Sunday, May 31, 2015


I get the feeling that sleep is becoming a big problem for all of us.

We're bombarded from every direction with information about how to get a good night's sleep.

If you foster you don't need anyone to tell you that sleep (especially bedtime) is one of the biggest common issues among foster children, and when foster children have sleep problems, foster parents have sleep problems.

Here's what's been going on in our house over half-term.

We have a 12 year old who is basically anti-sleep. He has to wait until he is so completely ready to nod off that there isn't one single second of lying with his head on the pillow waiting for the sandman. 

Our own children went to bed at the required time, although our youngest had insecurities and I ended up sleeping in the spare bedroom with him from age 7 until he was 12. He grew out of it well enough and  looking back it was the right thing to do.

Can't do that with a foster child though.

So. You put your thinking cap on every evening, looking for solutions to what seems to be a massive problem.  And to put it succinctly, there is no solution. It's easier to get a child to eat sprouts or go to the dentist than to get them to go to bed and wait patiently to go to sleep. You can't make someone go to sleep.

You try everything; the peaceful bedroom, the winding-down-of-the-day with no PC screens on anywhere, the milky drink, the 'plenty of exercise so they are ready for bed' thing. The bedtime story, the 'waking them up nice and early so they are ready for bed' thing. The reward thing 'if you have a nice early night every night during the week you can have a reward' (the requested reward is always the same thing; a late night).

You try staying upstairs once they are finally in bed so they don't feel isolated or left out. You try sleep tapes, the sounds of surf on a beach. You try peaceful night lights, you even think about those plug-in 'sleep inducing' frangrance gizmos. You try sitting at the foot of the bed yawning theatrically. 

You change their bed so there's two thick blankets under the bottom sheet for extra comfort. You buy them a 'sleep pillow'. You let them build up their bed with extra pillows and cushions until it looks like a small fort. 

You discuss different bedrooms 'maybe it woud be easier to go to sleep in a back bedroom?'. You discuss different beds 'maybe a wider bed, maybe bunk beds?'.

All the while the sleep problem appears unbeatable. You try paying no attention to the sleep probem, thinking that maybe by making an issue out of it you're encouraging more anxiety.

And then you figure you've literally tried everything. All you have left is where we spent this last half-term.

I don't know how you'd describe what we did, something like 'go with the flow'?

Or maybe 'whatever happens happens'.

The lad himself is a great kid. We have 'claimed' him according to our CAMHS councillor. (CAMHS = Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). He is as family as family can get with a foster child.

But. He is practically allergic to the concept of lying down and waiting to go to sleep. 

We'd let him stay up until way past midnight last New Years Eve, and that simple thing alone made him as happy as we've ever seen him. He's had the occassional sleepover and one time was still whispering from under the duvet with his friends after midnight.

So, last weekend we let him stay up. It was the Sunday night, no school the next day. The little fellow has got big things going on in his head at the moment, things I'll maybe go into on another blog post sometime. Kind of private really, I'm sure you understand, much as I know you'd like to know, much as I'd like to share.

He'd become difficult, then angry then something worse than angry; he'd become despairing. You see this in some foster children don't you? A surrendering of all their energy and curiosity about the world. They kind of give up on life. He went silent on us. Didn't want to know. Started to withdraw from us.

Suffice to say that getting a so-called 'Good Night's Sleep' was the last of his worries, and the last of ours too. We decided we'd do whatever it took to make him feel a bit more safe and secure. 

So on Sunday night he stayed up. Downstairs in his pyjamas and dressing gown. Me dressed.

Until nearly 2.00am.


He was using the family iPad to play a game (approved + parental controls on + quite an excellent game actually). I watched late night TV (rubbish actually, how do security guards stay sane?). He resisted quite a bit when I said it was time to go up, but he went, and was asleep in about 10-15 minutes. And next day, not at all tired, and quite content, maybe not exactly Mr Sunshine, but a germ of improvement.

Next night. Same thing.

Only now he wants to 'break his record'. This I get. He's starting to get hold of life again, exerting himself and testing out his anticipated adulthood and what have you.

