“Excitement is a luxury only enjoyed by those who have known predictability”

“Phil, I’m not bothering to search your bedroom for my birthday presents. I’ve been on your Amazon Account and found them all online. Someone needs to be in between 2-4pm so they don’t go next door”

This will be the 9th birthday we have shared with this Kid.

The first 2 or 3 were, more or less, unmitigated disasters.

We tried to do what we’d done with our birth kids, and what most people do with most kids.

The chronological order of stupid things we did is as follows:-

1. We told him that sometime in the future it was his birthday.

2. We used the word BIRTHday.

3. We asked him what he might like for his birthday.

4. We asked him if he wanted a party and if he wanted to invite some friends and family, as many as he wanted.

5. We asked him if he wanted some special food.

6. We were excited and we showed him that we were excited

“Phil if you can use YouTube, Amazon and Deliveroo, you didn’t really need anything else”. Sage advice from a kid who knows his literacy and numeracy are limited.

What took us years to learn, now seems bindingly obvious to us.

This young man, like so many of his care experienced compadres, needed predictability, bordering on the ‘boring’ and ‘tedious’.

Trauma, beginning at conception, had given him an internal narrative that he was not worthy of love or attention, or presents. The subsequent years of chaos meant he’d developed a hyper vigilance that denied him any real deep rest or peace.

Anything different, even if meant with the best of intentions, caused his amygdala to inflame and his ‘lizard survival brain’ would kick in.

We understand that soldiers who have been under periods of extreme duress will suffer from shell shock or PTSD. It’s a blunt comparison, but some kids live in extreme danger with no rest or relaxation or comprehension. It’s no wonder they’re impacted.

We realised our birthday preparations had to be dialled down, significantly.

Lizards don’t celebrate birthdays. They are only interested in survival. The ‘lizard brain’ is called the Amygdala. I learnt that on a course.

His birthday became a two or three month event.

We would visit The local High Street or Car Boot Fair on a Saturday or Sunday and let him choose something, usually a phone case or something to do with Harry Potter, We gave him agency and a modicum of power. Our little trips proved to be an enjoyable outing.

My wife and I had discussed budgets and we were prepared to spend some cash.

However, this Kid had no interest in monetary value. The £1 wand had caught his eye and was what he wanted. A birthday tea would be sausages or a Meal Deal. Yes, we felt tight, and to use the local parlance a bit ‘sly’, but this what He wanted and this what He could manage.

As we head into the teenage years, birthdays don’t yet resemble the Disney ideal, but they are perhaps more recognisable to the general population.

Friends and family will visit. He will open some presents on the day. There will be a cake.

He’s even set up a countdown on his phone.

He’s learning that our home is safe enough, and predictable enough, for just a little bit of anticipation and excitement.

I foster because I enjoy it.

Goodnight Mr Tom is not just about a traumatised orphan finding a home, it’s about a disgruntled, bitter man finding hope and love.

When first asked why we wanted to foster by our Assessing Social Worker I found my thoughts and feelings hard to explain. I just thought it was a good thing to do. I think I might have used the word ‘altruism’. Pam, the Social Worker, liked that word and made a note of it. Some Foster Carers are motivated by faith, some by a desire for justice and some of us probably enjoy the martyrdom.

What we rarely mention is how much we get from it.

My friend Alison started fostering in 2016.

A 9 year old foster child arrived at Alison’s home with a reticence that gave some insight into her confusion and fear. As can often be the case, this fear showed itself through angry outbursts, and seemingly irrational behaviour that showed no concern for consequence. This little girl had never been taught what was safe and what wasn’t, what was socially appropriate and what was dangerous to herself and those who were around her.

Convincing her to visit the local shop to choose an Easter Egg, and being convinced that she could manage the journey safely, was a Herculean task requiring all of Alison’s patience, training and resourcefulness. The subsequent trip to the local park for a mini egg hunt was managed with both metaphorical and literal hand holding, reassurance, and encouragement.

For the girl to engage with new adults and new children was a great achievement. Milestones are different when you foster.

5 years on, that same child spent the Easter holidays with Alison in London.

She’d won a place in National Youth Music Theatre and spent a week doing rehearsals with boys and girls from across the country.

