Thursday, September 30, 2021


 In fostering little things happen all the time, some of them not good. Even though they're little the not so good things can get to you if you're not on top of your own thinking.

Life is tiring, fostering can be especially tiring. When tired it hurts more if a child is spiky, you notice negative things more easily. You can also completely miss some positives.

We had our Annual Review earlier today, it's where Blue Sky fostering folk get to be quizzed by an independent bod on how things are going. They aren't on your case, if there's any case being made t's that they're kind of on your side. I've always found them helpful.

Today they got my partner and I remembering positives we'd actually missed, even though we were there at the time.

We ended up talking about something that happened quite recently and we hadn't given it enough celebration; It was this;

Our middle foster child is a permanent; never going home. Poor kid is pretty much alone in the world and as such has always been hostile to the whole notion of family and parents. Child has been with us long enough to know what our family is like, namely we're all in it together but a bit splintered at the outer edges - like most if not all families. We've got relatives here there and everwhere, some are close geographically and emotionally, some are far off in every way.

The child has been with us long enough to have got to know almost all of them a bit.

So then, a few days before our review the child blurted out of nowhere;

"Wouldn't it be great if everyone could be together here for Christmas; the whole family?"

I can remember thinking at the time;

"Nice idea soldier, but that ain't never gonna happen."

The child's remark came up at the Review and we dwelt on it. It was a huge remark, but had seemed little at the time.

It was huge for reasons which became obvious once they were spelled back at us. The child had identified themself as family.

Our family. Choild now accepts that WE are their real family.

See, usually fostering is about getting the child back to their real family. That's the normal job. But it's often the case that the child will never go back because the home has either disappeared or will never be safe. The child's placement in fostering becomes 'permanent'. It's a challenging notion for all involved. But our kid has done it.

None of us had any idea when the corner was turned, we probably never will as the child is a private individual and we respect that right. So, us and the Review bod, we moved the conversation on to how important it is for people in fostering to be on the lookout for things to celebrate, not just being alert to things that want fixing.

Probably a good maxim for life in general, not just fostering...

Sunday, September 26, 2021


Someone once wrote;

"Common sense is the most evenly distrubuted commodity on earth, because everyone thinks they have the right amount.."

Common sense is our best freind in fostering. I've talked about it before.

Recently I've been writing up about Ged's journey. He's an older placement, only been with us a short time, who is due to go out into the big wide world any day soon and can't wait.

But there seems to be a potential setback around the corner and as yet social services haven't raised it with him but I suspect he's got wind of it somehow.

The back-story is this; Ged was abandoned by his real father many years ago. The dad wanted nothing to do with Ged and Ged's mother didn't pull any punches that his father was a rotten egg. You can imagine what Ged had to listen to, she had a drugs problem along with plenty other difficulties, so Ged probably heard some pretty searing tirades.

However. The father somehow got word to Ged that he'd opened a savings account for him and he'd have access to it in the form of some sort of 'trust' when he became 'of age'. The arrangement appeared to be that Ged would receive regular tranches from the fund in a way that would maintain the fund so it would get a decent rate of interest.

It's not the first time I've come across chaotic parents offering fantasy futures for their children "once we've sorted ourselves out."

Now that he is nearly of age, there are doubts creeping in as to the truth. Little niggles such as Ged telling his local authority Social Worker that he remembered that his father believed that the age at which a person comes 'of age' is 21 and not 18. This thinking might be in line with different culture - we understand that Ged's father returned to his native country many years ago, possibly to avoid the rap for something.

Equally, the father may have raided the account himself to 'fund a business venture' or something.

That's if the fund exists at all.

Social services have done a fantastic job with Ged but if he discovers there's no money it's going to be us foster parents who'll have the lion's share of helping him manage his huge disappointments. He'll have to be helped to deal with the damage to the image he's built up of his absent dad. Then there's the loss of his anticipated independence if he won't have an unearned income in a few weeks time. 

He'll be upset and may become despondent or angry or both. He might hit the bottle or the weed. He might even be tempted to get an income by doing something illegal or otherwise dangerous - the County Lines problem is getting worse (see earlier blogs about this growing drugs nightmare involving children, or Google it).

Foster parents are used to helping their children deal with disappointing parents and family members. I remember a Contact session once - 'Contact' is where children in care are brought to have a session with significant others - the mother simply didn't show up. We waited nearly the full hour when a message came in. The mother said she couldn't come to Contact because she was having hair extensions done. Another time I took a lad to have Contact with his dad, it was a hot summer's day so I sat in the car and watched them go out into the courtyard on the Contact Centre where there was an all-weather storage crate-full of toys. The dad spent the entire Contact playing with the toys and didn't say a single word to his son who sat along on the swing musing over his bad luck.

We get a lot of quality training at Blue Sky, but it would be impossible for them to cover every base. Time after time the humble foster mum or dad has to conjure up strategies from out of thin air and, although our Social Worker is ready and able to offer support and advice it's down to us, standing in our kitchen, to come uo with the right things to say and do. 

With Ged I'm not going to break any news or hearsay to him. I'll wait until and unless he says or shows he needs an arm round his shoulder.

So I find myself wondering; what if he says something and the answer depends on exactly what he says and how he says it. I have to interpret. We often have to try to feel the moment and read between the lines. Then what if he starts acting differently? I have to judge if it's a conscious attempt to raise a dilemma or maybe he's unaware he's not himself?

Every call is a judgement thing.

The main tool we fostering folk have at our disposal is our own knowledge and experience of the school of hard knocks.

And dear old common sense.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021


 Middle foster child came downstairs in a strop or as my nan used to put it 'with a right cob on'.

He used to be eldest foster child but since the arrival of short-term 17 year old Ged, he's now the middle one.

