Wednesday, December 29, 2021


So, suddenly everyone in the house has gone for making New Year Resolutions.

Eldest foster child started the ball rolling, annoucing that I should lose weight, charming.

Remarks like that are his trademark way of being affectionate, and now that I understand that the barbs aren't nearly so stinging. He starts every day off with a criticism of me. It might be my outfit that looks dated, or the fridge hasn't got what he wants, or the cereal is past it's best before date.

He's always got a point to make at my general expense. I come back with a counter point and we're engaged. Engaged in what he deems banter, and if it makes him feel attached it's fine by me.

So I said I'd make it my resolution to drop ten pounds.

Then I asked him if there was anything about himself he could improve.


That teatime the conversation was a happy jabber as everyone 'helped' everyone else come up with resolutions.

Short story long;

My other half is going to go on less and less about Portsmouth FC.

Youngest foster child is going to hang the bath towels properly after use.

Our two children are going to a) use their own charge lead for their phone and b) when using the last of the juice not leave a teaspoon of juice in the carton and put it back in the fridge rather than use it all and have to dispose of the carton properly.

They all sound piffling, but as the Chinese say, every thousand mile journey begins with a first step.

And eldest foster child?

This was the big one, and it got the longest laugh;

He's going to greet me EVERY morning with;

"Good morning mother dearest I trust you slept the sleep of the righteous, may I say you look a picture today!"

Friday, December 24, 2021


So, this is almost too touching to bear.

My eldest foster child has gone to astonishing lengths to get me the birthday present of my dreams.

This much I know because my partner has had to spill several - but not all of - the beans.

One of the drawbacks of having your birthday close to Christmas is people's confusion about whether to give a joint present or two separate ones, so the first thing eldest did was ask his foster dad for guidance on that one.

Then, when informed it was up to him, he needed to share his plan with someone, like you do, and foster dad was given a skeleton outline of the plan.

It involved sending off for two things one from Amazon the other from a private seller.

Our Alexa told us one moring that a delivery was coming including a picture frame. Eldest's ears pricked up. He muttered something like "Phew", which I was told was due to him sweating on it arriving in time.

Then the postman knocked on the door to deliver a large cardboard tube which eldest came flying down for and disappeared. Cue smug look on the face of my other half.

I asked him "Is this as big a deal as it's looking?"

He replied "I think it is."

I said "Why?"

My other half put a hand on my shoulder.

"D'you remember that training session about anger management?"

Me; "Vaguely, yes."

"The bloke talked about how people bottle up all the bothersome bits of the day; they spill their coffee and laugh about it, the traffic makes them late for work and they get shouted at by the boss and put up with it, their computer erases a load of work and they stay on top. Then they come home, their child slams a door, and then finally the dad erupts and gets violent. They call it the ten dollar slap for a one dollar misdemeanor."

"Yes…" I replied, hesitantly, wondering where this was going. He continued;

"Your birthday present is the opposite of the ten dollar slap"

Me; "Er…."

Then he said; "All the hundreds of times he's felt your love and kindness and everlasting patience, he's never been able to express anything. Now he's reached an age where he wants to bundle all that gratitude into one massive gesture. Namely your birthday present. He's gone miles out of his way, he's really nailed it. It's so incredibly thoughful. And kind."

Like I said, almost too touching to bear.

What is it?

This gift of all gifts?

Dunno, have to wait for my birthday...

Saturday, December 11, 2021


 Every year Blue Sky organise a Christmas lunch for their carers at each of their many offices around the UK.

One's heart goes out the agency's head honchos who dutifully attend every single one. On one ocassion one of them had 2 Christmas lunches in one day, so there to the Vicar of Dibley (UK sit com about lady vicar who accepts invites to 3 Xmas lunches on the same day).

`I remember trying to explain what all the fuss was about to a Muslim fellow-carer one year. You should have seen her face when I recounted the hymn claiming that "Man will live for evermore because of Christmas Day".

Look, it's all a bit silly - yet for many absolutely essential. 

Whether the glow is down to memories of happy childhood Christmases or looking forward to lots of family being together or what, I don't know. Even a cynic like me sheds a tear when the Snowman and the kid lift off for the North Pole.

But back to the fostering Christmas lunch. 

It's always fascinating seeing a roomful of fostering folk. So diverse in every way; singles as well as doubles, all ages, all types of background, veggies and meat eaters, teetotallers and non-teetotallers, all races and creeds etc etc etc.

And, big bonus; one or two carers who have themelves been fostered as children. Now there's a double conversation that has to be had every time.

