I was in a supermarket the other day and within an inch of dumping my basket of four items and walking out as I tried in vain to get past those just browsing, trolleys blocking the aisle, friends having a chat, or the occasional person actually doing some shopping.
I seized the opportunity of a new till opening, and was third in line with those having similarly few purchases.
From three aisles down, I could hear screaming. Not the panicky screaming of someone in trouble, but the screams of a BRAT not getting his own way.
The woman in front of me rolled her eyes as I said ‘Clip him round the ear’, and we smiled.
The conversation started with me apologising as I didn’t actually dislike kids having fostered for four years, I just didn’t like misbehaving ones.
We agreed that some parents seem to be afraid of, or fear, disciplining them in case of repercussion and bribe them with sweets and crisps to ‘control’ their bad behaviour.
To me, it is seen by the child as reward for being naughty, thus encouraging them to be worse!
She asked about fostering as she had seen an advert on the TV and was thinking about applying.
I have always tried to be honest and fostering is no exception.
For the majority, it’s a thankless task, frustrating, trying, heartbreaking and at times volatile, but it takes just one to turn round and say ‘Thank You’ or give you a hug that makes it all worthwhile.
She said she would make enquiries and I wished her luck.
Foster parents get paid, sometimes quite generously, but I was never in it for the money.
One thing to make sure of is that your house insurance payments are up to date. You never know when the little darlings are going to pick up your VCR and throw it across the room during some kind of tantrum, or they try to help out in the kitchen, get sidetracked and something catches fire.
LET ME STRESS HERE THAT NEITHER OF THESE THINGS HAPPENED TO ME!
I was in a stable relationship at the time and there were 2 young children already in the household.
We were interviewed by three Social Workers at different times and references were taken. Our preference was for teenagers, and after six months, we were approved.
Our first ‘guest’ arrived some months later, a 14 year old boy put into voluntary care as his mother couldn’t cope with him, 2 younger children and the death of her mother.
Unfortunately, she didn’t want him back at home and he became an official statistic.
As we were only classed as ‘short term’ it was decided to move him into a children’s home, though he visited his mother once a month for a weekend.
He ended up in hospital with alcohol poisoning after going on a binge with her and then sharing a bottle of cooking sherry.
His replacement was a 17 year old girl who was halfway to independence (a council flat) having been in the system for some 4 years. She was training as a hairdresser, so we had several home perms and cut and blow drys, one of which was a little over enthusiastic and I found myself with a buzz cut. It was a pity it was the middle of winter, but I had a thick scarf and a matching Benny Hat.
A young lad stayed a month and wanted to be a chef.
I bought him a chef’s hat and set of wooden spoons, and let him loose in the kitchen, though I was close at hand if needed.
His mother thought I was nuts when she found out, until I told her he’d made a pretty good spaghetti bolognese and enjoyed helping me with the Sunday Roast. She had no idea of his interest.
The Social Services asked if they could put us on the Emergency Register, as the boys had a third bed in their room and we had another bedroom with bunk beds, so were ideally suited to take boys and/or girls at short notice.
The phone rang at 1.30 one morning to ask if we could take a 13 year old boy immediately as his father had threatened to kill him and there was nowhere else for him to go.
Another time, I had a brother and sister placed with us overnight due to a domestic squabble, and the young boy was afraid for his mother. He cried most of the night, and when he did eventually fall asleep, it was in my arms on the settee with the dog.
Over time, I had a variety of boys and girls ranging from 13 to 18.
One 15 year old was with us for Christmas, and had never hung up a stocking.
We bought him a ghetto blaster, and I still see his face when we told him it was his to keep, not just on loan. My family came up that year and they all bought him a little gift too, and it is one of the happiest I can remember.
When he was moved on, I was told he had a serious aggression problem. I could honestly say that I never saw any sign of it, and he was with us for over four months.
