Recently I've been put in touch with a psychologist who has worked with a child we have. Knows the child quite well. Actually, it takes him about half an hour and he knows anybody well.
He came to our house to meet us, and made himself available on the phone if needed. I can't give his details but I can describe him for you. He is a short, stocky little fireball of an Irishman, drives a massive BMW and dresses crisply in a three-piece-suit. He fizzes with enthusiasm for the human mind, so he does. There. I'm talking like him now, so I am, so I am.
He is the best listener I've ever come across, he almost bleeds you dry of your thoughts, then sends them back to you as polished little tools to do your job.
He insists there are no accidents. Everything that everybody does is 'autobiographical' - even if we ourselves don't know why we do certain things, everything we do is deliberate and means something.
Chatting away at our kitchen table here's an example.
He used our downstairs loo and I told him how our foster child bought me a plastic stick-on coat hook with their own pocket money (I mentioned it in the post about pocket money).
"Of course a coat hook!" he chirped. "It's just a slight pity you stuck it at the height you did, so it is."
He explained that the child was unconsciously recognising the side of my character that welcomed people into the home (you have to hang up their stuff). The child wanted to thank me and pat me on the back for being, literally, somewhere you could hang your hat. He explained to me that there aren't enough things in the average house that are placed at child's height. Mirrors in the bathroom and the hall, light switches. Photos of family. And coat hooks.
I'd stuck the coat hook on the toilet door, just to get it up somewhere to acknowledge the gift.
"Oh you did the right thing, spot on, not to just tuck it in the kitchen drawer. I can see it's not strong enough to hang a sock on. But it represents your foster child's hat and coat, the child is also saying 'Can I have a hook of my own here?"
Long story short, when he'd gone the first thing I did was prise off the hook and re-stick it on the door at the child's height. I found a distinctive mug, hung it on the mug tree, and from now on it's the child's mug. I printed off a photo of the child (taken with the child's permission) from my phone and put it in a frame and put it among the family pictures in the hall.
Earlier this week I was on the phone to him for an hour, he was listening, asking questions then jabbering (beautifully) ten to the dozen. I ended up having to say "I'm sorry but I have to hang up, my cordless is running out of battery" He replied
"Guilty! And I would like the court to take two hundred other similar offences into consideration"
I was on the floor. When he's funny he's better than Frank Carson, if you remember him ("It's the way I tell 'em!")
Has he helped? Massively.
Is it the norm of support that's available? No. It's there if you need it. Generally the support comes from your dedicated Blue Sky social worker and any of the professionals at Blue Sky who can help.
You get additional support from other foster carers. We meet up regularly - mind, you don't have to if you don't fancy it one week - and end up swapping phone numbers with carers we click with. One of my best friends right now is a foster carer I met at a support meeting. We don't just support each other in fostering, I'm there for a chat about her mum or whatever. Over a curry, usually.
Then there's your own family, of course. Probably the first port of call.
Then there's your foster child. They don't know they're supporting you, but as the jolly Oirishman left me in no doubt, when they buy you's a coat hook, it means you're getting something right, so you are!