Fostered and adopted kids rarely arrive with a pre learnt song and dance routine. And, please don’t expect them to be grateful. This is about them, not you.

She managed to have a vaccination without needing Entonox, a mix of gas and air, often used to treat pain during childbirth.

And, just like the young lad in Goodnight Mr Tom, she’s learnt to ride a bike.

“I can ride Dad, I can really ride”. The kid in Goodnight Mr Tom ends up calling his ‘Foster Carer’ Dad. That happens. It’s a whole other blog post! Sorry for the spoilers.

Alison is rightly proud of her young charge. This young girl has overcome obstacle after obstacle and is showing a resilience and fortitude that belies her background. The safe home that Alison has provided, has given this girl the skills and confidence to navigate the world around her.

Although unassuming, Alison is also proud of the difference she herself has made. As she has said to me:

“These stories illustrate the difference that fostering can make, and how incredibly satisfying it can be for the foster carer”.

Fostering can be challenging, exhausting and even gruelling, but sometimes it’s absolutely brilliant.

Please look after this bear…

Paddington Bear was created by the wonderful Michael Bond. The Bond family looked after Jewish children escaping from Nazi terror in the 1930s.

I have always had a soft spot for Paddington Bear.

If you grew up in the 1970s, you’ll remember the five minute grainy cartoon which signalled the end of Children‘s TV. If I remember rightly, and I might not, Paddington was in colour but the backdrop was in black and white. The BBC budget didn’t actually allow the characters to move, except when drinking tea or eating marmalade sandwiches.

Younger readers may well have seen the more recent films. Paddington is hilarious, accident prone, polite, and endlessly endearing. He’s very hard not to love.

The 2014 film makes a reference to the Kindertransport programme. As the Nazis ramped up their persecution of the Jews, Britain agreed to accept 10,000 Jewish children. Desperate parents put their helpless children on trains bound for the UK. Some were so young they could not remember their own names. Labels, with name and age, were tied around their necks. This was a time before computerised passport control and mobile phones.

This is Harry. As a Jewish teenager in Austria, his parents put him on a train bound for England, hoping strangers would look after him. Strangers did. Harry never saw his parents again.

I’m reminded of this period of history when I see similar desperation in the faces of Ukrainians escaping Putin’s war.

If I were Ukrainian, I’d be deemed fit and able to fight. My sons are 17 and 15. Would I encourage them to flee with their Mother and sister?

How bad does it have to get, before ‘anywhere but here’ becomes the best option?

Escaping refugees are greeted by sign waving locals at railways stations across Western Europe.

What must it be like to trust that a stranger, in another land, with another language, and another culture will care for my family?

I wonder what my last words to my fleeing family would be?

I think I would plea for them to stay together.

From what I understand, most of the refugees are family units. In the chaos, fear and confusion, I would want my wife and children to cling to one another. In fact, I think it would be entirely natural and understandable to fight tooth and nail to stick together.

However, amongst the millions, there will inevitably be children who are alone. In the world of fostering, these children are referred to as ‘unaccompanied minors’.

Lovely as it is for the Brown family to take Paddington home with them, in real life, this is just not possible, or safe.

If you’re interested in caring for a child, whether they are escaping a war, or escaping domestic violence and abuse, you have to be an approved foster carer.

Becoming an approved foster carer can take at least 4 months, and involves background checks, training and a detailed approval process. (You can find more about it in my other blogs).

I am sure many of us can see the need and want to help now. However to ensure the safety of these highly vulnerable children, and to ensure our own safety, we need such carers to be vetted, trained and supported.

If you’re interested in finding out more about becoming a foster carer, please contact your Local Authority or me.

Therapeutic gardening and thinking about the future

If you’ve only know chaos, you don’t bother about next year, next week, tomorrow or even ‘later’.

‘There’s a time to plant and a time to reap’. If you’ve only known chaos, life has no rhythm and it’s terrifying.

You completely and utterly fully focus on surviving the very moment and the very place in which you find yourself.

We fostered a little boy who approached life fully engaged in the ‘present tense’. The future, no matter how near or how distant, held no interest to him, and in fact ‘later’ was a concept that he was yet to grasp.