Anyway; this time it's 3.30am, nearly. To be honest I'd had a five minute shuteye with my feet up on the sofa around 3.00am and when I startled awake there was no argument it was bedtime. Next morning he had a bit of a lie-in and then he's awake and alert and full of beans, wanted to go to the park to meet some school friends, they'd arranged it themselves using Skype. He played a mighty game of some sort of running around crossed with "It" crossed with a football free-for-all then running up and down the grassy bank then the Flying Fox. He ate a hearty tea and...

...fell asleep in the armchair just after 1.00am. I put a duvet over him and left him for a bit, to let the sleep take hold, then I gently shepherded him upstairs and he snuggled down and went to sleep again. Perfect.

Next night I hoped he'd forgotten about breaking records, but I knew in reality he'd want to go for it.

Cut a long story short;

It's now nearly 5.00am. I've just cooked him three sausages and I'm sat at the kitchen table with my 5th or 6th cup of tea and typing on my laptop. He's happy, happier than I've ever seen him. He keeps calling out and updating me on his game. He's just asked me if he can try a cup of tea, his first ever. I've made him a milky one with 2 sugars. He tried it and he's not keen, but everything means something with foster children. 

Listen; he's just said "Can your son have some more sausages?" He's never said anything like that before.

I fired up the pan again and said, out of his line of vision;

"Tell you something funny. I got a nice feeling when you said 'Your son'."

He murmered "Mmmmmm" as if to say "It's my way of rewarding you for being kind" or maybe "Now that we know who's in charge round here I'm prepared to throw you a bone" or maybe "I love you". Dunno which. One for the CAMHS brigade.

Tell you the God's honest: it's times like this I simply LOVE fostering. There is nothing, NOTHING on earth quite like it.

He's just come to see me in the kitchen. Asked me if we could have a 'Holding Your Breathe' contest. We did it 5 times, he won 4-1 (I beat him the first time, then let him win the next 4). Then he explained to me that the reason he's good at holding his breathe is because he knows how to meditate. He sat cross-legged on the kitchen table and demonstrated meditating. Then he got up and showed me how he can jump and touch the top of the kitchen door.

He's on his way to better times. Would he have made his way back without the (very) late nights? Who knows.

Now he's found the Cellotape and is taping his mouth. We know why he does this from time to time. He's just mumbled through taped up lips; 

"The good old days". 

I know what he means by that. Like I said, he's got big things going on in his head at the moment.

He's removed the tape and is making me some toast.

Onwards and upwards.

I looking forward to:

1. Getting him back on UK time ready for school in a couple of days. That'll happen alright.
2. Discussing this bunch of news with my Blue Sky social worker, she's coming over for a visit on his first day back.
3. Going back to going to bed myself at around 10.30pm.

Mind, I have slept better this last week than I have for quite a while. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


The big debate when children are taken into care is whether brothers and sisters should be kept together.

Or, at least, it should be the big debate.

Unfortunately, in my experience, it tends not to get debated much, maybe not even at all.

Local Authority social workers always seem to try to keep them together.

I've never heard of more than three sibings going into the same foster home, but I'll bet that's not the record high number. Someone once told me that five is the maximum number of foster children you can have under your roof; any more than that and you qualify as a Childrens Home and have to comply with Ofsted and even get an Ofsted visit.

To be fair the obvious reasons for keeping brothers and sisters together are...well...obvious. It doesn't take an expert to come up with them;

1. The children will be frightened and shy going into Care. Having their brothers and sisters around will reduce the strageness.
2. It's easier to find one home than to find two or three separate ones.
3. Splitting up siblings makes things such as social worker visits and transport to contact harder than they need to be.
4. Foster Carers will welcome the extra income.
5. The siblings will self-regulate each other, and play together rather than require full-time foster carer input.
6. Re-assembling the family after the period of Care will be easier.

So many good reasons. And yet.

I know a woman who fosters three brothers since they came into Care. She takes them to the same school I use.

They are aged 7, 9 and 10. 

You can tell they are brothers in Care, not just because their facial features are similar. They are all equally lightweight - yet look as if they could handle themselves in a scrap. They all look younger than their peers. They all have that startled, haunted expression you often see in young foster children.

They tend to stand alone in the playground. They look like they've given up on the world already.

The foster mum tries her socks off. She's a devout Christian so it takes some doing for her resolution to be taxed, but taxed it is.

