Jo and Ste

Foster Carers will always tell you how rewarding fostering is.

People who admire Foster Carers will always tell you how rewarding fostering must be.

These people are all correct, but usually, these rewards are reaped way down the road of your fostering journey.

If you think in fostering you will witness daily rewards, you really may not.  It may even be the fact that you find yourself having to steal the smallest of victories from each day, just to keep you assured that things are all moving in the right direction.  For us during one placement, a daily victory was if the child had stayed in school for a full day.  It may have been the case that while he was there his behaviour was absolutely shocking, but if he physically stayed in the building without being excluded or choosing to run off, then we had to take the positive.

Another joy for us was when the child in question offered to help pick up our dog’s poo when we were out on a family dog-walk, having up until that point insisted that “they did nothing for no-one”.  It comes to something when a bag of dog muck is your trophy for the day.

I never said it would be glamourous.

The children in your care will unlikely be grateful to you for what you’re doing and what you’ve sacrificed to do it; certainly not in the early days, anyway.  They don’t know you, and they won’t trust you.  That’s a good thing though, because why should they?  They need to protect themselves.  You’re not their parent, and in their heads they see you as the person to blame for the very fact that they’re not curled up on the sofa with said parent right now.  You’re never going to get a reward from anybody who fires so much anger and upset at you.  There’s time, though.

The biggest skill a Foster Carer will need in order to overcome all of this is to bond with the new addition to their home.  This is easier said than done, because sometimes you may even find that it’s a real struggle to find things to even like about the child in your care.  That sounds horrible, but it’s absolutely true.  It could be weeks or months before you gel with any kind of redeeming feature, but the day you do – that’s a reward in itself.

Keep going.  If your child is alive, clothed, being fed and sleeping in a warm bed every night, you’re doing a fantastic job that one day, you’ll be rewarded for.

Jo and Ste

Fostering children is a lot different to having your own children.  There is a lot more paperwork for a start, and you’ll be ‘invited’ to more meetings than you have the time, energy or patience for.

A service called Children’s Rights called me a few weeks ago, and jovially asked me if it was okay to “pop round” to speak with the child in my care who had kicked my door down and run off for three hours the night before.  I had just got the child settled, and these strangers wanted to come out to have a meeting to ask him all about it.  With the kind of child we had, this was going to be inflammatory to say the least, and after the “popping” round was done, I knew it would only be me left in that house to deal with the aftermath.  I had no issue whatsoever in telling this super-happy creature on the phone that it was a ridiculous idea and, unless she was going to stay with me to deal with the outburst that this child-social worker interface was going to provoke, she could sod off.

When I called our Agency to have a bit of a moan about this unwelcomed interference, they told me such a meeting was quite standard, but admittedly the timing and planning was fairly poor.

Owing to the sheer amount of meetings I’ve needed to attend, calls I’ve had to make and reports I’ve been required to complete, I’ve pretty much had to shelve work while fostering.  Even on the days I’ve been free, if my kid had – or was likely to have – a bad day, I couldn’t concentrate.  As a result, in the random one-hour bursts of time I knew I’d definitely be ‘free’, I felt almost forced to act and therefore became the most productive I had ever been in my life.

Parking tickets (don’t judge) – paid!

Dry cleaning from eight months ago – collected!

Car – washed!

Charity bags – removed from boot of the car after a year and donated!

Tax Return – done!

Response to the client at work who’s been doing my head in – executed (response, not client)!

It felt good.  Admittedly, none of these things are massive, and I’m certainly not going to be expecting praise or any kind of jealousy at my ‘achievements’, but they are things that in a busy working life we all put off, and they all build up to mess, cost and inconvenience in some way shape or form eventually.  I have to take pride in having done them, because I felt in control – which is a feeling much-needed considering that, in fostering, pretty much all of the control goes to someone who neither has to neither raise said child nor share a house with them.

I’m not advocating to anybody that you should deal with such professionals in the way I did as documented at the start of this blog, but sometimes you need to take stock and not be afraid to say that a date or meeting doesn’t work for you.  Everyone involved in this process is busy, but it’s only you who has the workload 24 hours a day, so don’t be afraid to be the one to step up and tell others if you simply don’t have time or arrangements in place in order to sit down in that boardroom.  Whether you need the time for your child, your health or your sanity, take it where you can.

Jo and Ste

Last year, I wrote a blog about those nerve-wracking feelings and experiences when you meet your foster child for the first time.  I appreciate that not all Foster Carers get the opportunity to meet their children prior to placement, such is the urgency of many case requirements, but when you do get the opportunity, and that child comes to you for tea for the first time, it’s a stressful feeling.

I thought in this case then, that it may be an idea to write about how our one of our first meetings actually panned out with a child Capstone wanted to place in our home.  It was an eventful and informative five hours, and it went something like this:

Social worker and child arrive an hour early – Watsons in chaos.

Child refuses to come into the house – Watsons accept they are going to be awful at fostering.

Dog escapes into street mid-confusion – Watsons grovel to neighbours about state of flowerbeds.

Husband glances at freshly prepped fajitas and reveals he no longer eats chicken – Watsons resist argument until next alone.

Child makes a comment about “robbing the house” – Watsons pray it’s a nervous joke.

Dog breaks tension by stealing peppers from the table – Watsons forgive dog for previous neighbourhood carnage.

Child sulks at being snubbed by the cat – Watsons try to pacify the child.

Cat sulks at being ousted by the child – Watsons try to pacify the cat.

Child disappears to the bathroom – Watsons fear death and/or destruction in moment of absence.

Clock strikes 6.30pm – Watsons wonder if this has been the longest two hours of their lives to date.

Child states he’s going out for a cigarette – Watsons remind child he’s a child.

Husband strikes up conversation about smoking – Watsons unite in setting out ground rules.

Child questions the ground rules – Watsons unite in reiterating the ground rules.

Dog steals limelight by vomiting – Watsons wonder why bad things happen to good people.

Child asks Watsons questions – Watsons try hard to be honest but brief.

Watsons ask child questions – Watsons try hard to be non-judgemental.

Child talks about an argument he’s had with his brother – Watsons try to remember if a brother was mentioned in the paperwork?

Husband shows child around the house to their room – Watsons panic that the child will hate it.

Child says he loves it – Watsons relax for the first time all evening.

Dog appears at the door and cat jumps onto the bed – Watsons realise they may have a shot at being good foster family after all.

Jo and Ste

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