Capstone Foster Care Blog

I was going through the DVD cupboard the other day trying to find a disk the kids were after which once again had not made it back into its case. Whilst pairing and putting things away I was having to make stacks of games and boxes so I could create some semblance of order. One pile of disks were games for the Xbox and I heard a whoop behind me as E pointed to one of the games and said that she recognised it. I asked her which one it was and she announced “the horsey one”. I realised as she pointed that she was referring to a cowboy game that is not appropriate for kids and something she would certainly not be playing on our console due to its rating. Of course she immediately asked to go on it and I said that I could not let her as it was not for kids. She looked really confused and told me that she used to play it all the time.

I find moments like this not only odd but difficult to handle. Firstly, you are making a break of values from an old life into you new family and as I often find this involves some kind of loss (particularly if it was something they used to do) as you endeavour to keep them safe. This can obviously make you out to be an ogre as often it is really hard for the child or young person to see why it was not appropriate for them. Secondly, convincing someone that what you are doing is for their best interest is quite a difficult sale when they used to enjoy it.

In this instance I talked about how it was really important for me to keep all my children safe and that is the reason why there are ages on all games these days. E seemed to accept it and the other kids concurred as well. Phew! Later whilst at the dinner table E said that she liked being kept safe as it felt nice. This was lovely to hear as I was really worried that the interaction could have created a tension however it reminded me that ultimately we all want to be kept safe and even though we have done things in the past it does not mean it was the best for us. For E she grew a tiny bit closer to our family in that interaction as she was in the same boat as our other kids and more importantly recognised that we had her best interests at heart. Marvellous!

James


Our new placement Holly has some quite big learning difficulties. Her speech is stunted and she gives a little rock when she is anxious or impatient. She gets special provision for her education and needs help tying her shoes and being reminded to have a wash. All of Holly’s needs are quite obvious. Recently we were out and I noticed that people who were talking to her were changing their language to slow down and giving her extra time and understanding to cater for her way of dealing with the world. It was great to see and in many respects our society (I would argue) has made leaps and bounds in understanding disability and special needs. For Holly she is also aware of her needs and will make more requests than the other kids so that she can have the same joy and experience of life which she deserves. Holly’s difficulties are really evident when you speak to her as they are very much presented on the outside and it is easier for people to get their hands around. Already family members have been able to connect much more readily to her because they can see easily see that she is different.

Holly reminds me of the other side of fostering children with disabilities though. Those who through abuse have been scarred and broken and have their own learning or emotional difficulties due to these often horrendous experiences. The problem is for them however is that they often look like everybody else. This in turn means that they get treated like everybody else and people are surprised when they just don’t get things. Louise and I sadly joke that it would be helpful for traumatised kids to look and act disabled because at least then people would speak, act and adapt to their needs more readily. These are sad facts but for those of you who have kids in your care that have had these experiences I’m sure you know what I mean.

I write all this to encourage you who look after the kids who are damaged on the inside and who look like everybody else. I want to encourage you to keep going when people are looking at you in that restaurant and wondering why you are a weak parent when your kid is kicking off. I want to encourage you to maintain resolve when the school keeps calling to say they are in trouble again and are expecting behaviour which your kid is not capable of yet. I want to encourage you to spend time with other carers who understand and experience this day by day so that you may support and love one another. Traumatised kids are still very much a misunderstood section of our society. Keep standing in the gap for them and hopefully we can work toward a country that understands them as much as we have come to understand those with physical and learning needs.

James


Recently we had a phone call when we were away on holiday. It was our apologetic social worker with a possible placement that we she thought would work for us and time was of the essence. We had a million questions but most of those would have to wait and instead we chose the key ones which we knew would be the make or break of whether we could continue to see if she was right for us. Most of these could be answered there and then and we decided to setup some meetings when we got back for our kids to meet her and for us to get to know her a little as a family before we proceeded.

After the phone call I found myself in quite an anxious state which surprised me. The anxiety seemed to be from the fact that we were about to open our doors again and to give a young person a home (hopefully forever) and what it would mean. We have only done small amounts of fostering over this year and here we were in the same place that we were five years ago when we opened the door to Alice. As we shared in previous blogs the ride with Alice had massive ups and downs and so I found that this was the set of emotions that presented themselves when we heard about our imminent new friend.

I’m sure some of you are used to lots of phone calls and adapting at the last minute. Maybe some of you do respite and those calls of a quick move do not bring the flutter of butterflies like maybe it did in the beginning. For me though I found that it bought forth a worry as to whether I was ready to foster long term again even though we had been awaiting just that call.

The reality of the situation is that we are more than ready and so are our kids. I find it amazing however that for me there was a need to transition from one placement to another to remind myself that only am I capable but previous experience only informs us how to be better carers for the future regardless of our fears of worthiness. As I write this I can hear Holly playing minecraft downstairs and signing to herself. She is a completely different kettle of fish to Alice and it’s my job to be the best foster dad I can be to her.

I guess any fear that we may feel in moments like this can only be mirrored by the kids who end up in care. What will my family be like? Will I fit in? Will the rhythms of their life fit with how I like life to be? Since Holly has moved in I have tried to be more aware of this and have folded her questions in with mine as we develop relationship. I guess we all have trepidation of big changes don’t we? Maybe the test of us as carers is how we model what to do with our fear and turn it into positive learning experiences so that it will help our kids learn how to look at change to.

James