How many kids have you fostered?

I miss Granstand’s Viddy Printer. If a score was ridiculously improbable, the BBC would confirm by writing it out in full:- Crystal Palace 0 Brighton 9 (nine).

I often sense disappointment when I tell people we’ve fostered the grand total of 7 (seven) children.

Large numbers sound so much more impressive.

I’ve stopped giving the number of kids.

Instead I give the following data:-

4 days and nights

2 days and nights

4 hours

465 days and nights

6 days and nights

186 days and nights

2860 days and nights, plus how ever many days and nights it’s been since I wrote this blog.

There are lots of different types of fostering:-

Emergency

Short Term (also known as Part Time)

Respite

Short Break

Long Term

Our Little Man is in the ‘More or Less Forever Category’.

The kid on the left came on a Short Term basis ‘to see how it goes’. Nearly 8 years later, he’s still here and not going anywhere, anytime soon.

Celebrate everything! Self Esteem needs to be built, brick by brick.

“He’s doing very well. He’s genial and has a great sense of humour”. I knew all those hours watching Porridge wouldn’t be wasted.

My own school reports were not always entirely positive.

Back in the 1970s, ‘praise’ was a rare commodity and the great British understatement reigned supreme.

“Not bad” was about as good as it ever got, although ‘not as annoying as your brother’ came a close second.

It was our Little Man’s Parent’s Evening.

Perhaps because he’s autistic, and definitely because he’s 14, the Little Man does not tell us much about what happens at school.

We know the names of some of his classmates and we know that ‘Sir’ is generally regarded as the source of all wisdom and knowledge.

We know he’s highly unlikely to do GCSES anytime soon, and we’re currently not saving up for him to go to University.*

More importantly for us, he goes to school willingly and fairly cheerfully.

We occasionally get some grumpiness and a smidgen of swearing in the morning, but it’s usually aimed at the unaccountable disappearance of his school shoes or his school bag, rather than us.

He’s neither at the top, nor at the bottom of his class in any particular subject or area.

In 1980, Kool and the Gang encouraged us to celebrate. We take their advice whenever we can.

He’s at his happiest doing Design and Technology or completing a project on an iPad.

His teachers don’t ignore what he can’t do easily.

He knows a little bit about the correct placement of apostrophes, and is aware that triangles, circles and squares all have an ‘area’.

Praising a traumatised kid is like chucking bricks into Loch Ness. It can look like absolutely nothing is happening for ages and ages, but eventually you’ll break the surface tension.

More importantly, his teachers find the things he’s good at.

They know the key to learning is building his self esteem.

They know he struggles with public praise, or in fact anything that brings him attention, but with a quiet word, a facial expression or an understated thumbs up, they tell him ‘well done’.

Self esteem is rarely, if ever, innate.

It must be built, brick by brick.

If a child has experienced trauma, and being removed from birth parents is trauma regardless of any other Adverse Childhood Experiences, self esteem is likely to be low or non-existent.

Naches: A Yiddish word meaning you’re happy and proud, especially of someone’s accomplishments.

Academic qualifications are useful, but believing yourself to be ‘valuable’ is vital if you are to successfully negotiate life.

Everyone is valuable, because they are.

*I think Looked after Children are exempt from University fees. I don’t think this is true for adopted kids.

Father’s Day: You don’t have to be related by blood…

When I was a kid, I thought my Dad played for QPR. He went off every Saturday afternoon, returning for tea and giving us a full match report. In fact, he was a local solicitor specialising in Conveyancing.

When we’re out and about our Little Man calls me Dad.

At home he calls me ‘Phil’.

When we went to France on holiday, he called me Philippe.

If we have croissants for breakfast on a Sunday, he reverts back to Philippe.

He thinks this is hilarious.

You don’t have to be a psychologist to work out his motivation.

He calls me by the name that brings him the least social attention, and the name with which he feels most comfortable.

I’m fine with all these names.

‘Phil, you’re the best Dad I’ve ever had. The others have been crap’. It’s a compliment but also belies a complicated mix of emotions. This kid’s spelling did improve.

This particular kid has had a variety of fathers, and father figures.

We have created a variety of terminology to differentiate between them.

We use variations of Dad, birth Dad, Foster Dad and first names.