When we first met she would often sidle up to me in the playground and swing the conversation round to whether it is ever justified if foster carers give up on a placement, and pull the plug. I always reminded her that if things get too much you have a responsibility to look at that option, because, as Blue Sky always remind us; 

'YOU, that is, the Foster Carer, and YOUR FAMILY are more important than anything'.

It's a fact. You can't foster properly if those two things are out of sorts.

While I'm on the subject I have to say that comparing fostering experiences with people who aren't with Blue Sky is very interesting. I have to say, hand on heart, that it usually comes across that the level of support they get isn't anywhere near as good. Carers are often that bit less well-informed, and seem to be lacking someone who is looking at their fostering from the carers point of view as well as the child's, which is what Blue Sky do. 

Hence this foster mum was always picking my brains for advice. Advice and support; she wanted the youngest brother to be placed elsewhere, away from the two older brothers. The youngest had temper tantrums. She wanted re-assurance that her wishes didn't mean she was a bad foster mum. 

As the weeks turned into months she began to look more and more haggard.

She would describe how the youngest would fly off the handle, how sometimes only her husband could keep him on the straight and narrow and would take the lad for huge long walks out of the house and away from his brothers.

Keeping the three of them together was bringing the seven of them down (they had two teenage daughters of their own). 

But the local authority wouldn't agree, probably couldn't see what was going on.

What was going on was probably something like this: the three boys were engaging in the same behaviours they had entrenched in their real home. Being together they each triggered the others' nightmares of whatever happened in their old home, which no-one but they knew about (foster children can be closed books). If there had been cruelty directed towards them by their parents the older brothers may have used their parents as a blueprint for how to behave towards their youngest brother. Bullying and tormenting weaker and vulnerable family members is all they might know and under the pressure of being put in a new home they behaved the way they were treated.

Whatever the cause, it wasn't working. It sounded from what I heard that the youngest was developing mental health issues.

Then one day, the foster mum comes up to me in the playground with a tiny smile.

She's been granted 3 weeks respite. It's going to work like this; a super-carer is going to move into her home and look after the three boys. Her daughters are going to stay with friends. She and her hubby are going away. To India. Brilliant.

I saw the super-carer in the playground a few times, and she was very professional. She would carry a soft football to give the boys something to do while whoever came out of school first waited for the others. This is a small trick but it spoke volumes about someone who gets children. I watched her kick the ball a few times and she really joined in, enjoying the kids company, not bothering with the nattering parents, she was doing her job.

A few weeks after the mum returned from India she told me the youngest was being placed elsewhere.

A month later she starts turning up looking full of the joys of fostering. The two older boys are doing really well; they've finally integrated into the family and they now see themselves as a family unit of six, instead of two struggling family units of four and three. The youngest brother, she gets updates, is making good progress in his new placement. Better than if he was still with his brothers.

I have an experience of my own which supports the same conclusion, namely that keeping siblings together is something that should be either the last resort or a decision based on careful consideration of all the options.

The foster mum, by the way, had an indifferent time in India, I could tell because she said her husband told her he coudn't wait to get home and have a 'proper' curry.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


I've found myself wanting to raise the subject of Contact a lot here, but I'm a bit worried about banging on because I've talked about it two or three times. Then again it's a big bugbear for many in fostering.

If you don't know what Contact is, it's pretty simple.

Foster children are required by law to have 'contact' with their real family generally every week. They will tell you it can be a phone call or a letter or a fun session at MacDonalds. It's often a tough one-on-one in a Contact Centre. These Centres are privately run buildings with rooms where these crazily artificial meetings happen.

What this means for you as a foster parent is this; you have to prepare the child for their contact, transport them there and back if necessary, then deal with the child's feelings and behaviour afterwards. I've only once known it to be a good experience for all the parties involved, I've only once experienced Contact being of good use to the outcome. Once. And that was an eight week placement.

Here's the kicker; that placement was a child who had to be removed from his foster carer because an allegation had been made, and the Contact was between him and his long-term foster mum who he had come to love and respect deeply. It was a joy to see them re-united, and wallow in the promise they'd get back together soon, which happened.

Foster children need a break from their family, hence the fact they've been removed.

The foster carers and their supporting social workers need a clear month to do some work with the child. Then, if it's right, we could get round the kitchen table and talk about some form of contact. A phone call, or, in my view, a text chat, would be an ok start. There are exceptions, but generally in my view the first Contact should be delayed for about 4 weeks.