For him, when he arrived, days had no rhythm. Weekdays and weekends were non existent. There was not even a night or a day. If there was food, you ate all you could whenever you could. There were no mealtimes. You slept when you fell asleep, regardless of where you were and whether the sun was shining.

Life had been so unpredictable that he’d never learnt to look forward to anything. He knew nothing of reward or consequence. He just knew how to survive, and at this he’d had to become an expert.

We’re a pretty orthodox family, and he gradually began to adapt to our daily rhythms. It took time, and an enormous amount of patience on our behalf, but he gradually learnt that when it got dark, and when CBeebies finished, it was time for bath and bed.

He learnt that when plates and cutlery appeared on the table, it was time for tea, even if you had to wait a few minutes. He learnt that if you watched the plate in the microwave go round and round, eventually it would ping, and your sausage and bean mix (Smart Price was his favourite) would be warm and ready to eat. He learnt that there were some days when you didn’t go to school.

Watching the microwave rotate for 60 seconds was one of the little boy’s highlights of the day. For a while his favourite food was ‘sausages and beans with a side of broccoli’. When the microwaved pinged he’d do a giddy little dance of delight.

These days were different and he found them incredibly difficult. To be blunt, we found them difficult too.

Deviation form the routine was what he craved and what he needed. The more predictable the day, the better.

Consequently, we took up gardening.

For a season our Saturdays followed a simple routine.

We got dressed, we put on our wellington boots, we got our two trowels and we dug little holes in the garden. The holes varied in width and in depth. Some resembled sink holes that could have swallowed a bus.

Our little boy became an enthusiastic digger of bulb holes. Few were as big as this bomb crater from WWII, but you get the idea.

Into each hole, a bulb, perhaps a snowdrop, a tulip or a daffodil was ceremoniously shoved. The soil was replaced and stamped down with all the force an underweight four year old could muster.

Some unlucky bulbs were then watered. Two minutes blasting with the hose forced some daffodils and tulips back to the surface where they bobbed about in a puddle, looking really rather forlorn.

As established above, ‘waiting and patience’ were not a part of our little boy’s skill set when he first arrived.

But he learnt.

He learnt that there would always be food in his new home.

He learnt that you went to bed, you got up, you went to school, you came home, you watched Peppa Pig and then you ate your sausage and beans. He learnt that the new adults in his life were predictable. He could rely on us doing what we said we were going to do, when we said we were going to do it. In fostering terms, this is called therapy. This predictability helped him regulate, and reduced the heightened sense of alert in which he’d lived. He began to relax.

Although our bulb planting technique was far from orthodox, many daffodils, tulips and snowdrops flourished under our approach.

‘These bulbs are rubbish and stupid Phil. They are just doing nothing’.

Our little boy had started a ‘bulb vigil’, but in spite of regular checking, nothing appeared to be happening. He was disappointed by their slow rate of progress.

I took on the role of a wise old man, even though I was only 47 and still had a full head of naturally brown hair.

“Under the surface, where we can’t see, the bulbs are growing, and then as it gets warmer, little green shoots will appear and then there will be flowers.”

Look at this meadow of beauty and colour! Our reality was slightly different, but quite frankly we’d had a lot of fun and had learnt about ‘waiting’, so we didn’t care.

“Will I still be living here when that happens Phil?”

“Yes, you will still be living here then.”

“That’s good. It’s ok living here.”

Our little boy had begun to see a future.

Triggers, Life Story Work and a Car Journey.

Peter Parker, like nearly every other Superhero, has suffered, trauma, abandonment, bereavement and has an overwhelming feeling that it’s all his fault.

“The mother of the four children has been charged with neglect. It is believed she left them unsupervised to go shopping. The children were all under five.”

We were on our way home from the cinema, and were listening to the radio. I was anticipating the football scores but had tuned in a fraction early, and instead of Sports Report, we got The News at 5 o’clock. There had been terrible house fire in which some children had died.

“What does ‘neglect’ mean?”

We’d learnt never to waste a car journey. I did my best to explain what ‘neglect’ meant.

I didn’t need a dictionary to explain the meaning of ‘neglect’. The synonyms are pretty grim.

