care.

There was the child who had a panic attack for no apparent reason around tea time. Turned out the sound of a ring pull being pulled on a can of beans triggered memories of his stepdad's lager drinking which often ended in anger and violence. The child hadn't made the connection and it took us a while to pin it down.

Another child who went into meltdown when her carer rushed out to put out the wheelie bin with a look of urgency on her face. The child saw the expression and mistakenly connected it to the look one of the adults in her house had on her face when there was trouble on the way.

If you can work gently with your foster child and identify triggers you're halfway to fixing a lot of their upsets.

Take current eldest child. When the child arrived I used to shout up the stairs when it was time to come down for tea and there'd often be a kerfuffle. Turned out the child's abuser was a shouter and any raised voices got the defences up. I took to walking upstairs humming and whispering through the door that tea was ready. Why did I hum on my way up? Because lots of foster children develop super-hearing which they needed to stay one step ahead of trouble in the house. They can hear everything that's going on and it can trigger fearful memories if they hear anonymous footsteps on the stairs heading their way. 

What tune do I hum?

Well, these days it's often an eighties song by a group called Fat Larry's Band (I know, I know…probably couldn't call themselves that these days.) It has happy memories for me of a sweet little romance I had way back before I met the actual love of my life.

The song was called "Zoom".

See what I'm saying?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


 Sometimes, not often but sometimes, you forget you are a fostering family.

Which happened quite early this morning like this;

I was on the landing heading for the stairs with the laundry basket and aiming to get the washine machine fired up with another load in time to get it on the drier and dry for tomorrow morning.

As I got to the top of the stairs I noticed something on the carpet in the corner, couldn't quite make out what it was, it was shiny but odd-shaped. I put down the basket and picked it up. It was a torn scrap of a crisp packet.  Not far away was another scrap.

It took me all of three long minutes hunting around and bending down to find and pick up what was clearly a dismembered and licked clean crisp packet.

I guessed it was licked clean because the insides were spotless, the only kind of clean you can get by licking, so obviously whoever had the final go at it was probably canine, the finger pointing squarely at the dog.

However the dog could never be more than an innocent bystander in such an incident as the crisps are kept way out of her reach.

So the question was, which of the human family members had helped themselves to a bag of crisps then left the wrapper lying around for the dog to get at, lick clean, then tear into strips.

In fostering one is well advised to know when not to notice that somebody has done something that deserves a rebuke because if you pick up on everything you're at it all day and people either get fed up or grow immune to your badgering.

But two of my brood, one a foster child the other child one of mine were near enough to the washing machine for me to blurt out:

"Did either of you leave a crisp packet lying around for the dog to get?"

"Nah" came one answer.

"Nope" came the second.

Having asked them both it was only fair I should ask the others so I called up the stairs;

"Did anyone up there have a packet of crisps and leave the bag out for the dog to rip up?"

"Not me…" etc etc from upstairs.

I started loading the washing machine and realised that everyone in the house was having a nice recreational morning except me, because after getting the laundry started I had a dishwasher to empty, an online click and collect supermarket shop to order and a number Nine to order be delivered (not a Chinese takeaway this time, a metal number Nine for our gate post to replace the old one which has got so rusted over that delivery drivers are getting confused). In other words it was the beginning of another day of lockdown jobs jobs jobs. Followed by jobs.

I felt hard done by, a feeling which always wafts away when I'm onto the next job, but it didn't waft away quick enough. Before I could stop myself I ordered;

"Right! Can I have everyone in the kitchen please now!"

As they showed up sheepishly I began to regret turning the home into some kind of suburban Stalag.

I regretted it even more when what happened next happened.

I started to interrogate them as to who was the guilty party, but before I got very far I sensed they were forming ranks. As far as they were concerned they were ALL innocent and if any blame lay anywhere it lay with me.

"If you'd trained the dog properly she wouldn't rip up wrappers" said one. The rest all nodded.

"Whenever we ask if there are any jobs to be done you always say there aren't, but you could have asked us to do a house-tidy instead of getting all stroppy. We only charge the going rate." The others nodded more, in unison.

So there we stood, a Mexican stand-off I believe it's called. Me versus a posse of children, some of whom belong to me, the rest belonging to others. They were all for one and one for all. 

Thick as thieves. The children of one big happy family.

Y'know what? When my fed-upness wafted off, it felt great. Really fantastic. When your own children and foster children bond into one unit you know you're getting something right and that good things are going on.

As for the guilty party? Ah...I noticed as I was putting the shredded packet into the pedal bin that it was a packet of cheese and onion flavour. This gave me a pang of guilt. I buy our crisp snacks in big assorted bags, some of our brood like salt 'n vinegar others prefer plain. Some like Hula Hoops or Pringles. Towards the time for the next delivery the only single packs left are cheese and onion which…

…none of them like.

So me and my other half end up eating most of them.

I honestly don't remember leaving an empty packet lying around, not my nature. Other half has been known to.

Did I tackle other half on it? Not on your nelly. I let it go, but not without another smile at the memory of our houseful of kids sticking up for one another as if they were all family.

Which is how it's best in fostering, if it happens.

You just have to keep your eye out for it, the evidence is there m'lud.