Tuesday, April 06, 2021


 What must it be like for a child on day one of being taken into care?

If we foster parents can feel something of the shock-horror they have to deal with it'll be a big help to our fostering.

Every child is so different, so utterly unique. Each experience is subtly different in so many ways it's not easy to think of many features of their experience that are consistent. But there are a few things that are almost ever-present;

1. They didn't see it coming.

2. When it happens it happens fast - at least in their perception.

3. They have an awful feeling that the erupting events are maybe their fault.

4. They know nothing - or next to nothing - about where they are being taken.

5. So much fear...

I've found that the chidren who have come into my care never volunteer anything about the day they were removed, and I always respect their privacy over the event; my Blue Sky Social Workers tell me what they can.

One child who came to us, Marianne, was out of the house when the visit happened. The Social Worker had to sit with the child's mother - the father was off the scene - and await Marianne's return. The mother had no idea the child was out of the house, much less where she was or when she would return.

Social Workers are respectful of each famiy member whatever their concerns about the harm they may be responsible for, so for example, Marianne's Social Worker informed me that Marianne 'may have been witness to drug abuse', rather than say;

"The mum didn't make so much as a cup of tea for herself but kept having to nip to the loo and come back all trippy…" 


So for Marianne it came out of the blue. No matter how miserable their lives may be, no matter how much fear or pain or deprivation a child is experiencing, their home is their home and the familiarity of the people in it and the conditions of it give them some kind of comfort. 

They think their lives are about the same as every other child.

Children taken into care almost always have no idea that the investigations that Social Workers undertake could end in a Care Order, even if they know that some strangers have visited. They know nothing of the decision-making process which each case is subjected to, and the gravity that embraces each stage of the process. 


As far as Marianne was aware; she was out hanging with freinds, came home, walked through the door and next thing was in a car heading for our house.

When the professionals conclude that a child is at risk they can't set a date in the future to prepare the child and the family. Once a risk has been declared it's all systems go. Imagine if they ruled a child was at risk and decided to remove the child in a week's time? Delays can occur in search of the best foster home or for other reasons, but the need to act swiftly is high on the list.

So; often the first whiff the child gets that their world is turning upside down is the arrival of the one or more Social Workers tasked with the harrowing job of removing the child or children. There's usually a scene, but a bag is packed and the child says some sort of goodbyes.


Don't imagine too hard, you'll feel unwell, I just did, just then. Have felt sick often thinking about it.


Marianne needed coaxing out of from the terrible notion that her waywardness had led to her being separated from her mother and 'family' of various adults who were in and out of the house. She felt a massive guilt, which would have enveloped her in the car as she was driven away. In truth it never left her, just softened a bit. But when she walked through our door and into our lives she was consumed, utterly eaten alive, by the rock-solid confirmation that she was a bad person, the worst person.

Children taken into care are usually comparatively compliant to begin with, one theory on this has to do with the above. They believe they have been found guilty of such terrible things, most of them unknown, that they better act perfect or something even worse will happen (goodness knows what they imagine that might be).

One fostered child told his foster parents his family had been broken up because…

…he didn't wash his hands properly.



Way back in time Blue Sky had us make up a little booklet about who we are and what our home is like. It had smiling pictures of us and the dog, and some descriptions. I believe it was used once, when we agreed to take an older child whose fostering was teetering - but safe - but who was finding the journey to school too arduous. We lived closer. It was the one time (for us) the child could be prepared in advance, so she was given our booklet.

A few days after she came she told me;

"Your house is nothing like in the photos. And from the look of you in them pictures I thought you were all posh."


They arrive bearing a fearfullness that only children who have been taken into care fully know. We can only try to imagine it, then use EVERYTHING we experience when imagining to help the child through their first 24 hours in our care.

Everything. From - if they are small - kneeling down to their eye level to greet them to make ourselves look less intimidating…to making sure they know what do do if they wake in the middle of their first night with us and feel scared.


It's our job, our profession.

Our utterly all-consuming profession.


  1. Hello, I would like to stay anonymous. I am so happy to find your blog as I myself am a child looked after and soon will be leaving the care system. I think it is very important to have posts like this where people can come and learn from others experience and seeing as you are a foster carer I want to thank you for creating your blog and looking after the vulnerable children who you have met. I am starting a blog (I started less than a month ago) about general things to see if I can help others and to share some creative writing. Once again thank you.