We don’t tend to say ‘real Dad’ and never say ‘proper Dad’.

That just seems too disrespectful to too many people.

What’s more, we are all painfully aware that ‘You’re not my real Dad’ is the equivalent of the ‘Nuclear Option’ in our household.

“You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my real Dad!” Vitriolic anger is camouflage for pain and hurt.

Occasionally, it’s a button that has been pressed.

I don’t know a Foster Dad or Adopter Dad who hasn’t had his authority, status and role challenged in this way.

Just like in a nuclear war, everyone loses when the button is pressed.

Pointing out that I’m not ‘Real Dad‘ is not just an attack on me, but also an act of self harm.

Pointing out that ‘Real Dad’ is absent is like picking away at a wound, that even in the most improved circumstances, may never fully heal.

There are many reasons why kids go into care.

Parents may have passed away or be ill.

Parents may have mental health issues.

Parents may deemed not sufficiently competent to look after children.

Parents may have issues with drugs and alcohol.

Parents may be  violent and malicious.

When your Dad has been deemed incapable of looking after you, or has absented himself, it’s very hard to be proud of him, or big him up in the playground.

Our Card Industry exists to make a profit. Increasingly, their products reflect the realties of our modern world.

A kid we fostered recently tracked me down on Instagram.

Now 19 and at University, he lived with us when he was 10.

I don’t think he’d ever had any relationship with his biological father.

Whilst with us, he and I played copious amounts of football, swing ball and table tennis.

We also watched a lot of sport.

I convinced him that Fernando Torres was not a bad person even if his best football days were behind him.

I taught him how to make a cheese and bean toastie.

I explained to him the necessity of accuracy when using the toilet.

A message from a former Foster Kid who tracked us down on Instagram. Yeah, I cried.

Perhaps most importantly, I showed him that you don’t have to be related by blood to share your home, your time and your love.

How ever you got your Dad, and whoever you’re fathering, have a great Father’s Day.

When did you leave home?

My Mum and Dad moved into ‘Number 59’ in 1975. They still live there. When my brother and I return, we revert to the immature squabbling morons we were as kids. He’s now a vicar.

I first tried to leave my family home when I was 18.

After travelling around the continent for four months, I returned.

I’d run out of money and clean socks.

This proved to be a familiar pattern over the next few years.

I left home again when I went to University aged 19.

Ten weeks later, I returned for Christmas, cash and the chance to recline on a reasonably comfortable sofa.

By 23, I was beginning to get Council Tax bills sent to my own address, and had signed on with a doctor who hadn’t known me as a schoolboy.

I was nearly independent and teetering on being a grown up.

But I still talk of ‘driving home for Christmas’ at the tender age of 51.

My first car was a Vauxhall Astra like this one. I bought it cheap off my brother. He’d bought it cheap off our Grandad. I don’t know where he got it from but he was registered blind for the last ten years of his life so it had done a low mileage.

Our daughter is 19.

We’re helping her buy her first flat and have spent the last few days introducing her to the wonders of IKEA flat pack and how to manage her own bins.

Her younger brothers, like hyenas around a wounded wilder-beast, have begun to eye up her bedroom.

She’s the oldest, so her bedroom is the biggest.

Everyone understands this inalienable law.

Of course her brothers are now claiming that she’s left and has thus surrendered all rights.

She’s not going down without a fight, and negotiations about her occupying the ‘box room and part of the loft’ are currently ongoing.

My wife wants this box room as an office so she can work from home.

Most of us eventually leave home, and set up a household of our own.

According to Google, the average age in the UK for an adult to fully leave home is 25.

I suspect for many of us, this is a gradual journey and may involve quite a lot of toing and froing.

I suspect many of us will be helped out with all sorts of practical, financial and emotional support.

Maybe our Mum and Dads put down a deposit or guaranteed the rent.

Maybe we were given a bit of furniture or had help with some decorating.

Even with the World Wide Web at our fingertips, many of us still defer to aged and sage relatives for sensible domestic advice about carpet purchase and ‘where the stop cock’ may be.

If you and your partner can successfully assemble a Flat Pack without an argument, the rest of your life will be a breeze.

If you’ve grown up in care, you may well not be able to recognise your own experience in this blog.

‘Foster kids don’t leave care, care leaves them’.