I wasn’t sure where the conversation was going, but in these circumstances we’d learnt to always let the child lead. We have always tried to answer any questions as fully and frankly as possible. We’ve also learnt that we have to go at the child’s pace and go at the child’s timetable.

“Did my birth parents neglect me?”

“Yes. I think they did.”

“So my parents neglected me, and the Social Workers came and they took me away, and they brought me to you?”


There then followed what I can only call a ‘pregnant pause’.

“If the Social Workers hadn’t have come to get me, what would have happened?”

“I don’t know.”

“When I’m older can we ask the Social Workers what happened to me?”

“Yes, we can. When you’re older we can ask the Social Workers to find out more. If you want, we can try to find your birth parents.”

“That would be weird. What would I say? It’s been years.”


“When I was younger, before I lived with you, the front door was green.”


“I wonder what’s for tea?”

The conversation about the past and discussion about the future ended as abruptly as it had begun. I have no idea if there’s a ‘good way’ of processing your journey into Care. I’m not really sure if the way we handle it is the best way.

I do know that we have absolutely no warning as to when these conversations will crop up, and how long they’ll last.

I do know, that I’m glad we’re around for when they happen.

There are loads of ‘photos of ‘neglected children’ on the internet. They’re either models or victims.

What age child should I foster?

“Fostering teenagers is brilliant. Once you’ve got a few ground rules sorted, they’re really fun to be around. Of an evening, we get the foot spa out, do our nails, muck about with make up and have a pamper night. We watch Love Island and chat.”

I don’t think any of the cast in Grease were less than 25. As a teenage boy, I found ‘The sleepover scene’ a source of great interest and confusion.

One of my best foster friends is a specialist with teenagers, particularly girls. Regardless of however much they roll their eyes, pout, swear, slam the door and strop off, she has an incredible soft spot for them. She sees the gold inside them, and eventually they learn that she is for them, not against them.

Teenagers can be absolutely hilarious, even when they don’t mean to be. They also make a mess, leave lights on, and fry things in the middle of the night.

When we got approved to foster we were able to stipulate that we wanted to foster children younger than our own. At the time, that meant Infant aged children or younger. We fostered a baby for a few days, and whilst he never swore or broke anything, he did need changing, feeding, winding, bathing and taking to regular contact. For us, with jobs and two children of our own, this proved too much.

A four year old needed significant help with toileting, washing, dressing and any interaction with anyone who wasn’t us. With some help and some patience, he soon mastered all these skills, with the possible exception of the last one. The fear of the stranger still lingers ten years on.

Babies don’t break your stuff but they do need a lot of looking after. They can’t work a microwave or put their own shoes and socks on.

We’ve cared for a few Primary aged children and teenagers.

One ten year old boy was remarkably proficient in all areas, except for weeing into the toilet bowl. He loved all sports and had excellent eye/hand coordination particularly when he played table tennis or swing-ball. But he seemed to think ‘near the toilet’ was good enough when he first arrived. Using ‘natural consequences’ this was a relatively easy issue to address.

Kids learn, especially if you teach them. Swing ball and a trampolining are both great activities for getting rid of energy and adrenaline.

Kids go into care at a variety of ages and for a variety of reasons. They might have experienced sexual and physical abuse. They might have experienced neglect. They may have known bereavement. If they’re of Junior or Secondary School age, they may have vivid memories of what they’ve experienced, and if they trust you, be able to explain some of this. This can take years and years and may still never fully happen.

One of the first things we learnt as Foster Carers is that no one is ‘too young to remember.’ Trauma has an impact, even in the womb.

If they’re too young to consciously remember, they’ll still remember. A traumatised baby will not behave like a baby who has been cared for and nurtured. A five year old can be endearingly naive but also have seen and experienced things no one should ever have to witness. A teenager may appear aggressive, surly, destructive and intent on their own demise. What I have to remember is that if I had been through what they’d been through, I’d be exactly the same, or at least pretty similar.

Fundamentally, kids who have been through trauma want exactly the same as everyone else, regardless of their age.

They want to be safe and feel safe, even if their definition of ‘safety’ looks like absolute chaos to us.

