Capstone Foster Care Blog

When Holly came to us she was always a bit worried when our two birth kids would clear off on their scooters or bikes and wait for us to catch up. The anxiety was real for her. The distance could mean calamity. They might fall, lose sight or somehow become unsafe and in her mind it would take too long to make them safe. This similarly happened with another of our foster kids. For her it was actually far more pronounced and involved her staying very close to us for ages during walks and excursions.

We explained to Holly that it was ok that the kids were a few hundred feet in front of us. We told her that we knew that they would stay on the well ridden track we had walked so many times. We reassured and said that they would always come back if they needed us and that actually they would only go as far as they felt safe from us. She assessed this explanation and accepted it. She rode within twenty feet the first few times and little by little she expanded the gap.

On Christmas day she was presented with a brand new bike from us. It was lovely and fitted her a dream. On boxing day we got some exercise before gorging ourselves again and went down the cycle track which we frequent. This time all the children whipped off as soon as we got on the straight and before we knew it Holly was a speck in the distance. That distance felt so allegorical of how kids we look after feel safe. The more time she has spent with us she safer she feels. The safer she feels the greater the orbit of adventure she has.

I can remember leaving home when I was 20. I packed up my car in London and headed for the west country. I had never lived anywhere else but I wasn’t too worried. Why? Because I knew I could come home. It was the greatest distance of adventure I had ever done but I felt safe doing it because I knew my mum and dad were there.

Maybe this is a helpful image for you. How far do the kids you care for orbit? Can they play in the street or go out feeling safe? Are you even their point of safety yet? I remember being taught that children who are traumatised can need literally one to one structured close activity with their carer during the early stages of placement. Such is their ‘distance of safety’. Maybe this is your story too? My hope is that you will notice their field of trust and adventure widening as they feel safe with you and that one day you will have the joy of hearing about their adventures when they return back to you as they explore the world knowing that you are there.

James


I had a comment recently from someone who read a previous blog. The observation was a fascinating one since it made me reflect on the way I write about Holly. Often when I tell a story about how she is getting on or when she has been creative I pose it in terms of her disability and how great it is that she managed to do whatever it was. Thinking about this I have realised that my mind seems to come from a place where all those things are great somehow because of her condition and that is just not right.

I guess I’m not the only one who might feel like this. We all have a part of us that applauds someone who prevails inside what can be difficult circumstance but there is a difference here between a solider who has had an injury and has learnt to walk again and a young lady who has had learning difficulties since birth. The distinction is that the soldier is returning back to the way he was but Holly is never going to be anyone else. Why then do I write about her in comparison to what ‘normal’ is? It is cultural, it is human and it is my upbringing to some extent however she is a stand-alone beautiful and unique human being. She, like the rest of us, should not be compared in achievement but rather celebrated as an individual in whatever she is or does.

I remember playing cards with Holly a few weeks after she joined our family. She immediately connected with the game. She had a mind that seemed to follow the cards and could easily follow the maths and ideas. Once again I put this down as part of her condition but this time not in relation to disability but rather her ASD giving her benefit due to autism often being linked to those kind of skills.

This framing of her life is not helpful though. Thinking about people in terms of what they are or what they have done is not a good way to be about each other. Would you want to be thought of in terms of your intellect or the worst thing you have ever done? Are we not more somehow? We are who we are inside each moment and it is in a moment that our whole being is in the picture. Our experiences, thoughts, abilities and disabilities can influence those moments of course but as carers we are not here to frame everything around this. We are here to love and care and see, as my pedagogic friends say, the diamond in everybody.

James