We were asked to take a fourteen year old for a fortnight for Respite as his mother was finding it difficult to cope. I had bought four tickets for the School Boy International football match at Wembley and so he went on my ticket. He was thrilled and apparently one of the best behaved on the trip. When we replaced the boys bikes that year, we took one of the old ones over to him.
According to his Social Worker, his mother never thanked anyone for anything, just took everything for granted as her entitlement.
She wrote to me, thanking me for looking after her boy, saying how much he ‘loved us’ and how much it meant to her knowing that he had been happy and well looked after at a time when she couldn’t take care of him. I still have it, it’s one of the most precious things in my possession.
Unfortunately, one of the girls placed in our care was nothing but trouble.
She and her sister had been abused by their step father, and placed in care three years before she came to me.
We were her fourth foster family and as much as we would have been happy to take her sister as well, the authorities said No due to their personality clashes and differences.
As well as thieving, she played truant from school and I handled that by physically handing her over to the teacher at 9am and collecting her from another teacher at 3.30 in front of her friends.
Her ‘babysitting’ was enlightening.
No-one babysits in a short skirt, see through blouse, fishnet tights and high heels.
What clinched it was the boyfriend’s parents ringing as they believed he was actually spending the evening with us.
When she eventually came in at 2.30am, I was waiting up for her.
We had a girlie chat, and I could not believe how naïve she was about sex, STDs and contraception.
As far as I knew, polo mints did not have the same effect as The Pill despite what her boyfriend told her. I got the Social to sort that one out.
A few weeks later, I was at work when her friend came in and asked me if I knew her foster father was abusing her. I didn’t understand, and asked her friend to clarify.
Her accusations were not only untrue, but unfounded, hurtful and malicious.
It was the final straw.
I contacted her Social Worker and apparently she had already told him, though nothing had been mentioned to us.
I wasted no time at all and told him I wanted her out of my house that night. If they believed she was at risk (and she had been with us over a year and a half by then), it was in everyone’s best interests that she was removed immediately.
Surprisingly, she was not very happy about it, and as she packed her belongings in my suitcase, she had the gall to tell me she was sorry.
I may have believed her if she hadn’t been smirking.
One 17 year old boy also proved to be a major challenge, especially when it came to light that he had got in with a bad crowd.
He chose to confide in me, and at 3am over a glass of my Dad’s homemade wine and a pack of cards, he told me he was sniffing glue and needed help. It explained a lot about him always being tired, his mood swings and erratic behaviour.
I asked him how he wanted me to help, and that I would need to tell our Social Worker.
It was decided to get him into a rehab programme, but it meant him being moved.
I promised that we would always be there for him, either at the end of the phone or a visit if he needed us. However we didn’t hear from him.
About a year later, there was a knock on my door and this very smart young man smiled at me and said,
It took me a while to recognise him, especially as his hair was brown and I was used to it being bleached yellow. I’d always seen him in jeans and tees, but this lad was in a suit, a crisp white shirt, tie, and shoes so shiny, you could see your face in them.
It was wonderful to see him.
He told me he had a flat, a job and new friends, including a girlfriend, and he just wanted to thank me for helping and supporting him when he needed it most.
This is what I’m talking about. This makes all the anguish and pain worthwhile.
This and thanks from a woman the Social said had no good things to say or thanks for anyone, but I got a letter.
I am no-one special.
I am a good listener though, and I care about people.
Both Private Companies and Local Authorities are crying out for Foster Carers again.
Unlike when I was vetted, there are courses to attend, training to be had, and the Red Tape is off-putting as it is highly intrusive.
You are asked to lay your life out from the day you were born to your schools, relationships with family and friends, adult relationships, sexual preferences, marriages, everything about you.
Nothing is sacred or considered too personal.
Unfortunately, whilst I can appreciate the care and necessity for background checks, Those in Power are too intent of covering their backs and not being held accountable should something go wrong. That dreaded tick list raises its ugly head again and they are so busy filling in forms as they compile a person’s background, they miss the important things.