Capstone Foster Care Blog

My Vlog this month is about Christmas and how a child who had never viewed the festive Season as a positive thing had not only enjoyed the day but taken the brave step to stand up during dinner and make a toast. He showed me how important it is to be part of a family at this time of year and how much our simple traditions can impact on someone’s self-worth, something I had always taken for granted as I have never known any different. Being part of a fostering family has taught me many things, but that Christmas I realised how lucky I had always been and have been thankful for it ever since.

Merry Christmas

Demi

Demi’s Christmas experience


I have written about boredom before however I have noticed a different issue over the last few weeks. It has mostly come to light because of the new craze Pokemon Go! This new app, as many of you are aware, has got many kids out and about as well encouraging the most enthusiastic home bird to venture outside. I downloaded this after being asked by the kids and I said we would open it up when we were next out for a walk.

Last week we were in the park and the kids were struggling to play. When we turned on Pokemon Go! their faces lit up and suddenly the real world was an exciting place to be. I have to say I have struggled to understand the craze (even though I am very technologically literate) since it seems to be a real divorce from experiencing the actual world by putting a screen between you and it. The problem seems to be that the game is perceived, at least my children, to make the real world fun. Even worse, playgrounds requiring imagination are no longer needed as Nintendo will do the thinking for you.

Our summer is, as usual, busy with varying activities and an interesting summer holiday coming up at the end. We have put together a wall chart showing what each day holds and what we can look forward to. It is helpful to us and the kids. What I was not anticipating was the gaps in between events. Holly so far just lies on her bed in the foetal position only asking about what has been planned next. Any activities which involve her entertaining herself are deemed to be too much effort.

My initial response is anger. What a nerve thinking that adults are only there you to entertain you! In reflection though, have we not made this environment, particularly for foster children? I have encountered lots of kids who were given treats and experiences because people felt sorry for their position. I believe that some kids find themselves in extended periods of time like this. Carers often not being aware of the negative effect it can have on the child’s development and personality and the young person entering into a very materialistic and ‘entertain me’ attitude.

As a long term carer I’m having to think through strategies of how Holly can be rationed in her use of tech but also how she can move from a place of expectation in being entertained. We are using 2-3 hours in the day which no provision is given from us as parents in terms of structured activity. I will let you know when we come out of the foetal position and a look of despair despite lots of suggestions about activities!

Have you found yourself in this position? How did you cope? Have you implemented strategies to build relationship and imagination? I would love to hear how you have helped kids move on from this position or whether you really struggle with this.

James


Some years back I had just been appointed as a youth worker at my Church. I was working 4 days a week although once I had done everything I needed to do it wasn’t far off a full time job. I remember sitting have a meeting once with the pastor and talking about the fact that I struggled with being paid by my Church to do the work (I knew that it came out of everyone’s back pockets as we are not part of a federation of other churches).

The pastor laughed and said that I was wrong in thinking that I was getting paid for what I did. Now, I was confused! He went on to say that I was paid so that I didn’t have to go out and get a job. The money I was given was allocated so that the Church freed me up enough to work for them and I didn’t have to worry about paying the bills. Thus, the idea of what a stipend was slowly sank in and I felt better about taking that cash.

I have been talking to people recently about how we recruit foster carers and so often we seem to talk about money first. As a carer who loves what they do I find this so peculiar. Firstly, because it draws this sacred work into the salary rather than a stipend and secondly, and far more importantly, how would anyone do this work properly if money is your motivation?

How can vulnerable children be entered into families where they are still thought about as commodities being moved around? How can we talk about better outcomes when our primary motivations come from feeding ourselves rather than others? Having fostered for a few years now there have been times where the money we have been given has come easily and there are other times where things were so hard that I would have given back every penny with interest if you could just make the pain stop. So, surely we can’t hope to find the best of people for these roles by dangling cash carrots but rather talking about legacy, love, perseverance and family. It is these values that make a carer carry on, not money.

When I became a youth worker my salary halved overnight. It was a ridiculous career move to many but it was who I was meant to be and it was what I was meant to do. Money, was not enough I had discovered. I wanted to give back, to teach, to inspire, to journey with young people. I was freed up to do this. My hope is that we can inspire new and prospective carers in the same way. For these are the people we need to help this generation of young people so that they may have true riches in their work.

James


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