What do you know about the kids: What’s your favourite Hula Hoop flavour, and other things to ask a kid

How much do you know about the kids you’re going to foster before they arrive? Sometimes a lot, sometimes not much.

A 10 year old, we will call him Peter, said goodbye to his Mum one morning and wandered off to Primary school.

I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t have an opinion on Hula Hoops.

He was in Year 5.

Unbeknown to Peter, at about 11.00am, his Mum fell seriously ill and was rushed to hospital.

The hospital began to treat her.  Although stable, it was clear that she would not be returning home anytime soon. 

I don’t know how, but the hospital staff knew she had a son, and presumably following some sort of protocol, they rang Children’s Services.

A Social Worker answered the phone and took down the details that were available.

With no real warning, Children’s Services had gained another ‘case’, and another kid was in care.

A Social Worker tracked the child down in the school system, and confirmed that he was ‘present’ and safe in his Primary School.  Children’s Services had until the end of the school day to find somewhere safe for Peter to stay.  There were no records of any family or friends who could step in.

Another Social Worker began ringing various Foster Carers who had a spare room that night.

I don’t know how many were phoned before the Social Worker rang us, but it was about 1.30pm and I’m fairly sure she’d have been getting desperate.

‘Hello. Could you take a 10 year old boy tonight? We think he’s Russian. We have no other information at this moment’.

It wasn’t much to go on but we said ‘yes’.

As Foster Carers we knew that there would be one other piece of information implicit in the Social Worker’s call.

This 10 year old boy would have nowhere else to go.

Meanwhile, another Social Worker went to the Primary School, presented her badge, signed in and saw the headteacher to explain what she knew, and find out what he knew.

At 2.30 the school bell rang to signal the end of the day.

The school erupted into movement in the way that schools do.

However, rather than going home as usual, Peter was steered into the headteacher’s office.

I don’t know the exact words used, but someone tried to explain that his Mum was ill, that he couldn’t go home, and that he was going into foster care.

No promises could be made that his Mum would get better, that he could see her, or that he would definitely go home soon.

The Social Worker drove Peter the 30 minutes to our house.

The Social Worker had never met us. I have no idea how she managed 30 minutes of chit chat with a 10 year old in those circumstances.

At 3.30 a car pulled up outside our house.

My wife and I had agreed that she would chat to the Social Worker and I would chat to the boy.

Wearing the uniform he had left his house in, a somewhat bewildered 10 year old wandered into our home.

‘Priviet’ I announced proudly.  YouTube told me that this was the Russian for ‘hello’.

“Why are you speaking Russian?” said Peter. “I am from by The Black Sea.”

This was not exactly the response I’d imagined, so I moved to Plan B.

“Do you like Green, Blue or Red Hula Hoops?”

When a new Foster Kid arrives, try to be as normal as possible. Try not to overload them with information or questions.

This question captured his attention and his imagination.

Who hasn’t got an opinion on crisp flavours?

This led to a good natured but heated debate about the various merits of various potato snacks.

Our own kids joined in with the conversation.

We soon discovered Peter was a big football fan and FIFA on the Xbox was an easy and welcome distraction.

My wife shot out to the shop to get some basic toiletries, pyjamas and other bits and pieces that a ten year old might need.

Peter’s first day in care was not good, but it was less crap than it could have been.

Peter lived with us for 6 months.

Eventually, his Mum got well enough for him to return home.

If you would like to find out about Fostering, contact me or your Local Authority