Capstone Foster Care Blog

After tea tonight Holly complained that one of her ears wasn’t hearing very well. I suggested that she use a couple of cotton buds to have a clean when she had her bath with Louise and Louise raised her eye brows and smiled. I asked her what she was smiling about and she said that she had chatted to Holly earlier about using a nasal spray which clears sinuses and can help with blocked up ears. Holly had flatly refused to use this however had never done so before! I laughed and asked Holly how she knew that it was a bad idea when she had never tried it. She shrugged and I shrugged back. We laughed and then she asked me to do my impression of a baby crying (apparently one of my specialties). I told her I would do her a deal in that I would do my impression five times (something which she apparently finds beyond hilarious) if she would try the nasal spray once. She thought for a second and then said “DEAL” and we shook on it.

In the past getting Holly to do these things has often be constructed around a deal. If she wants more cake we ask her to do a bit more exercise as it is our job to keep help her body healthy. If she wants more screen time we broker a situation where she might have more today but less tomorrow because the world offers so much more than YouTube. Having made a few of these deals over the months it has occurred to me, just like in business, that it is a great strategy if both parties are in it for something. Now, I fully accept that you may be fostering a child or young person who it appears you cannot do this with and that any deal is very one sided. Whether someone wants to do a deal with you is a good indication about how they feel about sharing power back with you. If you find the strength to persevere I would argue that it is something that you should continue to strive for. There is a simple reason for this: that it promotes relationship and it shows that you want to give power to someone in a safe way. When we barter with Holly it comes from a recognition of each others needs and a want to give the other person their request through our respect to them. Once a good deal is done a fresh understanding of each others needs is available and the bond of reciprocal appreciation to help each other is firmed up.

I was encouraged to hear a carer in training last week speak about what time her teenage foster daughter should come in from a night out with friends. Rather than giving an answer the carer instead asked her what time she thought was reasonable on a school night. This simple but brilliant move meant the power was handed back to the young lady and she actually offered a time half an hour before the one that the carer was going to suggest! This approach meant that both parties were satisfied and the young person felt like they had met the carers need and their need also. Winner!

For many foster carers, when we reflect on our own upbringing we recognise that we were usually told what to do rather than having a mutual power divide in which we could learn through making choices and mistakes. How much more oppressive it must be then, for many of the children in our care since they have never had any power and how wonderful it is for them to have some through simple techniques like this. Certainly we are seeing the benefits and I hope as you think about your next negotiation that you find the right words to build your relationship.

James


I wanted to write a blog on a typical day-in-the-life of a foster family. This came to me right in the middle of one of those jam-packed days when you are juggling various children, schools, professionals and work life. Sometimes it’s just a little bit interesting to be a fly on the wall in someone else’s life! So here it is.

Alarm goes off and I wake up Holly. The promise of breakfast always gets her up and out of bed. She’s been coughing this morning but otherwise seems well. She had the usual for breakfast along with a dose of cough syrup which I remind myself to write on the medicine record later.

Packed lunches get made, other two children fed and persuaded, consoled and begged to complete morning ablutions and uniform on, “Don’t forget your guitar!”

Holly goes off on the school bus just after I manage a shower. The other children want to ride bikes/scooters to school but I won’t have time to walk them up and back home before work starts. Compromise. Kids meet me at school, I’ll drive up so I can meet them at school. Get to school and spend ten minutes in the ‘abyss’ (aka class cloakroom) for a missing shoe. No joy. Beg headteacher to help. I look so desperate she agrees.

Off to work. That’s a whole other story.

Home at lunchtime to hang out masses of washing from our family weekend away. Strategically place all washing on clothes horses in the sunshine. I still refuse to get a tumble dryer. Consider that I may be more idiot than martyr. General tidying and vacuuming. Get a call from Holly’s school nurse. Apparently she has been meeting with Holly weekly since last year to give her a chance to chat about anything that’s bothering her In light of the events of her life over the last year. This is the first I’ve heard of the work but it’s no big deal!

Back to work.

