Thursday, January 07, 2016


Fostering isn't only about looking after other people's children until they are able to do it themselves.

It brings other things into your life when people find out what you do.

Early in the holiday period a member of my family asked me for help. He isn't someone I'd describe as close, but he's visited our house a couple of times - for family gatherings - since we started fostering. He's middle-aged, single, and has lived with his mum all his life. She's just been taken into care after being ill for a year.

He sounded quite distraught on the phone and said "I'm in a bad way". He said he was frightened to talk to anybody else, even his doctor. I invited him over.

We took him to hospital as one of his physical symptoms was chest pains. When he came out we got him to our GP who gave him some valium. Even took him to a Chinese doctor, who was very helpful too.

Christmas Day came, there was no way he should spend it alone in his mum's bungalow, so he came over. Ended up coming over every day until New Year. We told the children that "Uncle Brian has had a hard time lately and needs cheering up, it's what Christmas is all about".

On Christmas Day the phone rang; we do rounds of calls to people who are too dear to send Christmas cards to, but this wasn't one of those, this was Helga, an old friend who lives in London. She was Christmassing in France with her French partner and their seven year old son. She wanted someone to talk to about something, didn't want her family or friends to know.

Her partner has been having an affair and she's had enough. Been going on for at least two years, she'd suspected almost straight away. Who needs to overnight in Leeds when the meeting ended at five? Why does he really need two mobile phones, one of which is fingerprint protected for "classified business communiques"?

Anyway, it's come to a head and they're splitting. She was in bits and needed to cry down the phone to someone. She'd visited us a few times and seen a bit of what goes into fostering.

So I let her talk and weep, no problem; except I've got a family Christmas to organise for a foster family including Romeo, the new arrival.

Plus there's Uncle Brian on the sofa, party hat on the side of his head, who mustn't forget to take his valium.

I've noticed this a lot about fostering. It's down to the word "Carer". Friends and family figure that you're a caring sort and maybe even think that you enjoy helping other people. I've had parents come up to me in the playground and tell me their problems. I try not to give advice, they just want to talk to someone who's discreet and...cares.

I'm no different from who I was before fostering, I'm not qualified in any kind of counselling or Samaritan-type work. I've attended some enjoyable training sessions at Blue Sky, but frankly I doubt I'm much cop at it, except they often come back for more.

The important thing, I remember from training, is not to say much, but listen, and show you're listening.

I think there are more people looking for this kind of help in our society than ever before.

And, just like we assume that someone in a track suit is fit and that a taxi driver will know how to give directions, plenty of folk guess that someone who fosters is a better bet for a kindly ear than most.

I just hope they don't think we've got a magic wand.

Mind, Uncle Brian is on the mend, and Helga's giving her man another chance.

And the foster children? They saw with their own eyes they weren't the only ones with problems, that its healthy to care about family and friends, that giving is more enjoyable than getting, and that giving takes many forms.

Who do I offload on?

My Blue Sky social worker is due her visit in a couple of days, there will be many boilings of the kettle.


  1. Just quick post waiting for the PC to start up at work. It sounds like you had a lot of people leaning on you over christmas. I hope your Social Worker is able to provide you with equal support. And I hope this blog gives you an outlet too.

    You hit the nail on the head with "listen, and show you're listening" being a key point. Active listening is a real skill - especially when people want to vent at you its so temptign to just glance at your phone out, watch TV from the corner of your eye etc. You must have a real knack for it. My mom is far better at it than I am, she say you have two ears & one mouth so you can listen at least twice as much as you talk. I think you can probably relate to that.

    I hope you ca take sometime for yourself now we're into 2016. Even if just a nice bath without anyone knocking on the door!


  2. Thanks Mooglet, my laptop is creaky since I started storing stuff on the desktop.
    It was a strange Christmas (fostering Christmasses are always a bit different), but very rewarding.
    Listening is so important isn't it; so much more than just hearing. The Chinese doctor I took Brian to asked to speak to him on the phone when I booked his appointment. She told me while I was waiting (he had acupuncture) that in Chinese medicine diagnosis begins by listening to the depth and quality of the patient's voice, and she started work by asking him for his details and listening to how he said his name and address!
    ps I don't mind someone knocking on the door is they're bringing a cup of tea or even something better...