Sunday, March 28, 2021


 One of the hidden benefits of becoming a Foster Carer is that it opens up your social world to a pool of people who are all candidates to be your new best friend.

Lonliness is one of the curses of the age, and there are times when we foster parents feel alone, such as the middle of the night with a restless foster child. Alone but not lonely, because next morning we can pick up the phone to our Blue Sky Social Worker and/or one of our new best friends; a fellow fosterer.

See, we carers meet up a lot. I don't know whether local authorities or other fostering agencies do this but Blue Sky hold regular coffee sessions (which they call support meetings) and catch-up sessions where we hear about the latest research into troubled kids (which they call training sessions). But these sessions are a roomfull of people who are doing the same thing. And nothing makes it easier to get to know someone than if they are doing the same amazing thing as you.

And fostering is as amazing as it gets. You only really really know what it is once you start doing it.

Our wonderful Social Workers get it, but at a kind of theoretical level. They know their stuff, they care to the nth degree, they'll do anything for you. But only carers know what it feels when the front door closes behind the last professional delivering a child, and you're alone and it's down to you from that moment on. Everyone in fostering except carers can clock off most evenings if they want and so they should. They can have a weekend off to re-charge. 

We are Foster Carers. For us it's 24/7.  

I promise you, if you come into fostering, you will be signing into a tribe of incomparable people, all of whom will have your back 'til they draw their last. Seriously.

We are a rum bunch.

My lot, my fellow fosterers in the Blue Sky catchment I'm in, without giving too much away, consists of a man who can't be reached by email not because he can't do computers but because he doesn't have good literacy. But he fosters great. Then there's a woman who used to have a top white collar job with a publisher, she's as literate as they come. Put the two together and you'd think they were sibs.


A man who lost his job as a mini-cab driver, a woman who didn't know what to do when her youngest son left home for the army. An ex-professional footballer, a man who does baggage at the airport, a woman who can't have children of her own, a former nurse who had a bit of a breakdown with the stress of NHS. A divorcee who loves parenting, a gay couple who simply want to do the best for the world.

We could hardly be more diverse. But we are ONE, because we foster.

In our house we don't do dinner parties, never did - not even before fostering. But a few weeks after we were approved and got our first placement I was at a training session  and found myself sitting next to a carer and we simply clicked. The session was too short so I asked her and her partner to come over to us for spag boll the following Saturday. 

At the time we had a young foster child, one who was very compliant about bedtime, so there was every chance we'd be able to have a good chomp and yak with our new pals - they didn't have a placement at that point in time.

Long story short, they had such a good time (red wine was taken - in responsible quantities ie I had one glass then stuck to OJ) that we put them up for the night in our spare room and sent them off home in the morning with a full English under their belts.

They are friends for life, two of so many I've made in fostering.

I'm not saying people should consider fostering to improve their social lives. I'm saying that if you take the plunge you will have countless reasons why you'll be glad you did it, and one of those reasons is your new pool of pals.

Monday, March 22, 2021


 Foster children who come into your home, into your life, they're all unique. Their uniqueness unfolds in the first days and weeks as you spot quirks and traits and oddities about them.

There are also several key things the poor dears have in common, one of which is a neverending surprise to me, despite all the years I've been at it.

They all care immensely about the adults who have let them down. They care about them more than those adults seem to care about the child. There's a powerful bond that flows from the child to the parent, but is scarcely returned.

Sometimes the phrase 'let them down' doesn't truly cover the awfulness of the parenting they were subjected to. They might have experienced chronic neglect where the child, however young and helpless, is simply left to fend for themselves. They have to find food, find somewhere safe to sleep in a turbulent house, find ways of keeping warm. On top of that they have to deal with the feeling they are worthless. They sometimes have to suffer the most unthinkable physical abuse, so unthinkable I'm not going to give examples of horrors I've come across. Then there's the other form of abuse; emotional. The child might have been ridiculed, made the butt of endless derogotary remarks, verbally threatened and made to live a solitary life in fear of everything about them.

Phew. It does me good to remember what they've been through, especially when they're being difficult.

But at the same time it pains.

I've heard of victims of crime meeting their perpetrators and becoming sympathetic towards them, surely human nature at it's very very best.

But in foster children the way they love their persecutors is beyond an admirable human trait, it's almost beyond understanding. My wonderful Blue Sky Social Worker and I are often in awe of the child's concern that their parents are okay. 

We rationalise it;

"Maybe they are worried that if their parents are sick or worse the child will one day have nowehere to go."

"Perhaps the chaos and awfulness of their lives at the hands of those adults is all they know and they experience a sort of comfort in the familiarity of the toxic home."

Whatever lies behind it it's one of the wonders of the world.

I mention it right now, in the middle of the Covid pandemic, because it's a hightened issue in fostering. Children in care have concerns for the wellbeing of their 'significant others' which are well grounded. Often the parent or parents have abused their own health and would be vulnerable if they went down with the virus. Contact between child and parent is difficult, sometimes impossible, and often all the child wants from contact is to see for themselves their parents are alive and well - or at least as well as they've ever been..

The last time I did a virtual contact between one of my lot and their significant other, the child wouldn't come to the laptop, they were satisfied from the sound of the adult's voice that things were ok.