Fostered children aren't going to forget their parents. If they lived to be a thousand years old and never met their parents again, foster chidren will never ever forget them.

The idea behind morbid regular contact is that otherwise the child's relationship with their real parents will somehow evaporate or deteriorate, and this is clearly massively duff thinking, if you've ever fostered.

Foster chidren need a breather from their home life. They need to know their family is okay, and that they themselves are not in trouble for what's happened.

Contact is the law. It's not a social services policy that social workers have come up with, it's a law that Westminster politicians drew up and debated and passed. It kicks in the minute a child is taken into care.

My view is it's a wrong law. It's wrong because it doesn't make things bnetter, it makes things worse.

It doesn't help the child, it doesn't help the 'real' parents, it doesn't help the local authority or agency social workers who are trying to find solutions. It doesn't help foster carers.

These laws are run up in committees in backrooms off the corridors of the Houses of Parliament. A group of cross-party politicians discuss them and hear the thoughts of experts. The experts will not have included foster children or foster parents. Why? Children are considered unreliable witnesses, and apparently so are foster parents.

The law needs to be made more flexible, so that each child's case can be weighed up and a contact programme constructed to suit. Unfortunateley that would bring poor old social workers into the firing line again, because real parents often like to make a fight of everything as if it's the system and social workers at fault rather than the chaotic family life they've built.

So each week we foster parents find our homes pulled this way and that. Our child's progress and stability is thrown to the winds by the prospect of a confrontation which has them climbing the walls with a combination of unrealistic hope and realistic fear, followed by a climb-down of a whole range of disappointments.

And that's from week one.

Weeks two, three, four and so on are the same.

I'd write to someone at Westminster, but the way laws are made and updated I'm told you have to wait until a review of a law is put in the pipeline before it's worth putting your case, and nothing is planned on the Children's Act as far as I know.

Meantime all I can do is offer condolences and spiritual support for every foster parent who has to prepare and support and child before during and after Contact, because it's the most challengeing thing we do, across the board.

So well done you if you're doing it.

Talking often helps, and if you're a foster parent having a hard time with Contact, well at least you know that others are thinking of you.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


About three months ago we had to hire someone to come in and clean the house on a Monday. I hope that doesn't make us sound posh, but fostering allows us to do it. The house is a tip after the weekend, and I've got school runs and a supermarket shop to do. It's fantastic to come back to a sparkling house and get on with the fostering phone calls and stuff.

When I told a friend we had hired a cleaner she gave me a warning, she said;

"Don't leave any money lying around, it's not fair on them"

Her words come back to me when I think about fostering.

We don't leave valuables lying around. We don't have anything fancy in our house, but to a child who has less than nothing even the most trivial bauble might seem like halfway to their first X Box.

We've known couples who always have a wedge knocking around their house, two or three hundred in readies on the mantlepiece. A flash watch for him. Bracelets and rings for her. And him, sometimes. If they went into fostering their social worker would advise them.

Let me nail one thing now, before I go any further. I've only once, and then it's only maybe, had one thing stolen from me by a foster child. I'll come to that.

But I know most carers are very alive to this worry and it's something every carer should think about.

My take is that you should assume every child hasn't a crime in them until you get wind otherwise. I know a carer who has put mortice locks on every internal door in the house. She and I agree to differ on this; I say it gives out the wrong signal to a foster child coming into the home.  But if it makes her feel safe, fair play.

If carers want extra insurance they can get it, Blue Sky will advise. We don't bother.

The vast majority of the poor young people who are taken into care have far bigger things on their mind than swiping a fiver.

The age of the child is the first thing to weigh up. The younger they are the less likely to pocket anything worth bothering about. Until a foster child is of a certain age you're going to be accompanying them everywhere all the time, so if they do find a £1 coin under the sofa and decide to hold onto it for the feeling of power it gives them, so what?  How are they going to spend it anyway? 

If they give you the £1 they found under young sofa, the fact is you don't know who it really belongs to. They guess that's the case, and hope they'll be told "Well; finders keepers, as you have been honest you'd better keep it". Obviously you have to assess if this is a child who will revert to honesty if you reward them, or go the other way. 

Every time they see a coin or a note in the home and leave it alone they've grown a bit.