Finish work and debate with myself whether to tackle my mountains of paperwork or go for a run. Decide on the run as I have no idea when I might get the opportunity for one this week. As I run, I start to write this blog in my head. I also go over the mountain of jobs I need to do this week and a list of items I want to raise at Holly’s PEP meeting on Wednesday. There is still so much missing from her personal information and history. James and I are working hard to piece together Holly’s experiences to better understand her and help her have a narrative for her life journey. She is still missing most of her belongings and, bar two, has no photographs of her or her birth family, nor does she have a birth certificate. That reminds me of a number of calls and emails I need to make to school and her social worker, which I promptly do following the run.

I remember that James is on call this week and how I am going to be a bit more of a single parent but it’s only once a month.

I collect the two youngest children from after school club and then go to Holly’s school to collect from her club. There is a bit of time to wait before she’s finished so I use the time to help the kids with homework in the car.

Back at home, dinner gets put on and more homework assistance. Remind Holly to use the loo and all the tasks that go with it (wiping, flushing, hand washing). James gets home in time for tea but shoots off fairly soon after to go to a meeting, not before helpfully clearing up tea and putting the dishwasher on.

I bath the youngest kids followed by Holly. Although she is in year 7, her needs are such that she requires lots of support with this still. Holly often uses this time to chat to me about life in her birth family. Tonight she is perplexed when I tell her that she is capable and can understand lots of things. ‘But I only know this much’ she says, indicating an inch gap with her thumb and forefinger. I disagree, telling her she knows much more and has a good brain that can learn. Once out of the bath she tells me she hates her old family because ‘they tell me I do not know and I cannot do things’. I empathise and tell her it must be confusing for her when I tell her things differently to how it was with her birth parents.

I turn my attentions back to the younger ones for stories and tucking in/’how long can I read for’ negotiations.

Holly has an hour chill out time on her tablet. Most days now this is the only screen time she has but this has been hard for her… She was so used to constantly being engaged with a screen of some sort we have had to wean her off gradually, enabling her to use her imagination and her wonderful social skills.

At sleep time I go into Holly to do the goodnight routine we have established: baby kisses on her cheek, then I have to pretend to leave but spin around and plant a ‘dive bomb’ cuddle on her. ‘Again!’ she says, so I do it a couple more times.

I then have some screen time myself in the form of doing paperwork and report writing related to my ‘day job’. James comes home and we watch some comedy. The new series of Have I Got News for You has started so that’s tonight’s entertainment. James and I catch up about tasks done and those that still need completing. And that’s it! A day in the life of a foster Mum.

Today’s been a good one. No tantrums, no forgotten kit or lateness, no mega-sulks. It’s not always this straightforward but it definitely always this busy…..

Louise

 


We had some friends over the other day and they bought their kids with them. Whilst the adults ate and chatted the kids cleared off upstairs and played. It emerged after a few hours that they had been using a couple of tablets to take photos of some of their toys in staged poses in a way that meant that if you ran all the images quickly together it would look like a video. Think of a 2015 version of a flip book that you had as a kid and you are close to the idea.

Upon inspection of Holly’s tablet she had meticulously taken nearly three hundred images of a fight between a T-rex and a variety of other dinosaurs as well as flying sequences with a terodactyl. I couldn’t wait to put it all together. After a half hour of importing and editing we had a nearly 2 minute movie. It was amazing. Holly and I got a copy and she took it into school the next day and she got to show it to the class as well as inspire some of the other kids to have a go.

I had a few reflections out of this episode. Firstly, Holly really surprised me being able to create this. Secondly, I think somewhere I had decided that she was not that creative because she nearly always asks to go on the Xbox before anything else. Thirdly, what she achieved seemed to me to be beyond her learning difficulties. I have to say that I am ashamed that I drew any of these conclusions subconsciously and I had to really pull myself up short when I realised how dismissive I can be of foster kids abilities.

What Holly did in this story was remind me of her inherit and beautiful ability to create and with the right stimulus concentrate on producing something that was simply brilliant. Her capabilities are far in advance of any assumption that I make and I have to really remember that. A friend once reminded me that when Michelangelo saw a lump of marble he could feel the statue inside it waiting to come out. His genius was knowing the right tools to get it out. I guess in some respects our charge as foster carers is the same. What tools do we use to help our kids bring their intrinsic gifts and abilities out and more importantly have we made any decisions that would hinder a childs chance to express themselves.

I thanked Holly for not only the movie but also for showing me how clever she was. She shrugged and asked to go on the Xbox. It made me laugh.

James