I got to wondering if sometimes the children themselves are surprised and confused about the strength of the bond they feel for the other party. 

And surely they must sometimes grieve privately that the bond doesn't seem to be returned.

Friday, March 12, 2021


If you read this post anytime in 2021 you won't need me to tell you that there's a pandemic going on.  I suspect that someone reading this in the not too distant future will wonder "What's she going on about?"

Blogs tend to hang around in the ether, what a great tool they'll be for the social historians who'll try to assess how humanity dealt with this bizzare episode in our history.

Fostering seems to be weathering the storm that is a global pandemic pretty well, in many ways it's business as usual. 

The fact is the needs of children in care are so intense that us foster mums and dads can often be almost oblivious of the obvious dangers of Covid.

I drove off to the supermarket earlier today and it simply never ocurred to me to make sure I had a mask in my pocket. When I arrived I blithely got out of the car, grabbed my shopping bags and was halfway to the doors when I noticed a customer coming towards me with her trolley and I found myself saying to myself;

"What's she got that mask on for…?"

And the penny dropped. I'd been so wrapped up in fostering stuff I'd momentarily forgotten about Covid!

Luckily I keep spare masks in the car so all was well.

What had distracted me?

This morning I did a school run with eldest foster child. He's an absolutely fantastic person, I feel so lucky to know him. And know him I do, probably better than anyone else on earth. The courage he summons to deal with terrible things that have happened to him. The blazing intelligence he posseses. His wit. His joi de vivre. His incessant carping...

I said to him as we drove along:

"I want you to know you're dealing with this pandemic better than anyone I know."

He really is. Now he's back at school he takes every precaution against bringing the virus into our house. He has improved his diet because he wasn't getting as much exercise as when he has PE. He does all his school work and homework on time and does it well. He asked if he could have a bottle of white Listerene to keep his mouth healthy and his teeth white. He has built a set of virtual friends to keep his social skills on the move. He tidies his room. He might be the only teenager in the UK who does, but so he does. He looks after his pet lizard, he brings his plates down if he snacks in his room. 

However, when I gave him a word of praise he responded as I knew he would, he told me to shut up.

We drove on in silence for a bit. Then the usual criticisms of my driving began. According to him I either drive too slowly or too fast. I use my indicator unecessarily. I change gear too often. I am always in the wrong lane.

This is just a game we play, I come back at him calling him an armchair Lewis Hamilton, telling him he's the worst passenger I've ever had. 

Getting close to his school I tell him I'm going to drop him at the bus stop layby. He replies;

"Unless there's a bus behind."

I say "I know that, if there's a bus behind I'll go past the layby and drop you in the side road."

He says "Use your mirror to see if there's a bus behind."

I reply; "What, that mirror up there? I always wondered what that was for." 

He nearly smiled.

I dropped him off and drove home wrapped up in the joys fostering can bring if you keep your wits about you. 

And half an hour later set off for the supermarket still giving myself little hugs and clean forgot there's a flippin' pandemic on.

No harm done. 

Quite a bit of good, all things considered.

Thursday, March 04, 2021


 This'll make you laugh.

One of the tricky questions in fostering is what do foster children call their foster parents.

I have one who calls my partner 'dad' but doesn't call me 'mum', I get called by my name, which is the child's choice and I'm fine with that.

We've found that most foster children prefer to call us by our first names. I recieved a Christmas gift under the Christmas tree last Christmas from one of our foster children with whom I have ongoing jokey arguments about politics. It was addressed to "The Kitchen Communist". Funny. Child and me laugh a lot, it's great.

My first name ends in 'a', which is the first part of the thing that'll make you laugh. Let's say my name is "Lisa" - it's not, but it helps tell the story.

The second part is that we've got some smart speakers in the house, one in the kitchen and another in the living room. One of our foster children has one in the bedroom.

The child in question is quite assertive; needs to feel in control of various situations. Child is forever ordering me about, telling me what's wrong with my cooking and asking for this and that. I take it all with a pinch of salt, water off a ducks back. If the chid says "Lisa, I need a pair of Apple Pro Earbuds" I reply neutrally "Okay, I'll look into it.", knowing full well that the next day the child will be asking me "Lisa can I have an electric guitar?", "Lisa, I need a new pair of trainers?" which will equally be forgotten about the next day.

Of course I often say "No". It leads to a difference of opinion which in part is what the child wants, enjoying the argument, we usually end up laughing. But the child would far rather hear that they'd got their own way, and had one up on me.

Child knows that Alexa does what she's told if child asks the question correctly.

So, there I was sitting at the kitchen tableon my laptop doing some Blue Sky admin when the child appeared and said;

"Alexa, my phone is rubbish. Can I have an upgrade?"

Alexa went: "Sorry I don't know that one."

Child repeated; "Alexa, look at my phone it's rubbish."

Alexa began to repeat; "Sorry I don't…"

Child barked at Alexa;

"Alexa! I'm not talking to you!"

I looked up. Child was looking at me. Had clearly been addressing me. As "Alexa".

I said;

"Has it come to this? I'm now just an "Alexa"! What am I your smart robot now?"

We both ended up doubled over laughing. 

Hope it made you smile too...