Making a kid‘s world that little bit bigger

These are the Seven Wonders of the World. I’ve never been to any of them.

How big is your world?

One of the first children we cared for was nearly four years old when he arrived.

On his second day with us he dutifully held my hand as we headed off to the local park.

It seemed like a fairly ordinary yet potentially fun activity. I tend to think out loud and I wittered on about the size of the park, the swings in the park, parks I’d visited, and began to sing Blur‘s Parklife, even though I didn’t know the words.

The kid offered no opinion on parks when asked. In fact, he was yet to utter a word. Unperturbed, I led him across the final road. This kid was not the first person to ignore my wittering and I thought nothing of it.

As we left the pavement and walked on the grass, he stopped, pointed, and muttered something barely audible.

I looked to see what had caught his attention. I assumed there’d be something remarkable. Perhaps someone was flying a kite, or there was a funfair. I scanned the scene but could see nothing of any particular interest.

It was just a park, a nice park, but just a park, like loads of other parks.

“What dat?”

I followed his eye line and outstretched arm.

The little boy was pointing at a tree.

“It’s a tree.” I touched the tree. I rubbed the bark.

Tentatively he held out his hand and rubbed the rough bark just as I had done.


It was fairly evident that he’d never seen a tree before, and certainly never touched one.

A couple of birth kids and a foster kid, or as we tend to call them ‘the kids’.

We spent 20 minutes with that tree. We stared at it, we walked around it, we looked up at its height and we felt its bark.

We learnt the word ‘tree’ and then we learnt ‘leaf’ and ‘twig’.

We spent many wonderful hours exploring that park.

We worked out, purely by observation, that he’d never experienced the wonder of television, knew nothing of swimming pools, cinemas, shops, ball pools, or bath time. Quite what he’d been doing for the years before he came to live with us remained a mystery, but we guessed that his world had been very very small.

Over the 15 months he lived with us, we introduced him to all that normal stuff.

We also showed him a world where there was always enough to eat, you’d always be warm, and where people would not hurt you.

Foreign Travel was limited in the 1970s, although most of our Grandfathers had been abroad to fight WWII. Luckily Blue Peter was on hand to take us to exotic places on their summer expedition. Play School’s windows took us to factories, the seaside, and occasionally Wales.

Sometimes fostering is about doing the most simple of things.

Maybe we’ll travel further abroad when we’re older.

But for now, there’s a whole new world at the end of our street, and it’s just waiting to be discovered.


Self care…look after yourself!

Middle Class parents in the 1980s thought Grange Hill would be a bad influence on their kids. It wasn’t. Tucker Jenkins and his mates were the only kids in Britain who never actually swore. Name me a more famous sausage!

You can watch Sky TV in every room in our house.

We have The Full Package, including all the kids stuff, Sky Atlantic, Cinema and Sport.

I think we found a way of hiding ‘the grown up channels’, and have Sky Shield to help protect us from any more of that sort of mischief. 

But apart from that, there’s nothing we can’t watch.

We have BT sports, for the Champions League, Bundesliga and some sort of erotic tickling that happens in a cage.

I think it’s called UFC or MMA.

We have Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Disney+.

My iPad and phone has the Sky Sports Go App and the BT Sports App.

I also use my devices to watch the cricket when it’s on Channel 4.

We briefly had what is known locally as a ‘Jaarg Box’, a small device that ‘legitimately’ allowed us to access every TV network in the world.

We decided that whilst not technically illegal, this couldn’t possibly be right so we ditched it.

The picture quality was generally crap too.

All this means, that for just several hundred pounds per month, I can go anywhere I want, and still watch sport.

All sport, and any sport.

To some people, particularly if you’re Middle Class and weren’t allowed to watch Grange Hill as a kid, this will seem extravagantly indulgent and reflect some sort of moral failing on our part.

In Fostering and Adoption, it’s called ‘self care’, and the quicker you find out what works for you the better.

My wife likes reading Maeve Binchy books.

Hiding in the toilet to watch 10 minutes of Test Cricket, or even the IPL, can mean the difference between ‘keeping it together’ and walking away.

Should you be in a plane that is crashing, you, the adult, should put your oxygen mask on before you attend to a child. It is sort of counterintuitive but makes sense.