One of the joys of fostering is being a playmaker in these milestone moments along a child's journey towards some kind of better life than they might have had. We enjoy this feeling in our house, except sometimes when we can't find our purse or wallet. But they always turn up.

Older foster children are another kettle of fish. Blue Sky have so far been as good as you could expect with background information if a child has any kind of history of light-fingeredness. 

Our approach is to make our own judgement about the child from day one, and if there's the slightest concern they may swipe a carelessly placed £5 note, we tighten up.

But. We think the most important thing is this; to make your house a family home. Where trust is everything.  We have had teenagers aplenty stay for days, weeks and months, and every time we make it clear to them that we offer family life for them while they're here. They're family. And family is family. And so far, so good.


What happened the one time I think we (might) have had something nicked?

Okay. It was a Friday afternoon, about 4.00pm. Bill called and said he was running late and we agreed to a Friday takeaway. Pizza. We keep the menus near the phone, we'd phone an order when they opened at 6.00. I remember thinking I should put the cash on the phone table, ready for when the delivery arrived, lodge it under the china bowl we keep keys in. Then I got on with emptying lunch boxes and checking book bags for all the flipping school enablement forms you have to fill in nowadays. It was a normal Friday hurley burley afternoon, a housefull of giddy children. I remember going over in my mind that I had around £40 in notes and coins in my purse, enough for pizza and wedges for all. But Bill would have some cash too, so we were covered and I didn't go into the detail.

Bill called again and said he was on track and fancied fish and chips which he could pick up on his way home, which worked, so job done. We ate and everyone settled into their groove (iPad, X Box, Have I Got News For You) and eldest, aged 16, went out to a Youth Club event which I picked her up from at 10.30pm. She was a young lady who was low on self-esteem, a bit oversize, not very outgoing, and not too good at turning herself out well. How was she going to make a good evening out of it? We could only hope for the best for her. She came home in silence.

Saturday morning came and I was setting off for the early morning supermarket run. I checked my purse and found a £10 note, a fiver and a couple of pounds in coins. I was expecting a £10 note in there and a £20 on the phone table, and five or eight pounds in coins.

I went to the phone table. Nothing. Where was the £20?

I made a cup of tea and went through everything. Did I place a £20 note by the phone for a pizza that never got ordered? Which someone nicked? £20 would barely cover the order.

Or. Did I never place the note, and screwed up my estimate of how much cash I had in the purse?

We talked about it between Bill and me, and aired the idea of leaving some money in a specific place and seeing if it vanished. We never did it. I'm so glad we never did it.

If I was on the rack I'd probably say I think it's most likely the teenager picked up the £20 note I put down as a starter for the pizza as she was going out. Too much temptation. Not fair on her. If she'd asked me for £20 to blow on 7Up and crisps for everybody in the YC, or maybe sneak out and score a very Big Mac order of fries with everything and share it round to make her look grand, I'd maybe have given her it.

We asked casually over Sunday lunch if anyone had any idea about a missing £20, and it was horrible, the awkwardness.  So Bill and I put it down to a good learning experience for us.


Then we turned the tables and wondered what it must be like for foster children coming into a home where they might think their foster carers' act like they aren't to be trusted. 

This would be a life far worse than having £20 nicked.

It's a life where you've already had every vestige of dignity nicked, and on top of your loneliness and being stuck in a strange place with strange people, they're locking away the cutlery and making you think they think you're a thief.

We now keep the same policy of being sensible about money that we've had since our own chidren were small. There's a pot in the kitchen for brown coins and fives and tens, you might find some twenty pence pieces in there, and once in a while a fifty pence or even a pound.

Sometimes there's a fiver or even a tenner left on the kitchen table for some reason.

We don't have anything locked away that would make a foster child feel we thought they were a crook. We don't have anything left laying around that we care about so much it would choke us if a child took it to a Cash for Stuff shop.

Bill has a watch that has sentimental value, it's always on his wrist anyway.

I went on a weekend course once where one of the training officers was a Buddhist. He talked about possessions and said "The only thing anyone could steal from me that would matter is my peace of mind".

Good advice for us carers.

But for children taken into care, their peace of mind has already been stolen. The thief is away with it. 

It's up to us to replace like with like. 

Or "New for old", as the insurers say.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Eldest foster child is still in bed with Sunday breakfast on the table.