I don’t know who first said this, but it does seem to sum up the situation.

There are a couple of big assumption in Chris Rea’s seasonal hit.

If you’re a Foster Carer, you may be nodding whilst simultaneously shrugging.

For many Foster Carers, fostering is their passion but also their profession.

Caring for a child is how they earn their living. Their spare room is an asset that helps them keep the roof over the rest of the house.

Some Foster Carers simply cannot afford to support a young person for whom they get no remuneration, even if they want to.

Our Little Man is not just eyeing up his sister’s recently vacated bedroom.

He’s impressed that she now has her own flat where she can do what she wants, when she wants and with whom she wants.

‘Will this be my flat when I’m 19?’

It’s not an unreasonable question.

Around 10,000 young people in England age out of the care system every year on their 18th birthday.

Do you stay in touch with the foster kids after they’ve left you?

Football is a common language spoken the whole world over.

Fostering Chelsea fans will have clear memories of that great night in 2012, when London’s finest won the Champions League with a superb Didier Drogba penalty.

I was watching the game with my son and a 10 year old foster child.

He wasn’t English, but he did claim to be widely travelled.

He’d been to a variety of Eastern European countries, Norway, and Gulliver’s World of Adventures.

I tried to explain, that though very exciting, Gulliver’s World didn’t actually constitute a sovereign Nation State.

He begged to differ.

We decided not to fall out over such trivialities.

For various reasons, he left our home.

We had a goodbye tea at his preferred restaurant, a local Maccies.

As a goodbye gift, I gave him a Chelsea Fernando Torres shirt.

For a short while we kept in contact, and then, eventually, we heard no more.

This is not unusual.

Foster Carers have no right to be informed about what happens to the kids we look after.

They’re not ours.

Occasionally, events would trigger memories of this young boy; mentions of his home country in the news, passing the same Maccies, or mentions of Gulliver’s World.

Tonight, on May 29th, Chelsea won the Champions League for the second time.

My thoughts went back to that evening in 2012, and for just a brief moment I wondered where he was.

Somewhere in Eastern Europe, a 19 year old was thinking the same thing.

I know Social Media can be an absolute PITA, but our foster child, now a 19 year old, used Instagram to track us down.

His message was short, simple and beautiful

‘Hi, I remember you. We watched the Chelsea win Final in 2012. It’s great to win it again. Thank you for what your family did x’

I don’t know if other Carers have had similar messages.

We’ve never had anything quite like it.

We may never get anything like it again.

It’s great to know he’s alive and thriving.

When we foster, we only know our part of the story.

If you are someone who needs to know ‘what happens in the end’, you will have to watch football matches or Disney films.

Grief – it’s the price we pay.

“A life without struggle, is a life without colour”. You will grieve one way or another. You will grieve sooner or later.

We didn’t hug Him.

He still didn’t like physical affection, even though he’d learnt to trust us.

We knew this day was about Him.

We didn’t exactly know what He would be feeling but we knew He’d be struggling.

We all were.

I don’t know what you’re supposed to feel and how you’re supposed to react when you go and live with a new family.

We’d fostered this Little Kid for 15 months.

He’d arrived aged 3 years 7 months and was ‘toilet trained, a good sleeper, doesn’t say much’.

His adoption has been a few months in the paperwork and the planning. He’d had two weeks of introductions to His new family, and had already had a sleep over in His new home.

Today He was moving to their home, or rather to His home, for good.

We’d got on pretty well with his adoptive parents and we thought we’d probably be able to keep some contact with them.

This ball however, was entirely in their court, and we knew we may never see the Little Kid again.

It was a Tuesday.

Our front door closed and the Social Worker drove Him away.

We watched them disappear and burst into tears.

It was like a funeral and a birth all rolled into one.

I went to work.

Our birth kids went to school.

My wife went to work.

I guess there was a spare seat in his Reception Class where He’d been sitting for a term.

‘Say hello, wave goodbye’. My favourite Soft Cell song is their cover version of Tainted Love.

I remember the next few days were ones of relief.

The transition to adoption had gone as smoothly as it can, but it’s still a tense time.

We were all physically and emotionally exhausted.

Dealing with such exhaustion is relatively easy.

We relaxed.

