We’ve only ever fostered one baby.
He was a smiley little chap with absolutely no fear of strangers.
His apparent joy at being held and cuddled by absolutely anyone, whilst endearing, was in fact a sign of concern.
He had no ‘Primary Attachment’, no sense of ‘Stranger Danger’.
He’d been passed from pillar to post, or more accurately, he’d been left in the care of so many people, that he did not differentiate between adults.
He didn’t sleep for more than 40 minutes at a time.
To say this was gruelling was an understatement, especially as we had two other Primary Aged children in the house, I was a full time teacher, and my wife was working part time for the Council.
We were only ever ‘temporary’ and our Social Worker explained that I should take him to a Nursery a few miles from our home and hand him over.
The Nursery was expecting him.
My tiredness perhaps disguised the tears in my eyes as I handed him over to a Nursery Nurse.
I knew we couldn’t look after him, but I knew he’d definitely been safe with us, if only for a few days.
I didn’t know where the Care System would take him next, but I prayed and hoped he’d find a forever home.
I went to work, taught for six hours, went home, and went to bed.
We found ourselves ‘in between placements’ and thought we’d enjoy a few days calm before we got ready ‘to go again’.
I was therefore somewhat surprised to see our Social Worker’s car outside our house when I came home from work a few days later.
Our Social Worker was chatting to my wife in the kitchen.
Snuggled in her arms was the very same baby.
“Birth Mum was meant to pick him up from nursery but she hasn’t turned up and we can’t find her.
I knew you had the cot, the bottles and the other stuff….Could you just manage one more night until we sort something else out?”
It was 6.30pm.
Clearly we were the most obvious option for this 9 month old.
However, I did express my exasperation at ‘Birth Mum’.
“What kind of an irresponsible, feckless, selfish idiot doesn’t bother to pick up their kid from nursery?”
Our Social Worker nodded, empathised, paused and then explained;
“Birth Mum is 13.”
13 is young to be a Mum.
My Maths and Biology O Levels told me she’d given birth aged 12.
Birth Mum was also in Care herself, although she’d gone missing.
We were told no more, but Mum was clearly a very vulnerable child and very much a victim herself.
Some birth parents commit unbelievable acts of violence and abuse on their children.
Some are just incapable of caring to an acceptable standard, and are more incompetent than malicious.
Most are somewhere in between the two.
A vicious cycle is created as generations of poorly cared for children became poorly equipped parents.
Breaking this cycle falls to The Care System, specifically Foster Carers and Adopters.
I am in a constant emotional battle with my attitude towards Birth Parents.
We had a kid who had contact with Birth Parents twice a week and, at first, this provided a little oasis of respite for us.
However, the ‘contact book’, by which we communicated became a passive/aggressive battle about the length of his hair and why he said ‘what’ instead of ‘pardon’.
The request for him to bring a ‘Mother’s Day’ card the following week was particularly galling.
Meeting his Birth Family caused him so much emotional turmoil that the ‘post contact kick offs’ made us dread those days.
I found myself resenting the Birth Parents.
The resentment gnawed away at me.
I’d never met these people but I lived with the consequences of their behaviour.
I felt like we were paying the price for the sins of others, and to a large extent we were.
We were absorbing the hate, the anger and the terror that we did not inflict.
I think it’s perfectly understandable and even reasonable for us to resent Birth Parents.
However, it does us no good.
And it doesn’t help the kids in our care.
Behind every kid in care is an individual tale of misery.
On good days, I try to forgive these people who I have never met.
On most days, I just try not to think about them too much.
On some days, I wonder about their life story and what it must be like to lose a child to the Care System.
Harbouring resentment and hatred is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to get ill.