Capstone Foster Care Blog

I read an interesting article in the paper the other day about some foster carers’ experiences over an extended period of time. They talked about all kinds of things but a question was posed to them that made me reflect on my own story. It was some posed from some friends of theirs who asked them why they fostered. Their answers ranged from the practical (having a spare room, enough time etc) through to admitting to having an emotional strength which leant itself to the work. What was interesting was that they considered that their primary strength came from their own warm, loving and stable parents which had permeated their own outlook and approach. This strength combined with an early recognition that some kids don’t have a good early start steered them into the fostering life.

Their comments were understandable and it was easy to see why they became carers. Thinking about myself and Louise, I could concur that we had similar parenting experiences as the newspaper couple and that we had an empathy with needy kids. Somehow however this did not fully answer why we foster. There is, I think, a deeper reality and voice inside that question. For myself, it somehow is linked to my own feeling of legacy, essentially of having left a mark that I would be proud of on this earth. It is also to do with working out where I fit in my society and where my society fits with me. For instance, I feel like I have a responsibility to all of my country as a concerned citizen and that I hope they do for me as well. Maybe this is a romantic ideal which some of you may be rolling your eyes at but I think that that is at least part of why I foster. It is somehow about making Britain better not only for the future but to break some of the past as well.

I wanted to share this reflection and prompt because I would encourage you to have a look at yourself and why you foster. I have found that as I become more mindful of my posture towards life, it gives me a firmer sense of why and how I do what I do. Maybe you will find that you foster for some of the more practical reasons (money or not being good at much else!). Whatever the reasons are have a think about how that affects you. For me, it has given me resolve in harder times and to have a larger perspective of my own legacy and life work gives me strength. I hope that you inspire and challenge yourself too!

James


This blog is what our young people might call ‘a shout out’. It’s for friends, it’s for family, it’s for that empathic ear, it’s for that colleague who put their hand on your shoulder. It is for those who journey with us.

Once our family was approved for fostering we had our basic training with all the other newbies. Through this informative course we were guided through trauma and its affects. We were invited to try to understand what it was like for a child in care and what it might mean for us. There was lots to learn and we soaked it up. There was a phrase however that has stuck with me to this day, which was this “Be prepared, because some of your friends may leave you”. Wow, I remember thinking at the time, what are we letting ourselves in for? What is this life going to demand of us that those who we thought close would drop us?

After a couple of years of fostering I realised what the trainer meant. She was right to bring it up but I am pleased to say for us she was wrong. Those we considered dear wiped the metaphorical blood from our noses when we were low. They picked us up when we had nothing else to give. They loved Alice when we could barely bring ourselves to speak to her.

One night after a particularly hard day on a holiday I was sat with a friend at the end of my tether. I broke down and he put his arm around me. He listened to all I said, he did not judge, he did not preach. Rather he said “one day I want to grow up to be like you”. Why do I share this with you? Well, I do not write this as a narcissistic comment or as an opportunity to bring glory to myself however I do mean this: When you are at the bottom of yourself the people who are really there for you will rise up and put you back in your place. The reason that he had said this, he explained, was because once I had said it to him when he was incredibly low and it had lifted him. It was true, I could remember saying it. The statement was one of admiration of someone who upheld their values, love and perseverance when it would have been easy to give up. In that moment, I myself was lifted and felt a glimmer of hope and resolve to continue in doing the right thing.

People like this don’t grow on trees. They are there when you need them and when you don’t need them. They are an extension of yourself. They champion you, hurt for you, celebrate and persevere for you. I really hope that you have these people in your lives.

As some of you read this you may understand and already have people like this in your mind or you may feel deflated as what our trainer said has happened to you. This life can be lonely enough and if you have been deserted by those you trusted it can hurt even more. There is nothing I can say that will change that or make you feel better but I really hope that you can connect with people who will understand and draw alongside you. Maybe this blog might be a prompt for you to find them. Whichever it might be, if you have even one person who has been there I would challenge you to encourage them because maybe they need it as much as you have. I know for us we would not have been able to carry on at times without these people and so I want to say thank you to them and to all of you who read this who are like them.

James


We recently met two brothers in foster care who inspired us again in thinking about untapped talent. Due to the abuse and neglect they had suffered in their birth families, one child spent much of his last year in primary school sat under tables in school and the other brother operated at such a deregulated level, lacking in multiple basic functions that their academic abilities were well below those of their peers. After a short time in foster care, these children surprised professionals around them. Whilst they were extremely happy to see the children’s emotional intelligence blossoming, they also found that both these children were really rather clever.

In another case, a very young child in foster care was displaying behaviours so difficult to manage (in school and at home) that it was a struggle just to keep the little girl in school. She was violent to staff and pupils alike and the triggers for her behaviours seemed imperceptible. In fact, this is still the case but the adults involved with this child have been able to see something ‘hidden’ within this child’s fear: she is exceptionally bright.

For many years we have fostered or worked with children where it feels like a daily battle because expectations around academic attainment in schools is seen as a priority over connection, relationship and emotional safety. If we had a quid for every time one of us said ‘BUT THEY CAN’T LEARN IF THEY DON’T FEEL SAFE!’ we’d have saved enough for a rather decent treat! We have spent so many hours focussing on creating a safe learning environment and it is still a major key to success for all children (not just looked after kids) to achieve their potential. It’s still very much a live factor in the case of the little girl referred to in this blog. The inspiration for this blog, though, came because we found ourselves wondering about how academic potential in these children could be enhanced and used to increase the children’s resilience and ultimately, their life outcomes.

Please don’t get us wrong – this isn’t just about intellect, quite the opposite. It’s about the joy we felt in several ‘ahhhh!’ moments where we realised what a kid was great at. For some, it’s sports, for others, it’s caring for younger children or animals, or sorting and organising or art or… You get the picture. That moment when you find some aspect of a child that you can start to enhance and encourage is terribly exciting and is often a welcome relief from solely having to think about how to ‘manage’ or ‘contain’ their other behaviours that occur as a consequence of anxiety. There is something truly lovely about when you see children feeling good about something they have done or can do and it’s even better that we, as foster parents, can tap right into that. We like focussing on the ‘what works?’ rather than on the ‘what’s wrong’.


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