Be under absolutely no illusion that caring for traumatised children is easy. You will be tested and challenged and provoked. You will meet what appears to be the most illogical of behaviours as a child destroys their possessions, hurts them self or hurts you. This destruction may be verbal or physical, but is almost certainly inevitable.

You have to find a way of looking after yourself .

If you do not, you will at best give up, or at worst retaliate.

Whether it’s TV, reading, making and drinking a cup of tea or eating a large piece of chocolate cake, you need to find what calms you down, restores your soul, and refills your tank. Other metaphors are available. I’d avoid alcohol or anything else deemed ‘recreational’.

And rather like a super fast charger, you need to find something that works quickly. Trauma does not work 9-5, Monday to Friday with 20 days of annual leave.

You have to learn to grab minutes or seconds of ‘self care’ whenever they present themselves.

The Foster Carer or Adopter equivalent of a two week cruise is sitting on the wall outside, and having a ‘quiet stare’, or just having a cry in the toilet.

I have learnt to regulate my heart rate when my adrenaline is sky high. In my imagination, I visit historical battlefields and reenact The Battle of a Waterloo. Imagining a violent battle has become a displacement activity for the violence we have occasionally experienced in our home.

This might not work for you, but please find something that does.

I also try to remember that I didn’t cause the trauma.

If I’d been in charge at The Battle of Waterloo, I’d have kept The Scott’s Greys in reserve, glorious though their charge against The Polish Lancers was. This somewhat irrelevant fantasy helps refresh my mind.

Secondary Trauma, PTSD and generally exhaustion are real.

Writing these blogs helps me.

If they help you, that’s just an added bonus.

Keeping calm in a sea of chaos

I’m waiting for the Van…we’re never early, we’re always late, the first thing you learn is you just have to wait. I hope at least one reader gets this reference.

The Van, that takes The Little Fella to school, arrives between 8.12am and 8.19am.

My wife, or me, or both of us, stand, staring out of the lounge window, scanning the road for its arrival.

It’s an important job.

When the Van arrives, there is a palpable surge in adrenaline throughout our household.

However, no matter how ready we are, no matter what tone we use, no matter what we have spent the morning preparing, we are never quite ready enough to leave the house, with everything that is needed.

Leaving the house is still scary, and needs to be postponed, delayed, or at least turned into a drama.

This daily drama is in fact part of the routine.

Terry, the Van Escort used to be a butcher and has an infinite and encyclopaedic knowledge on sausages. He holds supermarket sausages in very low regard.

We don’t know the name of the driver, but we know he has a penchant for Smooth FM. Once, there was a different driver. He listend to Capital. This caused some consternation.

This short window is one of the most stressful parts of the day.

It’s usually over in minutes.

Today was different.

“Different” rarely bodes well.

Today the Van had not arrived by 8.19am.

It still wasn’t here by 8.29am.

My wife and I began to consider the implications to our own schedules.

We have very very deliberately built “margins” into our life for just an occurrence as this.

We have learnt that we must be flexible und unflappable, at least externally, because The Little Fella can’t.

Corporal Jones would be a rubbish Foster Carer.

I’m an ‘out loud processor’ and my natural inclination is to articulate my thoughts.

Have we missed the Van? Is the Van simply running late? Will the Van be coming at all? Has Terry, on realising that offal rarely swears at you, gone back to being a butcher?

However, I’ve learnt to be quieter and reflect internally.

Sargent Wilson would probably have been a good Foster Carer. His calm insouciance would have been reassuring to a deregulating kid.

If the Little Fella thought we did not know what was going on and expressed this audibly, a tricky situation would be made much worse.

His hyper vigilance was already kicking in as he sensed the normal pattern of events was not being played out.

He began to castrophise. The other ‘Van kids’ popped up on a variety of Social Media Feeds, each adding just a little bit of fuel to the bonfire of uncertainty.

No one had been picked up. Theories began to circulate. Crashes, fires, government shut downs, the fuel crisis, Brexit, COVID, Bojo and rumours of ‘it’s nearly Christmas’ were all put in the mix.

You’ve got to have a Plan. And you’ve got to have a back up plan. In fact, you need several back up plans, and you need to make it look as if whichever plan you go for, was the first plan all along.

