Friday, May 07, 2021


 When you begin in fostering, especially the first night of your first foster child in your home, it's a little piece of your life you never forget.

My first foster child was a respite case, he stayed two nights and was gone. Ran me ragged Tyrone did, but that was mainly because I hadn't any experience. It was all new and a bit hair-raising. No getting away from it; you only truly know what fostering is like once you're doing it. 

I learned more in that 48 hours than any other experience I've had.

Our second foster child was a longer stay; Stacey was due to be with us until his family were sorted and that was expected to be months rather than weeks. The second child was SO much easier than the first, because I'd learned so much from the first one.

First up; I'd learned fostering is no massive big deal. Meaning the responsibilities are real, but don't let them get out of hand in your head.

One does one's best for the child but one isn't a miracle worker, the very best you can do for many is help them feel safe and secure, feed them and try to help them feel their own bedroom is their own.

If you want to therapise them to feel happier or whatever, good luck. I've done a good lot of it in my time, I think with some success, but it has to be right for the child, and no-one has a magic wand that scares away terrible memories or eliminates fear and sadness.

As for anger, they sometimes boil over and when they do the only way to put out the fire is with patenience.

So, this second foster child, the one that nailed fostering for me:

Stacey was a nine year-old boy who looked about six. Shy, petrified and without an ounce of self-esteem. His parents were a mother who was his real mother and a real narcissist and a father who almost certainly wasn't his real father. The man seemed to believe the boy was some sort of insult to the image he had of himself as the only man the mother could ever have admired, so the child was on the recieving end of a harsh tongue and worse, treatment which the father used to feel made him the man of the house.

Stacey came down for our evening meal with everyone but on day two he began crying at the table and couldn't eat; I figured maybe family mealtime was a trigger, so day three I gave him his meal in the living room so he could eat alone and watch cartoons. He ate up, so that became the routine until he settled in.

It's not what we foster carers are advised to do, right there. Social Workers tell us the foster child should be at the table with the family, and that's the best thing ninety-nine times out of a hundred. But in fostering you have to be flexible and use your gut sometimes. 

The longer a child stays the better you get to know them, obviously.  And the better you know them the more they trust you and the more you can help them. Stacey, for example, saw himself as a loser in life. So I set out to teach him he could win. 

I played a card game with him called Palmonism. It's the one where you put out all the cards face down and players take it in turns to turn over two. If the cards match the player gets to keep them. 

It's a great game for letting the child win and experience success - and victory over an adult.

Bedtime was preceded by a "Stacey Story". This was a ten minute story which I made up as I went along in which the hero was Stacey. Stacey saved the day every time. Sometimes he climbed up a tree to rescue a kitten when the fire-fighters' ladder wouldn't reach. Another time he rescued a little girl whose airbed had been swept out on a river by emptying a wheelie bin and using it as a boat. Often the heroism was more low-key such as the time he volunteered to go without a sausage for tea because silly mum had dropped some on the floor and there weren't enough to go round. Stacey came to the rescue, agreeing to have a chocolate roll on the plate his chips and making everyone smile by pouring ketchup in it and pretending it was a sausage.

Sure, you grow into fostering. But you must never think you know all there is to know, because just when you think you've seen it all, along comes the next child...


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