Some remember dark days. How could they not? They remember the fears and uncertainties, which they sometimes say was - at first - worse than whatever went on at their home.

My first Blue Social Worker, the one who visited us monthly to assess us, he'd been fostered and he only remembered it as happy days. He was fostered by a farmer's wife. He told me she let him drive the land rover on their land when he was just 14 years old and how the kitchen always smelled of fresh baked bread.

Anecdotes are the lifeblood of fostering talk;

One of the loveliest stories I heard at one Christmas lunch was from a carer whose placement - a boy aged 14 - got to go home for Christmas. They drove him to his real home on the Sunday before Christmas Day and were scheduled to pick him up exactly a week later on the 28th. However. On Boxing Day there was someone at the door.

The boy.

He wanted back. Said his home had imploded. Said he knew it would from the off but still wanted to give it a go.

Quick call to Blue Sky (they're open all over Christmas), they called the boy's Local Authority Social Worker and the boy's early return was signed off officially.

The carer filled up in the telling, a mark of how deep fostering can go. The family agreed they felt blessed to have their simple lives so richly celebrated that a child from outside their family longed to be back with them so much he actually trecked the pavement for the best part of two hours to knock on their door and ask for shelter.

All a bit like the Christmas story in a way.  Except they did better than offer him a manger..

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Ho Ho Ho (Not)

 Christmas is increasingly a difficult time for the British and not only for the UK's dwindling band of Christians. The Christmas period affects everyone somehow. And very few people are as affected as children in care.

One 16 year-old girl who came to us was allowed to go home for Christmas Day. The plan was for us to drive her home on Christmas Eve. We bought her a bunch of gifts, wrapped them, put them in a gift bag, and gave them to her as she was going out the door, heading for our car. The drive to her home was an hour, and it was starting to get dark. We had expected her to put the bag alongside her overnight bag, take them to her home, and open her presents on Christmas morning.


She turned around and marched the bag into the kitchen and started opening them. A bottle of Badedas, a Terry's Chocolate Orange. A pair of headphones. A top-up card for her phone. An HMV voucher.

She opened each and every one with great care, smoothing out the wrappings, making the right "Ooooo!" noises each time.

Then she thanked us profusely, got up and took her gifts up to her room, where she left them. And set off for home.

We never asked her why. Her business.

Maybe she couldn't wait (unlikely). Maybe she didn't want to have more and better presents than her sisters who were also going to be at home on Christmas morning (possible). Maybe she wanted to reward us by showing her gratitude with her delight at her gifts (we like this explanation best).

Personally, I've not yet had a child over Christmas who wasn't up for a traditional Western Christmas. It nearly happened once when I agreed to take 3 orphan children refugees from Afghanistan, but they were found a Muslim foster home, for the best.

Every other child I've had started getting anxious-excited on the 1st December.

No matter what their chaos at home, children whose families tried to make any kind of a go of a 'traditional' Christmas will have slightly false memories of good times. Of presents, games, extended family. Some sort of magic.

They'll like as not blank out the disappointments, the tensions and the arguments. Not to mention the drink and whatever else.

More children are taken into care over the Christmas period than at any other time of the year, due largely to the family being cooped up together so that the  simmering angers and petty hostilities boil over.

At the last Blue Sky Christmas lunch I sat next to a young Muslim couple who were in their first year of fostering. They told me they'd respect and engage in all and any festive needs any foster child brought along. They didn't voice any crityicisms about the masses of people who get Western Christmas so badly wrong that it brings about the break-up of families en masse. I suspect none of Islam's significant calendar dates trigger family anguish. 

In fostering we try to do what's right for all the chidren in the house, but it's a balancing act that would go to the top of the bill if there were still such a thing as the circus.

See, speak of 'circus' and I'm right back into remembering the Christmas of my childhood. My mind (just like everyone else whose family did Christmas) fills with stuiff sich as Santa, the tree, the decorations, a chicken in the oven (a chook was a once-a-year treat in our house). Grandad showing up in his best suit, gran wearing her 'pearls'. Piles of presents, Christmas crackers on the table. And on the telly? Billy Smart's Circus.

Of course, if I had a Tardis and went back in person I'd watch myself and realise that the thing I really loved most was that we were all together. No work for dad, no shopping for mum, no school for us kids. No shops open, no cars on the roads.

Christmas can dish up the saddest blow to children in care. Namely; their family is not all together.

We work with our Blue Sky Social Worker to get the gift thing right. But there's so much other stuff.

You do your best, enjoy whatever joy they experience , and look forward to New Year's Eve, because that's easy to get right; they're allowed to stay up until midnight and, y'know what?, that beats most that Christmas has to offer them.