Monday, June 07, 2021

SWEET SORROWS IN FOSTERING

 Here in our house we're heading towards that day in fostering which is simultaneously heart-wrenching and heart-raising.

Our little one is being lined up to go home.

If ever there was an experience that fits the phrase 'bitter sweet' this is it.

It's happened in our house plenty of times, you'd think we'd have got used to it, but no chance.

First, there's the child's emotions to help and support. As their foster mum, my thing begins after the news is broken to them. It's always been the child's Social Worker who explains what's going to happen and answer any questions. Usually the child accepts the news unemotionally then potters off to brood.

What a maelstrom of emotions for them...

Deep down they long to go home, always. But the fears - sometimes real, sometimes unfounded - are swirling around in their mind. Fear of recrimination, fears that the unhappinesses they remember in full technicolour awaits them.

And always they carry the  sadness that their life up to this point has been so rotten that they feel marked for misery, so why bother to try?

It's normal for the child who has learned that they are headed home to kick off once the social worker says goodbye and drives away.

This is what happened yesterday, a Sunday.

The child had got the news on Friday and had seemed unmoved. Saturday came and went. I didn't raise the subject except to say a couple of times cheerily "We'll really miss you." 

It's a treading on eggshells thing. You'd like to sit down with the child and talk endlessly, but that's only do-able with the older ones. Little ones don't really do conversation, and don't grasp the multi-layered thing of their internalised emotions. So they can boil up a bit.

Sunday morning we were woken early by the TV downstairs. It was blaring. Sounded like a raucous cartoon with yelling and violence. I guessed straight away that little one was making several statements. 

I put on my dressing gown and went downstairs quietly so as to assess, hopefully get a glimpse of the scene in the living room before deciding how to play it.

Maybe the act of moving slowly and methodically gave me a chance to think. First off I realised I was annoyed for being woken at dawn on a Sunday, so the job there was to throw that feeling out, it would only make matters worse.

By the time I got down into the hallway I'd got my act together and pitched in with a watered down version of a technique I learned in a training session about self-harming. We were taught not to get angsty. Be matter of fact. You peer into a child's bedroom and there they are with a pair of sissors and blood streaming from a forearm (shocking image, never happened to me yet, touch wood). The advice was you should say - gently - "Oh dear, poor you. Stay there and I'll get some paper towels and help you clean up." The amazing bit; you DON'T snatch the sissors away. You show them you trust them.

So. I put my head around the door. Child was expecting me and was rolling around, squirming in front of the big TV which had that mad Spongebob doing their thing.

And I said something like;

"Oooh! Spongebob! Love it! I'm going to get a cuppa tea and watch with you. Want breakfast yet? Bit early for a bacon sandwich but it's never too early for Weetabix."

Child stopped writhing around. There was a moment of still. Then child said "Can I have sugar on it?"

I went:

"I'm gonna have a cheeky spoon of honey in my tea, so yeah you can have sugar on it and it'll be our little secret."

He went; "Yea!"

I went into the kitchen and a thought occurred to me, one I've had before many times, it won't go away.

It's a stupid thought, it goes like this;

"Should the foster mum or dad start to distance themselves from the child who is due to leave in order to help the child with the transfer to a home which might have a bit less warmth and emotional comfort than we try to offer in our foster home?"

I always shoo the thought out, noble as its intent might be. It would be plain wrong, not sure I've got it in me anyway. 

You look out for them with as much affection and kindness as you can, from the moment they come through the front door to the moment you watch them lug their bags up the garden path and into the car. A child you've grown close to, almost as close as your own children, is going, and you wll probably never see them again, never know how they go in life.

So you fill up a bit, part sorrow, part hapiness for them and yourself - a job done. 

Then you go upstairs, strip their bed and get it ready and waiting.

And begin hoping that next time your phone goes the words on the screen are;

"Blue Sky"

And a voice says;

"Would you be willing to take a child who…?"


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