Capstone Foster Care Blog

I know, it is a bit of a provocative title isn’t it! I write it because I just heard my birth children’s Tae Kwon Do instructor sit the kids down and explain why he was apparently being hard on them. It got me thinking about shouting as it is something I have been struggling with recently. I have to confess I have shouted way too much at my kids. It’s either the level of noise that they are making or the fact that they are about to do something dangerous. Mostly however it is just because I feel ignored. The Tae Kwon Do instructor felt the same and with the kids grading just around the corner he was not happy with how much the kids were mucking about.

There are so many levels to adults shouting that I cannot get into all of them but I do want to start with what it is in us that makes us feel that we have to shout. If I feel undermined or like my time is wasted I tend to shout. If I feel like the instructions were clear but they are being ignored, I shout. Shouting is about control and to some extent shouting is often about winning.

The Tae Kwon Do class took the shouting well. They all have a good relationship with the instructor and most of the time he is a good humoured and speaks at a normal volume. The kids feel safe because they know the instructor is safe. What about our foster kids though? In their past often a shout can be followed by violence. Maybe shouting is a reminder of how worthless you are because of your birth parents frustrations about the fact that they despise their own lives and they want you to feel that pain too. Maybe, for them, shouting is the normal violent communication response from adults.

What happens then when safe adults start using the same tools as those who have been unsafe to our foster kids? In the least part it provides a mixed message and a contrary one. “I only shout because I care” could well be a paradox to these kids. In the most extreme we are pushing them into a reliving of trauma or anticipation of a horrible event. Either way we have to be more creative and gentle.

We are going to drop the ball on this, of course we are. Shouting can feel like all we have sometimes but I would encourage and challenge you to try other options that are going to change your kids’ worldview. I hope that you can find a language that is powerful without shouting and that is gentle but life changing. When you get a moment reflect on this is in your own life. Hopefully you will find that you can then empower rather than control and that your relationship will blossom as a result.

James


Whilst taking Alice and her sister for sibling contact in their county of origin, we took the opportunity to go and remember the girls’ dad who had passed away when they were young. We did not have a grave to go to or a location where there was a memorial however we felt that since we were in the area it would be nice somehow for the girls to remember their dad. We bought some flowers and went to a park. The girls chose a tree, placed the flowers at the foot of it and had a good cry. They were crying for a number of reasons. Some of it was the revisiting of those feelings about their dad, some of it was the fact that he died young, some was because he was not a good dad to them and some was the finality of death and the fact that they would never have him back or the family that they longed for. It was a hard thing to deal with.

Grief doesn’t have to be death though does it. Life itself can be full of grief for foster kids. Louise shared with me about a family that she works with where the mother and children had to be separated due the children’s needs not being met. It hurts the child and the mother, there is grief without death. In this instance the child is in foster care and the carer along with the child go along to contact so that time can be spent together but there is always the massive elephant in the room that life is not as it should be.

What should our reaction to these situations be? I thought about this a lot as it is such a sensitive area. In the story above the carer for the child was actually able to go with the mother for coffee and cake and reassure the mother that the young person was in good hands. It made all the difference and within that conversation, grief, at least to some extent, was lifted. I guess we have to recognise that we are not fixers of grief but endeavour to be the non-anxious presence which gently supports and cries alongside those in pain. We chose a path where we wanted to help people breathe a little easier and this is part of that. For us stood with the crying girls amongst the trees in the park we didn’t offer any wise words or helpful advice we just offered our shoulders and some time. Some of our kids have never had anyone do that for them and we get to be that special person to them. Providing we remember how powerful that can be we can rest assured that we did some good work and will be fulfilling the role that we joined up for. I’m pretty confident of that.

James


Have you ever caught yourself in judgement of your foster kids? Of course you have, we judge all the time don’t we? Judgement is a part of how we deal with day to day life and we need judgement to help us be effective and decisive. Kids throw a million different scenarios, behaviours and complications and we listen, assess and then judge to do what is right.

The reason I ask is that sometimes I have heard other types of judgement with carers. I have overheard conversations where a child is being spoken about in ways that are condemning and final. Kids ‘don’t listen’, ‘cant help themselves’ or are ‘destined to fail’. There is no doubt that kids can push us to the edge but how many times have you caught yourself in a place where you realise that you have finally decided against a child in some way?

I heard a man recently speak passionately about fostering. He shared about various young people he had looked after and how it had gone. One night he got a call from the local authority about a young boy that needed a home. When he enquired a little more about the boy the only information that he was given was that he was a ‘biter’. He finished the call and thought about what he had heard and what it meant. He concluded that no one should be quantified by one thing that they do or have done and they could not be summed up in one action (maybe the worst action) that they have ever done. The man accepted the boy and as a family they had a wonderfully rich experience with him over the coming months. It turned out his biting was not really a problem at all.

How can a child be summed up like this? Would we want to be judged by the worst thing we ever did? Would you like to be judged by a repetitive set of destructive behaviours you had at some point in your life? Would we want to be talked about by others like that? We all know the answer is no. Our kids are not summed up in their current set of events or by their past. They are not predestined no matter how much it feels like they are. If you think like this or are starting to feel this, remember why you became a carer in the first place. If you are in this space get some help to get back to having a soft heart and thick skin – in my humble opinion the basic requirement of fostering.

Kids will always pick up on how you feel about them. A lot of our kids were surviving long before we came along by acutely listening to their environments. Make sure that you are a champion for them and not another person who is slowly giving up on their future. They need you to see the hope and potential they have. You may be the one person who speaks about them positively, do so whenever you talk about them. They need you to!

James


1 36 37 38 39 40 42