Support networks: It takes a village to raise a child, and, ideally a dog!

I think this a labradoodle. The human is our daughter.

We haven’t got a dog.

But some of our best friends have.

The dog is called Maisie.

Her owners live around the corner and we’ve known them since our kids all went to the same local playgroup as toddlers.

We asked these friends if they’d be part of our Support Network when we started to foster.

They agreed even though none of us really knew what it would entail.

Our Assessing Social Worker went to visit them and we were all delighted to discover that they did not have a criminal record.

What do they do to support us?

Well, they do normal stuff that everyone does but they sometimes take a foster kid along.

They walk their dog, they go to the cinema, they feed the ducks, they get a Take Away, they dig in their allotment and sometimes they wash their car.  And sometimes, they have a foster kid helping.

It’s not actually massively complicated, but they’re very very good at it.

Maisie the dog, and her owners, have provided countless hours of therapy for kids who believe, with good reason, that everyone and everything is dangerous.

Hanging about, doing normal stuff, is healing.

We don’t live near our own families, but we visit them at Christmas and Easter and sometimes go on holiday with them.

We generally take our foster kids along.

We’ve usually mentioned this in advance and it says something about the wonderful flexibility of our parents and siblings that they’ve gone along with the whole thing.

I suspect, if pressured, they would say they’ve been slightly nervous about meeting a new foster kid.

I think many adults want kids to be happy, and if they have any streak of altruism, they want a foster kid to be happy.

I think many Kids in Care know they come with a reputation, whether it’s deserved or not.

Some adults are scared of them.

Some adults want to help them.

Some adults want the kid to really like them.

Most adults are a combination of all three.

This little kid is holding my Mum and Dad’s hands. He’d been with us about six months and had learnt to trust them and feel safe.

There has been the occasional tension.

Allowing a Foster Kid to eat Spaghetti Hoops for Christmas Dinner and not using traditional parenting techniques when he tippexes your mother’s laptop needs some explaining.

Watching him smash a birthday present to sh*t with a hammer is moderately embarrassing, even though you know his hatred is aimed at himself rather than ‘foster granddad’ or the phone itself.

Explain as much as you can.

Take your family and friends on the journey, telling them what you think they need to know.

Mischpoke is my favourite Yiddish word. What’s yours?

The ‘hellos’ can be unnerving but don’t forget that everyone mourns when a child says ‘goodbye’.

It takes a village to raise a child. Our family and friends have become that village.

I think most Foster Kids have very good reasons for not trusting people. Our family and friends have shown them that many many people are good.

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Birth parent, Foster Carer, Adopter and Recruiter of Foster Carers for Liverpool City Council

2 thoughts on “Support networks: It takes a village to raise a child, and, ideally a dog!”

  1. Another great piece Phil – I have to say that without a supportive ‘village’ forming a support network around you, fostering effectively would be virtually impossible. Our friends and family have been invaluable to us – as you said by letting a kid tag along when they did ‘normal’ stuff, but in the case of one particular friend, by moving into our house overnight to allow us to stay in a travelogue somewhere and maybe have a child free meal to recharge our batteries – something our own grown up sons have taken over in recent years. We love our version of that ‘village – it works for us!


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