We slept, we went to the cinema, we ordered take away, we watched TV.

We watched whatever we wanted on TV.

This was an exciting novelty, although I did once find myself watching Peppa Pig just out of habit.

We went to bed knowing we would not be interrupted by a distressed child in the middle of the night.

When a Foster Kid moves on, you can do whatever you want, more or less.

We knew we’d done a good job, and that gave us a sense of pride.

A few weeks later, we rang our Social Worker and said that we were available to foster again.

We had redecorated the Foster Room.

We were rested and relaxed

I thought I had recovered.

6 months later the grief hit me.

A few other tricky things were going on.

There was some stress at work, I had  a couple of minor health issues, and it seemed to be constantly raining.

Normally, I’d be able to deal with all these things.

This time I couldn’t.

I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t eat.

I’m a middle aged, middle class man, who has bumbled through life quite happily.

I did not know what I was experiencing, and certainly did not have the vocabulary to describe it.

My wife is cleverer than me.

She got me to talk.

I talked to her and I talked to a couple of close, wise friends, who just listened.

I began  to explore what I was feeling.

I went to the parks I’d been to with the Little Kid.

I watched the programmes I’d watched with the Little Kid.

I made a Playlist of the songs that reminded me of him.

I did some crying.

I like music, any kind of music. Every kid we’ve fostered has a Playlist. The songs help me remember, help me explore my feelings, and help me grieve.

I looked at photos.

I did a bit more crying.

I began to write down a little bit about what I was feeling.

Some of those writings turned into blogs.

I write my Blogs as a way of processing my feelings. Sometimes people read them . Occasionally people tell me they like them. That’s a bonus.

You’ll grieve one way or another.

You’ll grieve sooner or you’ll grieve later.

Not every Foster Kid has impacted me like that one.

But he certainly left the biggest imprint.

That Kid is happy, healthy and thriving in a loving home.

It was worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fostering – is it worth it?

We’ve got a Washing Machine and a separate Dryer.

That’s how posh we are.

They are in what we call The Utility Room.

In The Utility Room, there’s a cupboard full of cleaning stuff, a fairly redundant ironing board, a sink, and a toilet.

Once, one of our Foster Kids went to the toilet.

That’s not that unusual.

What was a bit unusual was he decided  to remove the detergent dispenser from the washing machine and smear his pooh in it, around it and sort of all over it.

Smearing is not that uncommon.

You can learn about it on Foster Carer courses.

However, cleaning smearing is generally not covered, and you’re left to work it out yourself, using whatever comes to hand.

In this case, my hand was the most suitable tool.

The typical Washing Machine has many nooks and crannies.

Only human fingers can really get pooh out of a Washing Machine’s nooks and crannies.

I’d say the excrement was still warm, just below body temperature.

My other blogs will give you an insight into some of the other highs and lows we’ve experienced over the last ten years or so.

On some days, I absolutely cannot believe we have wilfully and deliberately chosen to do this.

The emotional rollercoaster can be both terrifying and exhausting.

I don’t go on Rollercoasters. I get all the adrenaline I need from doing the school run.

There can be aggression, violence, destruction and allegations.

You will be tested.

On other days, I cannot believe the difference we have made to the lives of the children we have fostered.

I once read an article written by a Palliative Nurse.

On retirement she reflected on what she’d learnt from the dying people she’d cared for.

She thought younger people tended to do things they perhaps regretted.

They got drunk, and filmed themselves kissing road cones.

They hurt people needlessly or made career or relationship mistakes.

However on people’s death beds, the Nurse noticed that people regretted the things that they hadn’t done.

They regretted the decisions they had avoided making and the risks they hadn’t taken.

I was walking to the park with a kid. He’d been in and out of care for most of his life. Our home was the most permanent he’d ever known. Out of apparently nowhere, he began to talk.

“Phil, when I am old and you are very very old, what will my kids call you?”

This was a very unusual direction of conversation.

This kid usually lived absolutely in the moment and rarely thought of anything other than ‘now’.

I considered for a moment and we began to discuss possibilities.

“Uncle Phil, Mr Phil, Old Phil….Grandad…”.

We didn’t reach a conclusion but both agreed we would raise the issue again, at a later date.

Lots of little differences add up to make very very big ones, sometimes.

