Groundhog Day…

21 06 2009

…well what I mean is, fostering is a little like Goundhog Day for us. Every time we get a new child we seem to live the same things over and over again: the same difficulties and solutions; the same successes – and sometime failures ; the same satisfaction when something goes right; the same stories and songs at bedtime… but everything just slightly different and with a new personality.

That’s partly due to the fact that we choose to foster toddlers – and boys only – all the time. So we are permanently stuck in the terrible 2’s (what’s so terrible about them anyway – I think they’re great fun and just a normal but important part of growing up).

My eldest son put it well: it’s a bit like Doctor Who – our foster children just regenerate into a different person every year or so. Underneath they’re basically the same -they just look and behave a little different.

This struck me just the other day at our youngest son’s sports day at school. There we were, chasing yet another foster child around the playing field, trying to stop him getting in the way of the events, stealing the football and generally running off to where he wasn’t meant to be. Whoa – deja vu! We’ve been here before – several times – but with one minor difference each time – a slightly different little boy. (Never seen my wife sprint so fast as when he disappeared around the corner of a classroom – well it made me laugh 🙂

We think we’re getting better at looking after this age group each time we go through it; we understand their needs a little more, know when a cuddle is required and when a telling off is in order, know what’s going to happen at reviews and hearings, know which health professionals to get involved at which stage, know how to deal with toddler behaviours.

Maybe one day we’ll get so clever that we’ll know how to stop it all happening in the first place?

Well we can dream…





We have contact!

16 06 2009

You know, the one thing I really didn’t expect before becoming a foster carer was the amount of contact we would have have with the child’s family. It’s a much bigger part of the job than most people realise. Keeping up the contact between the children we’ve fostered and their families has definitely been a big part of what we do.

I know our society tends to demonize the families of children in care – often for what seem like very compelling reasons too. But the thing that I’ve learned over the past few years is that these are real people with very complex needs and in very stressful situations. They need as much looking after as their children. Having a child taken away must be one of the most horrendous things that can happen to any parent and so we have to expect a confused range of emotions. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have my own child looked after by someone else – and I do it!

However, I’ve found it surprisingly rewarding, being able to pass on what parenting skills I have and things I’ve learned about their child, helping them towards getting back on their feet. Seeing a family get back together again feels like a real achievement, even if we only play one small part in it.

Of course there’s the logistical side of contact too, which can make me feel like a taxi driver at times. However, I probably was anyway – for my own kids; this is just one more.





Routine is a wonderful thing…

9 06 2009

…well it keeps me sane…

It’s amazing the difference a little routine can make to a child’s life. Often they come from such chaotic backgrounds that they don’t know what routine feels like.

When is the next meal? Is there another meal? When is bedtime – where will I sleep? What are we doing next? Will anyone talk to me and pay me some attention today?

It’s the one thing I find the most amazing about fostering! A little basic routine provides a child with stability, a feeling of safety and confidence, and within just a couple of weeks they start to flourish and begin to overcome whatever issues they came with. It’s one of the most rewarding things to see.

Mealtimes round the table together, regular bed and bath times, weekly visits to parks, soft play, toddlers groups; these are all things that make a big difference.

Even though we take this sort of routine for granted and it feels nothing special to us, it’s what a lot of children crave and just don’t have. It’s definitely one of the most important thing a foster carer has to offer.





It’s a family thing

6 06 2009

I liked the start of the article in the Guardian’s Down With The Kids column this weekend.

“With the birth of our third child last month, my wife and I now have more kids than pairs of hands. As a footballer friend pointed out, this means we must change tactics from man-to-man marking to zonal defence.”

The truth of fostering for us is that we’re all foster carers, all 5 of us. It’s not just Mum or Dad who are the foster carers, we all do our bit. And it’s been great for our own kids. They have all become much more responsible as a result and take it all very seriously. Imagine having civilised, mature, responsible teenagers 😉 Unheard of? We do!

You know, I think I’d actually recommend fostering just because of the benefits to my own family. Sure, there can be some downsides, but the family is definitely stronger, I think we talk about things more and we appreciate each other too. If they weren’t part of it then it wouldn’t work! It really is something to do as a family for us.





How do you give them back?

4 06 2009

That’s the number 1 question just about everyone asks us about fostering.

“Oh I could never foster because I’d never be able to hand them back. I’d get too attached to them.”

Yup – you definitely do get attached, it’s impossible not to, but I bet handing back isn’t as hard as you think. They generally either go back home or on to adoption/permanent foster care. Here’s why I think it’s not that hard:

  1. We’ve scored a goal: By the time it’s time to hand them back – or over to someone else – we’ve been working towards that for quite a while. By the time we achieve it there’s a sense of satisifaction and relief that it has all worked out.
  2. It was a team effort: We’ve been working towards it as part of a team and so (hopefully) we’re in agreement with it all.
  3. Lovely new family: This is really nice! If a child is going to adoption it’s great to see them with their new and enthusiastic family. Still very emotional though.
  4. Time to play Happy Families: Quite often fostering seems to be about giving a child’s family a little time to get themselves sorted out, so it’s really nice to see them all as a happy family again.
  5. Oh look, here’s another one: It’s never very long until we’ve got a new little person to look after and take our mind off things. They’ll have their own personality and challenges and we’ll have to focus all our attention and energies on them.
  6. They’re not ours anyway: I hope it doesn’t sound too harsh, but they aren’t! We know when they arrive that they’ll be going again at some point, and in my case (I’ve got 3 boys of my own) it’s really not like giving away my own kids.

Well that’s how it seems to me anyway. I hope it’s not a reason for not fostering.