Unusual. He loves his full English on a Sunday. I say 'full English', he's a No Tomatoes or Mushrooms lad. In other words normal. There's extra beans for anyone whose plate isn't full, the key to a good full English is that the plate is full. We have three sizes of plates so everyone gets an age-appropriate full English. I'm a No Black pudding type, unlike other half. So I guess we're normal all round.

Upstairs eldest foster child is still under the duvet, says he has a tummy ache.

A Sunday morning tummy ache.

In other words, a real tummy ache, perhaps.

A Sunday evening tummy ache is suspect. A Monday morning tummy ache is both suspect and normal.

A Saturday morning tummy ache is as rare as hen's teeth.

But a Sunday morning tummy ache.....?

If it was your own child you'd probably say, cheerfully "Oh well come downstairs and get stuck in and maybe it'll pass". They comply, end up running around laughing and you choose your moment to ask "How's the tummy?" and they shout "Fine!" as they run past.

I always exercise a bit more caution when looking after someone else's child.

I ask "Oh dear, whereabouts exactly?"

"When did you first notice it?"

"Is it an ache or a pain" "Is it constant or does it come and go?" "Have you been to the toilet this morning yet?"

There's reasons, I guess, why I'm a bit more cautious with a foster child.

One is that you don't know your foster child as well as your own. You can't take a risk. You get given certain details of the child's medical past, such as they are, but Blue Sky want to know any and every health issue that comes up when they're in your care, there's a section in the report form we fill in for the child. Common sense is everything.

Two is that in this case the doctor's surgery is closed. My fallback question from Monday to Friday is "Do you think we should go to the doctors?" Obviously if I reckoned there was a proper problem I'd decide myself. But mentioning the doctors usually gets a bit of momentum one way or the other.

By the way, I find foster children get a very good reception at the doctors, that is to say they are well treated. I don't know if it's policy, or just my surgery, but I only have to pick up the phone and say "My looked after child..." I once got an appointment for fifteen minutes after the time of my call. I don't think it's at anyone else's expense, they just don't take risks.

I ask if he felt alright last night.

He replies "Sort of..."

He'd been playing a computer game after dinner. I remembered he'd gone to bed a bit huffy.

I ask him "Did you have a bad time on your game last night?"

He replies "No!"

I ask "You going to play again today?"

He replies "Dunno." Then he adds "It's rubbish" We chatted, short sentences, lots of grunts.

Turns out he'd lost a few lives and some other online kid had called him "Rubbish".

Basically he's feeling a  bit worthless. He thinks the family might have got wind that he was rubbish. (They didn't, of course, how could they?) He's having a bout of low self-esteem.

I say"OK, I could bring you breakfast in bed if you're feeling a bit rough. Or... the thing is..."

He peeks out over the duvet.

"It's just that Bill's talking rubbish about the Chelsea match this afternoon."

"What's he saying?'

"He thinks Liverpool might win"

"No way" 

"You'd better tell him. He never listens to me"

He's downstairs in two minutes.

Bill's letting him win the arguement. Bill confides to me after breakfast the only way Liverpool will win is if Chelsea let them win.

Just for the record, I don't think the lad was fooled by the kiddology at all. He was comforted I spent time on his 'ailment', and sussed that if he came down, far from being thought of as a loser, Bill would let him be a winner. In front of the family, he would beat Bill hollow in a football argument.

I often notice that children who come into care haven't been given a chance to win many things. Makes me wonder whether some parents have such low self-exteem they need to beat their children in play, maybe even rub in in afterwards. If they play with them at all.

Enough to give anyone a tummy ache.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015


I had my medical a few weeks ago. Blue Sky pay for you to have an MOT, every three years as I remember.

You're in there with your GP getting your reflexes checked. They weigh you (ouch), and even check your height. They listen to your lungs, feel your tummy. You have to bring a urine sample. That sort of thing.

I find it a bit scary every time, just in case they find something, do you know what I mean?

But so far so good, touch wood.

In all my years I don't remember having a chat to a GP, not a chit-chat type chat.

For a medical, you get 20 minutes instead of the usual 7 minutes. 

I could tell that the doctor, a woman who I'd had before, nice girl, wanted to be nosey.