Every day that child is with us he is safe.

This is an improvement on the early years of his life.

By some criteria, he is even beginning to thrive.

He can make toasted sandwiches, put on his own shoes, and find his way to Home and Bargain when he wants to buy sweets and noodles.

Without my family’s decision to foster that might never have happened.

It seems quite likely that we will always be in each other’s lives.

There’s no end to what we might teach each other.

If things follow the natural order, one day, he might go to my funeral.

He might bring his family and his kids.

Perhaps there are people not yet born, who will benefit from our decision to be a family to a kid who didn’t have one.

Heather Smalls once asked me ‘What have you done today, to make you feel proud?’ ‘I’ve looked after a kid’ was my best answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can religious people foster?

My Mum and Dad took me and my brother to Sunday School when we were kids.

I don’t remember ever not knowing the other kids and the other families at our local church. They have always been part of my life.

I liked going to Church when I was a teenager. I was interested in metaphysical debate and girls. In the 1980s, our local Church provided both.

As kids, we sang songs.

We coloured in.

We listened to stories.

Some of us had parents in the grown up Church.

Some of us were dropped off by parents who went to play golf or to read the paper.

We learnt about Joseph, David, Goliath, Noah, Esther, Christmas and Easter, and that the answer to most questions was ‘Jesus’.

Some of us lived in the same streets, some of us went to the same schools, and most of us went to the same parties.

As we got older, we went out on our bikes and met at the park.

As we became teenagers we explored alcohol and occasionally snogged each other.

Some of us believed what we were taught and became Christians.

Some of us rejected what we were taught and then rediscovered faith at a later age.

Some of us enjoyed the social side and now have nothing to do with any organised or disorganised religion. We probably just celebrate Christmas and eat an egg at Easter.

Many of us are still friends today.

I’m in a Whattsapp group with people I first met in a Church setting. Our friendships have lasted over 50 years.

Mischpoche is a wonderful Yiddish word. It kind of means ‘your family, friends and anyone who has access to your fridge’.

Occasionally we meet up, even though we are scattered across the globe.

Our parents are all ageing now and some have passed away, but many of them provided a community of aunts and uncles for me and my pals.

As a child and a teenager, my Auntie Sue and Uncle Alan (no blood relation) always had the kettle on and always offered cake.

Uncle Guy, Auntie Di, Auntie Eva, Tim, Janice, Pete and Anne, and a lovely old bloke called Frank, all played a formative role in our young lives.

Auntie Brenda ran the tuck shop on a Friday night.

Ken and Margaret still offer us wisdom today, even though many of us are the wrong side of 50, and should probably have got life more sorted than we have.

Many of us recently went to the ‘online funeral’ of the vicar we knew as teenagers.

He supported Norwich FC, but was otherwise a kind and generous man.

My mate Mo is the Mullah at the local Mosque. I haven’t made that alliteration up!

He tells me that in his faith the closest you can get to the Prophet is when you look after an orphan.

My mate Krish, who sometimes does Thought for the Day on Radio 4, tells me that in Christianity caring for the orphan is ‘religion that is pleasing to God’.

Schmuli from the Synagogue tells me the Torah is full of encouragement to care for the orphan.

I haven’t made these people up. I genuinely know them all.

I might not have got the wording exactly right, but to the best of my knowledge, the major religions all encourage believers to look after kids who haven’t got a family.  

Sigmund Freud thought humans created God as a benevolent Father Figure because the world is scary. Believing there’s a benevolent Father Figure seems quite sensible to me.

People of faith can be Foster Carers.

Their Holy Books encourage them to invite the disadvantaged into their home and care for them.

Their place of worship can provide a community, and even an extended family for a child who has become separated from their birth family.

All Foster Carers, whether they be of a faith or no faith, need to meet the standards required to become foster carers.

Whilst you may believe in a higher power, you also need to acknowledge and follow regulations.

Whilst Social Workers are not quite as omnipotent as God, some of them do come pretty close.

All Mainstream Foster Carers need to successfully complete a Form F and pass panel.

Foster Carers can be of any colour, creed or background. Kids generally don’t care, as long as you look after them.

You need to be prepared to care for any children regardless of culture, creed, colour or any orientation.

Fostered children may be happy to attend a place of worship, explore belief, and reflect on all manner of metaphysical issues.

