Thursday, August 26, 2021


 Perhaps the most impacting thing about fostering is the effect it has on the shape of your household.

I'm talking about the shapes the people in your home make between themselves; round the table or sitting in the living room. Time was when people's living room had all the seating facing the fire, the source of warmth and comfort. Then along came the TV and the furniture was re-organised to face the new source of warmth and comfort. Everyone knew where they sat, everyone together.

The thing here is that 'devices' (phones, tablets, laptops) have superceded the TV, and our technology is now a solitary exercise.

Before we started fostering we had a 'normal' home, in the sense that we had a fixed cast list. There was mum, dad, and three children, year in year out. The five of us.

Of course, thinking back, the arrival of each of our three wonderful kids caused a massive change in the shape!

But once we decided "three will do", home life was a matter of us five knocking around each other, breakfast/lunch/tea… outings…family TV... 

 You form a circle, same faces, same lovely people. Same dynamic.

Then, you start fostering. And an unknown squib is thrown into the works. A child who's almost always had a horrible time and needs - and I mean REALLY NEEDS - loving attention.

The home isn't the same circle anymore. When the new child arrives the shape is more more like a figure of 8, with us in one circle of the 8 and the arrival in the other. But the two are joined at the hip and the foster parents have to turn the 8 into an 0.

Take, for example, Sammy. A ten year-old girl who arrived at our house complete with a warning that her father was apoplectic that his two daughters had been taken into care; not because he was concerned about their welfare so much as his self-image as the ultimate perfect male was challenged.

Sammy had lived under a cruel regime since her mother ran away.

I always feel sorry for those men who dress as super heroes to get camera attention about their grievance that the system obstructs fathers from having a just access to their kids. We haven't seen the Fathers For Justice men for a while; they used to stand around on top of famous buildings in their baggy Batman costumes having been advised by their PR people that the costumes would get them space in the newspapers. But I always wondered if really thought of themselves as supermen, and what kind of parenting that mindset would cause.

Sammy's father was probably a narcissist.

Sammy arrived on a freezing afternoon in mid-December. It had been decided that there were risks for her that were different from the risks faced by her older sister, so the sister was allowed to stay with the father, unless things changed.

Sammy was sore about that. No matter how awful home life is, 99% of children in care want to go back.

In the early days Sammy would join us for meals, sit in silence, then scoot back to her room and shut herself in.

We went to work to try to make her feel at home with us, and luckily, Plan A was a fair success, but I'm not sure you could do it nowadays.

What brough her down was the TV. She loved Jerry Springer (today's kids had the same affection for Jeremy Kyle). She would sit in the living room by herself and watch. Once we knew she liked losing herself in the small screen we expanded our watching - family films complete with popcorn, crisps and Fanta. We'd sit together and she began to relax with us, join in conversations about the movie.

It was only a week or two before she would call out from the landing "You wanna watch Jerry Sringer in a minute?" And so I did.

Sammy stayed with us for four months. Not long, but long enough for our family to morph into a six.

We were told her father had been counselled and had agreed to a Social Worker visit once a week to make sure he was sticking to a new self.

Ans, since taking up fostering, our household has a new self too.


Post a Comment