    - Anon

  2. As a child looked after I want to thank you for making this blog.
    - Anon

  3. Thank you for posting your kind and thoughtful words. I hope with all my heart the sadnesses and fears you must have in your memory soften with time. If there is anything positive to take from an imperfect childhood it might be that the person emerges into the world with more reilience than most people and resilience is a quality that can be valuable when adult life gets rocky - which it does for everyone from time to time.
    It's small comfort I know, it doesn't go close to making up for the pain, but look at you - finding your creative side and wishing to help others.
    Bottom line for me is that all people are a lot more amazing than they know, and this goes doube for children who pass through care.

  4. Ooops, I nearly spelled 'resilience' correctly there…lol

  5. And 'double'. Teach me to type without my glasses on

  6. Hi there - thank you for your fantastic blog and the work you do with looked after children. My wife and I are in the process of moving house with the hope that we'll be able to foster in the future. One thing I wondered was around physical affection with your foster children. Our own children are quite tactile and like a kiss/cuddle/snuggle in bed at the weekend - I'm assuming that can't be the same with foster children (accepting that every child's needs are different) but I wondered what your experience was? Dave

  7. Hi Dave, thanks for getting in touch. Good luck with your househunting, that spare bedroom will quickly become a haven for perhaps many children who need a warm comfortable bedroom. And more.
    There certainly are do's and dont's when it comes to physical contact with a child in your care. My fostering agency Blue Sky coach all new foster parents on how to stay safe. By 'stay safe', I mean the fosterer ensuring that she/he cannot have any action mis-understood by a foster child. My partner and I are also tactile with our own children - I would hope all parents are, but I've recieved children who've never been hugged or cuddled. But with children in care there are certain ground rules which are frustrating at times but also common sense and simply have to be observed. So, since you broach the subject, it's not acceptable to let a fostered child get into your bed, even though the moment might seem to cry out for it, it's an absolute no. I take the guidelines about distance very seriously, for example a looked-after child should always travel in the rear seat of your car, and you should never under normal circumstances enter a child's bedroom if the child is in there. You'll be trained in de-escalation so that you'll know how to (in an extrame circumstance) help a child who might be at risk of harming themselves.
    Put simply; we foster at slightly more than arms length. We use words, smiles, gestures, kindness, understanding, tolerance, encouragement…in fact all the things that make being in another's company worthwhile. We hug and cuddle with our heart.
    Perhaps a judiciously placed hand on a shoulder or even a carefully considered and brief pat on the back, but that's about it for me, and it seems enough. Worth remembering that sometimes some emotionally bruised and battered children want and need nothing more than that. Hope that helps. Definitely one for a long and detailed session with your Social Worker when you are assigned one.
    Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

    1. Thank you - that's really helpful to understand. Keep up the amazing work 🙂

    2. Hi SFC,
      Really curious to know what you think about this. https://rainbowfostering.co.uk/foster-right-attitude-to-relations/
      I understand that there are guidelines surrounding physical affection for good reasons, but I feel so strongly that basic warm and appropriate touch is a right all children have. I wonder if some kids would feel like parriahs or "untouchables" due to the lack of simple hugs from parental figures.

    3. Hi Dave, Here's a slightly different perspective: https://rainbowfostering.co.uk/foster-right-attitude-to-relations/

    4. I've had a look at the piece, it's wondefully well-intentioned and appears thorough.
      All I'd comment is; it seems to have been written by one of their marketing people - or have I got that wrong?
      I go to my Blue Sky social workers for the final word on any fostering matter rather than Blue Sky's marketing team, lovely though they are, lovely as Rainbow's marketing people are too, I'm sure.
      I'd advise anyone else to do the same.

  8. One of ours, part of a sibling group, told us that they know for sure it was their fault they were taken into care. They were the one one who told a trusted adult how bad it was, and that adult report it and shortly later the social workers took them away.

    Doesn't matter how many times I explain that social services were already aware, and had been for years, or that the condition of the kids had not gone unnoticed by school.

    The kid is convinced it was their fault - but we've managed to weave a tiny little bit of something in amoung the guilt. Yes the child spoke up - but doing so was brave, they were beong grown up and took responsiblity for younger siblings safety. They also gave all the kids a chance at safer life and may have prevented something bad happening. It isn't much, that bit so something in with the guilt, but it seems to have taken root and may grow bigger than the guilt in time.

  9. Hello Mooglet, thanks for your comment on this one, yours is a fascintating and saddening take on a perennial problem for foster parents. I say 'saddening' - your story starts that way but thanks to your all-out efforts and skills it's hopefully beginning to turn around.
    Some folk might wonder if it would have been better to shield the child from the fact that their speaking out may have played a part in the decision, but I've always tried to be honest with children in care (age appropriate honesty), and since you're clearly handling the aftermath so well - as is the child starting to - you all deserve mazimum respect.