However, a foster child may have absolutely no interest in faith, and that is their choice.

If Birth Parents have a voice, they may not wish their child to be engaged in any religious practice.

Foster Carers need to respect this.

The children in our care are not ours.

Whatever our motivation to care, and whoever has inspired us to foster, we foster on behalf of the State.

 

 

 

EHCP, ADHD, DLA, LAC, and PLAC*

My Mum wasn’t surprised to discover me and my brother fighting over a green fruit pastel when we were kids.

These Fruit Pastels are different colours. This much I know. In fact, that is the full extent of my colour knowledge.

Her father was colour blind and she knew it ran through her DNA, and would be passed on to her kids.

The fruit pastel was in fact orange.

You do tests in Primary School to confirm it, and then you get on with your life.

Coincidentally, my wife carries the colour blind gene too.

Our birth son is colour blind.

Our adopted son isn’t.

He doesn’t share our DNA.

Being colour blind is generally a relatively minor inconvenience.

You can’t be a pilot or an electrician and you have to ask shop assistants if clothes match.

You don’t get extra time in exams or a badge that lets you park near The Asda.

I think my colour blindness is stated in my doctor’s notes.

In the 1970s it was pretty normal to dress like this whether you were colourblind or not.

Our adopted son may have perfect colour vision but he does have some other additional needs.

Numerous children we have fostered have had additional needs.

This is born out by statistics.

Kids in care, or who have been in care, are far more likely to be neurodiverse than kids who aren’t or who haven’t.

Dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ASD, ADHD and numerous other three letter acronyms are far far more prevalent in our LAC and PLAC communities.

I found this information on the Internet via The Department of Education website. I’m pretty sure it is true.

Whether you foster, adopt or got your kids via more traditional methods, working out that they’re neurodiverse, getting a diagnosis and the necessary support is a challenge, ‘challenge’ being a euphemism for a Herculean task of epic proportions, that will almost certainly drive you mad.

Getting the support and help for your child is no easy task. You need to be clever and doggedly determined. Find people on Social Media who have fought the same battles and get advice.

We’ve been to our wonderful local Kids’ hospital more times than I can count, and I can count quite high.

It’s newly completed, purpose built, light, airy, with TV screens showing Dr Ouch on a loop.

It has a resident magician and celebrities regularly pop in to cheer everyone up.

If you want to find out if your kid has autism, you have to go to the ‘old building’.

Navigating the old building is some sort of parental test.

Dark, dilapidated corridors with out of date signage eventually lead you to a Waiting Room, but only for those willing to persevere, for those who will not give up on their child, and who are doggedly determined.

The staff are gorgeous, but you only know that if and when you find them in Reception.

This is a good analogy for accessing help for your child.

It’s hard work.

It can be a full time job.

It’s exhausting and can be exasperating.

Our little man was taken to a separate room for his tests.

I knew this wouldn’t bode well.

At the time, his separation anxiety was particularly acute, and being with strangers in a strange place sent him straight into his ‘lizard brain’ or ‘amygdala’ if you’ve been on a course.

He basically froze, and stared.

20 minutes later, we were reunited.

I bought him a Meal Deal as a treat.

Chicken with stuffing, quavers and an orange drink.

It’s not always the same, but it usually is.

It took several appointments and lots of paper shuffling to get an autistic diagnosis.

My emotional reaction was mixed.

Practically, this diagnosis would help us access what he needs and what he’s entitled to.

The autistic diagnosis has helped us get him an EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan) and then DLA (Disability Living Allowance).

On the other hand, ‘An autistic diagnosis’ really doesn’t tell you very much.

We already knew he liked routine and felt reassured by the familiar.

If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.

I should also point out that my wife does the form filling in our house.

Without Mrs Watson’s tenacity, logical mind, massively high levels of literacy, and ability to understand ‘the language of bureaucracy’, our kid would be lost in a system.

I have never filled out a form successfully in my life.

Our Social Worker once asked if I had a diagnosis for ADHD and directed me to an online diagnosis tool.

I started the test, got bored, and went off to do something else.

 

I used to be an Export Sales Manager. I have loads of O’ Levels, A Levels, Degrees, and a Masters in the Administration of the European Union, but I can’t fill out forms without making a mistake.

