Capstone Foster Care Blog

 

Yesterday we went to Church as normal and we were all sat together for the first part of the service. When it came time for the sermon the kids got up with their respective parents/carers to go to their groups so they could do some stuff together that was more age appropriate. Our church meets in a local high school. It works well for us as there is a big enough hall for us all to be in together, a large refectory where people can mingle and have coffee and an extensive labyrinth of classrooms and corridors which we are allowed to use.

When we left with the kids Louise and I talked briefly about which age group would be appropriate for Holly and her needs. Eventually we settled on a room where our son goes so that she had a secure friend in the room whilst she spent time with some new people. Up to the point of arriving Holly had been nudging me to say that she was bored and that there was not enough for children. She had a good point (something I am working on in Church) but I assured her that she would not have to wait long before there was something for her. As we arrived at the classroom she froze as she looked in. There were tables and chairs. There was a whiteboard. There was a desk for the teacher. Immediately she said she did not want to go in. At first I could not make out why. Maybe it was fear of new stuff, or a fear of being left alone. Fairly quickly however she managed to find the words. “It is a school” she said “school is boring”. I laughed and explained to her that it was not like that at all. There was in fact going to be games and colouring, discussion and fun. She immediately dismissed this as I apparently was not taking in the facts. “Look” she said “there are books and tables – it will be boring”. I explained again but she felt that I must be lying. Eventually I asked the group leader to come over and confirm what I was saying. She was suspicious but entered the room.

Around half an hour later an eager and satisfied Holly bounced in front of me. She was sucking a lolly and had the other hand wrapped around some craft she had done. I laughed and asked her if it still felt like a school. She smiled and shook her head and walked off to speak to some friends.

It had not occurred that Holly would have noticed this when we first bought her to Church. I guess we had such a filter for the school that we do not really notice that the rooms are classrooms or that there are pictures of kids with certificates on the wall. For Holly however the evidence was clear. Our Church clearly was a school! This situation made me reflect on the evidence we present to kids and expect them to understand. What are my expectations of our foster kids understanding of situations when they come into our lives. Maybe some of the things and environments are really hard to understand at first. I was challenged to remind myself that explanation is often necessary and helpful in the moments that we do things for the first time and that anxiety may present in spaces that we least expect. I’m really glad that Holly managed to overcome what appeared to be clear evidence to the contrary but it will make me think about lots of aspects of our lives which maybe look one way but are actually for something else entirely.

James


Last night we had Louise’s sister and husband over for some tea. We were all stood around in the kitchen laughing and joking. After a little while Louise’s Mum and Dad turned up too and the kids were in between us all and the house felt really busy. I noticed all the people that were around the kids and thought and reflected briefly on the relationships they had with each other and me. I also watched as each person interacted with the kids – again in their own way. I noticed that one person was missing, namely our new girl but within a second she came bounding in as well and announced at the top of her voice that she had weighed herself and lost 2 pounds! Everyone gave her lots of praise and there were even a couple of little cheers.

It was great to watch where people were with her. Some of the people in the room had connected with her from the first day she was placed. Others had really struggled with the presence of a new face and how it would affect the family dynamic on a larger scale. My observation was that in this moment however there was a collective voice praising and celebrating her. I guess I have always struggled with people in our extended family who don’t accept our foster kids from day one. For me it is easy and so I think I have projected that onto everyone around me. Having reflected on this a bit though I have judged those people for not being on board from day one and maybe I have pushed them away a bit since they feel opposed to what me and my immediate family are trying to do. This little celebration showed something different. The people who struggled still did to some extent but they had moved a bit toward getting to know her and hoping the best for her. This time she was allowed a hug whereas before there was just an awkward space where one was not offered.

Some people I have realised just need some time to come around to a new idea or situation. As I try to understand I have posed a challenge to myself as to how I can create environments in our home where that relationship can organically grow. I know for our daughter she wants to connect to everyone in our family so this new pursuit is just as much for her as it is for me. I also have a feeling that our fostering lifestyle will help those family members who struggle to evolve for the better and learn as well.


It’s been about a year since Alice left our family, however, as mentioned in our previous blogs, we have maintained a healthy and ongoing relationship with her. I recently got a text from her asking if we would like to go to see her arrive for her school leavers day. What with the children at school and James at work, only I could go so I replied to say I’d love to go. It felt very right that I should be there and was pleased she had asked me to go.

As the day approached I realised that I wasn’t completely looking forward to going. I became aware of feelings of sadness associated with this event. Why was I feeling sad about such a success?! Alice had struggled to function in school right from Year 7 until her final day. Five years of hard work, stress, team work and provision, four of which Alice had been in our care. And now she was leaving school in style and with a form of transportation that was literally too cool for school! So why the sad? I thought about it and guessed it was something to do with the fact that it wasn’t James or I sorting out the transport or the leavers ball outfit. It wasn’t us inviting our close friends along to watch her parade down the school driveway or preparing to convince her smile naturally for the pictures we would take. We had always aimed to keep Alice with us until she was independent and now, here she was, preparing for a major achievement in her life with another family. I realised that for the first time in many months, I wished she was still with us. Which, whilst difficult for me, was a sign that the emotional legacy that Alice and I had left one another was significant and precious.

 

When the day came I arrived and stood waiting and was quickly joined by another adult that was special in Alice’s life. “You here for the girl?” she said playfully. “Yup” came the definitive reply, which could easily have been followed by a “Where else would I be?” Because that was it – despite the cocktail of emotions: Pride, loss, sadness, excitement, I wanted to be there for Alice and let her know that I was proud and she meant so much to me.

My friend and I jumped up and down like lunatics, whooping and cheering as she came down the drive. Her face was a picture I was familiar with: utterly still with a hint of a one-sided awkward smile. That face she pulled when at the centre of attention and not too sure about it! Clearly Alice had her own mixed feelings about the event she was part of but went for it anyway. So we were both in the same boat in many respects. Just goes to show that fostering children isn’t only about the time that a child lives with us – it’s about inviting the child into a relationship, the lasting effects of which could be a life-long legacy for them and us.