Everyone's nosey about fostering. Everyone. Every single person who finds out it's what you do.

As I sat down she looked at the form that Blue Sky had sent her, and I saw her face take on board the reason for the medical:

"Primary Foster Carer"

She led the conversion towards her curiosity by mentioning her two young children, who get on well, but squabble a bit. This was great! My GP is checking my health and fishing for tips about parenting. I did a bit of pontificating. Gave her my tip about finding activities for them which amount to competitions against the parents. If the children co-operate with each other, come up with strategies and work together, you make sure they win.

Five minutes later I'm on my back on the padded trestle thing and she's lifting my legs one by one.

"So how is fostering treating you...?"

"It's great"

She wanted details. Everyone does. It's a problem for us because you have to protect the child's privacy, but at the same time it feels rude to have to say the equivilant of 'mind your own business'. 

I told her it was hard work. Mainly for the brain and the heart. I told her it can get your concentration levels up. I told her a bit about a child who was with us a few years ago, who is well and happy now, and told her in a way that she could never get close to the child's identity. I even changed a couple of details. 

I told her it was the best thing I've ever done, and I wish I'd done it sooner.

"You're very well, and you seem very on top of things. However your blood pressure is a little on the high side."

I replied: "A foster carer who's well and happy but whose blood pressure is a bit up eh?"

Then I found myself saying something one of our foster children used to say. "No shit Sherlock"

We both had a good laugh out loud.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


The General Election. 

I'm not political but I'll vote. 

I'm indecisive too. In meetings, when there are general discussions, I find myself agreeing with whoever was the last person to speak.

I'll vote according to being a foster carer as much as anything else. I used to vote mainly as a parent, so education was important. But as a couple we also cared about what sort of world we wanted our children to grow up in.

So which party to put a cross next to?

Fostering work is in the public sector.  It's in the same boat as the NHS. Most people don't think it's as important, but I believe that at some point in the future fostering and mental health will get the budget they need, and be looked after within the good old NHS. Fostering is a preventative and a cure. 
If it was as simple as that I'd vote Labour without a second thought.

But my fostering agency, Blue Sky, is a private company. From the outside it's a bit like a BUPA or a private bus company. So privatisation must be the way to get things done. So it's Tory then?

Looked-after children need honesty and the truth. The child psychologist at Blue Sky once said to me, when I told him that I'd told a poor little foster child who was missing her mother that I was sure her mother loved her, that I was wrong to say that because the truth was that I didn't know that was true and that you should always tell the exact truth.

Blimey. Nigel Farage comes across as the one who tells truths more than the others.

The Greens want to build half a million social houses, if I heard right. That would be brilliant.

For some reason I'd be tempted to vote SNP or the Welsh lot, but they aren't putting anyone up round here.

Each side bangs on about their usuals.

The media has got obsessed with the question of which party will side with which once we get a hung parliament, with every party doing gymnastics to rule anything in or out. 

Plus, I've been around the block long enough to know that your own life is something for you to make the right vote about every minute of every day. The laws that come out of Westminster are just one of many factors in deciding how to live a good life.

If welfare is hit and the public sector cut, that will hurt fostering. It will hurt social workers who are stretched already. It will mean more children don't get the help they should. It will make fostering harder.

So that's a big one for me. 

Which party will be the safest in charge of fostering?

Although they would all say, if they were asked the question, that they are each the "natural party of fostering", I think I know which party's heart is most in it, so they will do for me.

Couple of other things, if the politicians want us to take more interest in politics why not hold the election on a Saturday when more people find it easier to get to the polling station and to stay up late and enjoy the shenanigans?

And. It's a pity the men - politicans and interviewers - all get so confrontational and hostile. They try to excuse themselves that it's because elecions are so 'crucial', and that it's 'passion' not anger and fear showing through. 


They are mostly closetted types with easy incomes and steady lives, they'll all be alright for a bite and a bed. 

Foster children have often been rescued from lives where the stakes were much higher than a white-collar career opportunity, and the anger and hositilty around them often spilled over into all sorts of mental and physical violence.

The low level listening skills,abscence of mitigations such as acknowedging the other person has a point, or is speaking a truth; these characteristics make general elecion debates no different from the average domestic.

I will vote, but I always think to myself on my way in "Maybe I shouldn't, it only encourages them to think I approve of them"