There are some things this kid struggles to do.

Meeting and interacting with strangers is high up on the list.

But is this a rational fear based on the trauma of his early life or part of his neurodiversity?

I don’t know.

Recently I asked him to tidy his room, again.

He said he was busy.

When asked again, he said he couldn’t.

Apparently, and I quote him verbatim ‘my autism is playing up’.

* I was going to do a glossary but CBA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are Foster Carers like?

In 1986, I went to an Anti-Apartheid Rally on Clapham Column.

Pretty much everyone ended up thinking Nelson Mandela was great, but Apartheid was tolerated and even supported by many people, who, quite frankly, should have known better!

Our aims were to demand the release of Nelson Mandela, smash the racist, oppressive regime in South Africa and raise global issues of injustice and inequality.

At the time, these goals seemed utterly unattainable.

I was also interested in seeing The Style Council, Sade, Gil Scott-Heron, Billy Bragg and Big Audio Dynamite.

Sting was there too.

What a brilliant line up! I don’t remember all the bands. Perhaps I was busy trying not to be arrested.

It was a sunny day and a chance to hang around with my mates.

I quite enjoyed travelling up on the train from our slightly more salubrious suburb. I don’t think I’d ever been to Clapham before.

It was an adventure.

I remember carrying a placard which professed my support for the ANC, an organisation with which I was not fully familiar.

I was given a phone number of a pro bono lawyer should I be arrested.

I found the whole day exciting, inspiring and just a little bit dangerous.

I’m not sure my Mum knew where I was.

Although I didn’t have a full understanding of international politics, it was abundantly clear to me that Apartheid was an abhorrent regime.

I came back high as high as a kite, with a feeling that I’d been part of something important, possibly world changing.

I enjoyed the feeling of making a difference, even if it was minuscule.

A few family members questioned my politics deciding I was at best naïve, and at worst some sort of Communist.

The London Borough of Sutton has never been known for its radical politics.

I just thought I was, more or less, in the right.

I was 15.

35 years later, my wife and I applied to become Foster Carers.

Although she’d never been on an Anti-Apartheid March, we both shared  a similar streak of justice, and a desire to make some sort of difference to society.

She’d seen The Style Council live.

I’ve always enjoyed music that makes political or social statements. My kids have tried to get me into Dave. I do like his lyrics.

Her favourite album was ‘Our Favourite Shop’.

On the surface, Foster Carers are a mixed bunch.

We come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and creeds.

We represent all sorts of sexual orientations and domestic set ups.

Some of us are quite tall.

My wife is quite short.

However, I think all Foster Carers share a few character traits.

Invariably, we have an acute sense of justice and a desire to make a difference.

We may not be able to change the whole world but we can change the whole world for one kid, or maybe a few kids, if we foster for long enough.

I love this story. Never underestimate the difference you can make.

Whether driven by faith, altruism or both, every Foster Carer I’ve ever met has been driven by a deep desire to help the most vulnerable in our society, namely the child in the care of the State.

It’s almost an obsession for some of us.

We’re not as cuddly as you may think, more like a lioness protecting a cub.

Would you mess with this lioness? Of course not. Foster Carers are not dissimilar in their disposition.

I think Foster Carers also tend to be highly relational.

We like being with people, and become energised from being around others, especially those with whom we share a common experience, and a common goal.

There are few more things more fun than sharing ‘stories’ with other Carers, who just get it.

The stories can be hilarious or brutally sad.

Sharing them is therapeutic in itself.

We also enjoy the adventure, and are generally quite happy to not quite know what’s going to happen next.

If a kid has just arrived, or has been with us years, we’re able to make quick assessments of what battles need to be fought and what can be left to another day.

We delight at any progress.

A kid may need to sleep with the light and TV on, but at least we’ve got them sleeping!

Some people enjoy the adrenaline of rollercoaster rides, white water rafting or climbing Everest, but a foster carer can get a buzz from convincing a child that 3.00am is a bad time to play tennis and that not all grown ups are dangerous.

Nelson Mandela got released from prison in 1990, and Apartheid eventually ended.

Mandela never sent me a thank you for helping secure his release.

Sometimes doing the right thing is its own reward.

I know all these people. We all foster for the same LA.