I heard that PG Wodehouse started a short story with the sentence;

"It is not difficult to discern the difference between a ray of sunshine and a Scotsman with a grievance."

For 'Scotsman" read "Foster Child".

Some of them, they bring a special skill set to the important matter of appearing p****d off, it's practically an art form. Or more like a stage act, in fact.

An episode is often first flagged up by a louder than usual slamming of their bedroom door followed by unusually heavy footsteps coming down the stairs.

You say to yourself; "Here we go…"

You are supposed to look concerned and say;

"Everything alright?" or "What's up? You OK?"

And so you do. They don't just WANT you to inquire, they NEED you to. It's the beginning of the dance which will probably end in them getting ice cream, or a nod that they can stay up late and watch Netflix on Friday night. Or both.

Nobody knows the trouble they've seen, and their lifelong experiences in their bio home has taught them a wealth of survival techniques. They will have watched parents, older household members and family members playing the problem hierachy game and learned the benefits that can be squeezed from things being all wrong.

The problem hierarchy game is where people compete to be the one most under duress.

Of course; many things in foster children's lives ARE all wrong; they had a tough time, their parents parenting was questionable at best, their education chequered. Now they live in a strange house full of of strangers.. and however much we foster parents try, it's wrong.

But they don't present us with these very real wrongs.

When they want a bit of TLC or a metaphorical cuddle it goes a bit like it did with middle child.

He came stomping into the kitchen and made for the larder.

"Oh Jeez! No Salt and Vinegar!"

Then he's off;

"Why are we always out of Salt and Vinegar? It's not that hard is it? To buy crisps? I mean, you guys act like you're all so clever and you've got two cars and wooo you're foster parents, but even a Zombie hamster could get crisps right."

I try to say nothing.

"I mean…crisps! How hard is that?"

I shrug as if to say 'Yeah we're pretty useless…' He goes on;

"I mean, it's like the other day when Jason came round and you gave us chips with the burgers and everyone knows it's fries with burgers, chips go with fish! I was like SO embarrassed. Is that why you get the food all wrong round here. One minute you're trying to make me obese the next you're starving me!"

Jason is his friend who sometimes comes round and they chill. It's uplifting hearing their laughter and mock gee-up banter.


"How was Jason today?"

"Jeez how should I know? He's an idiot. I don't care how he is. If he wants to hang out with Ben Willis' bunch of wallies that's his doom sorted and so what? He was the embarrasment. Not me.""

So we gradually got to the nitty gritty; he and his friend had had a bit of a tizz. 

Apparently over politics. Well, to be precise over whether Boris Johnson is a ****** or not.

They'd fallen out digitally (messages).

It hurts rotten when you're young and finding your way with friendships. We all made plenty of mistakes and thought it was the end of the world.

Children and young people in care are sometimes more clumsy socially than their peers and a bit more desperate to build relationships. 

There's not much we can do there, they are usually best off sorting these spats out themselves, all part of life.

But it's one reason why there's usually a tub of emergency ice-cream in the fridge.

I remember a Blue Sky training session on de-escalation. The trainer said that offering a pleasant distraction, such as going on a bike ride could help the child's anger. One carer was against the idea saying;

"I'm not going to reward bad behaviour by giving them something nice!"

He had missed the point on this one, de-escalation is about distraction, and anyway; kindness is not a 'reward', it should be ever-present. Is sticking a sticking plaster on a wound a 'reward'? 

Bottom line, ice cream works. 

Monday, September 06, 2021


 It's always an upheaval when a foster child leaves. The house is quieter, there's less work to be done and those that are left behind in the home have to re-configure.

Ged is gearing up to fly the nest; he'll be 18 soon and is hungry to put his childhood behind him and stretch his wings. There are so many positives, but you still have to keep an eye out for impending difficulties.

And there is a big one. See, our youngest foster child adores Ged. 

Ged, to him, is everything that I and my other half aren't. Ged is cool, he's a geezer. He knows what today's music is about, he can talk for ever about gaming.

Youngest wants Ged to be his dad - he doesn't say so but it's written all over him. He wants to go with Ged, but hasn't said so. When Ged goes it'll leave a big hole in his heart, and that's in part a healthy, normal and profound thing.


Youngest has experienced endless abandonment in his short life before care. His real father came and went, other 'fathers' came and went. Then his mother overdosed and has never fully recovered. He was fostered initially alongside his sibs (4) but it all got too much for the foster parents and the little mite who came to us was deemed the main fly in the ointment. And boy was he a handful at first.

We set square on keeping him with us partly because of the fear that if we abandoned him back into the system it could be the last straw. Anyway, we haven't yet given up on a child and one gets possesive about a 100% record in anything - mind this is a good obsession.

Blue Sky worked with us shoulder-to-shoulder to help him find a bit of peace; Oppositional Defiance Disorder is a gruelling house guest. But you get what you pay for in fostering, and though the emotional cost to us was steep to begin with, it began paying for itself within a couple of months.

I'm not claiming he's a saint, but he's come on in leaps and bounds, and Ged's arrival gave him the role model he's always craved.

My job in the next few weeks before Ged goes is to talk to my BS social worker about how to play it. Do I ask Ged if he can stay in touch for the sake of the youngest? Do I talk to youngest about it, try to get as much understanding of the coming event as I can? Do I make plans such as a farewell dinner for Ged or play it like it's no big deal?

The probability is that it's going to be tricky - sticky even - and we'll all have to react to however it impacts youngest. 

Oh, and remember to enjoy all the enjoyables such as helping a fine young man enter the world, and appreciating that youngest has learned to attach to a parent figure. Maybe he'll transfer that bonding to us? That would be nice…

But in fostering you never hold your breath..