“Today, I will drive you to school. You can be in charge of the radio.”

We have found that offering some control helps with regulation.

We got in the car and we drove to school.

We listened to Radio 4.

We listened to a discussion on Wind Turbines.

Who’d have thought that the dulcet tones of The Today Programme would have had a calming effect?

We arrived at school a bit late.

I arrived at work a bit late.

I’m not sure how he’ll get home, but that’s not until this afternoon.

There’s plenty to worry about before then.

Making a difference – one kid at a time

Pretty much every single statistic you read about Looked after Children is miserable and depressing.

According to Google there are 107,163 Looked after Children in the UK.

That’s a few thousand more than last year.

Wembley has an official capacity of 90,000. The remaining 17,163 Looked after Children would have to stand in the stairwells, bar areas, Corporate Boxes and toilet areas.

They’d fill every seat at Wembley and still thousands would be left standing outside.

These kids are more likely to be boys than girls, more likely to be teenagers than little, and disproportionately more likely to be black than white. More importantly none of them have chosen to be in care and I have never met any who wanted to be in care.

The kids don’t go into care, they are sent.

“You’ve no idea what I’ve had to do to get where I am”. Stringer Bell from The Wire is a formidable man. I’d love to know his backstory.

Statistically, a Looked after Child is much more likely to have a Special Educational Need than the rest of us.

A Looked after Child is more likely to be excluded from school, either temporarily or permanently, than the rest of us.

Looked after Children are less likely to pass Maths and English GCSE than the rest of us. I don’t know about Latin. I couldn’t find any statistics but I’m guessing the number is low.

Just like Boris Johnson and David Cameron, I have Latin O’Level. People who don’t understand context, causation and correlation, will assume I will soon be Prime Minister. This is unlikely. Perhaps they’ll foster.

Looked after Children are less likely to do A-Levels, less likely to get good grades, but more likely to complete a prison sentence than graduate with a degree.

Looked after Children invariably leave care at a much younger age than the rest of us leave our family home.

It’s not that they actually choose to leave care, more that ‘Care’ leaves them.

Looked after Children grow up to become something called ‘Care Experienced Adults’.

A disproportionate number of our prison population are Care Experienced.

The people you see sleeping in the street, in doorways and on benches, are more likely to have been in care than not.

Physical health, mental health and life expectancy statistics are all equally grim.

If this all seems a bit anecdotal and emotive for you, please feel free to google some statistics.

If you get confused over Causation and Correlation, have a little think about why the data outcomes are so poor. If you think I’m ‘stigmatising’, have a word with http://www.gov.uk.

Here’s the Good News.

Although I have a very creditable grade in Maths O’Level, I’ve always preferred an anecdote to a statistic.

My personal story beats your theory, your thesis and your theology.

So what about our boy?

We can’t pretend that statistics aren’t real, but we can be the exception.

He’s ‘care experienced’.

He’s lived in several homes.

If he were to play ‘ACEs’ bingo, he’d beat me and I’m pretty sure he’d beat you. He’s a World Champion in sh*t starts at life.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is an overly simplistic diagnostic tool to say how rubbish someone’s life is.

But for the last 8 years, he’s only lived with us.

He calls our house his home, and he calls our family his family.

He knows he’ll be living with us for as long as he wants. It may well be that he’ll choose our Care Home. Now wouldn’t that be an irony.

We don’t think he will go to University but we are putting ideas for careers into his brain. Something to do with phones, or nails, or cooking or childcare are all in the mix.

We are saving money to one day help him get a place of his own.

We’ve planted trees and plants and explained that when he’s older they’ll be bigger than him. We talk very casually and very normally about a future that includes him.

We’ve discussed what his kids, should he have any, will call me. Will I be their Granddad or will they call me ‘Phil’ like he does? Who knows and who cares, but these chats tell us that he knows his future is as secure as anyone else’s.

Our boy will be ok.

Whilst there’s breath in our bodies, our boy will be ok.

That leaves 107,162 others.

What are you going to do about them?

The old man in this story comes across as a bit cynical. You have to be over 21 to foster. There’s no top age.