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One of my mums is a foster carer. Being a foster carer is a relatively new career for my mum. She has been fostering for six years, although I swear she has been talking about doing it for longer! I did not grow up with foster children in my home. For a while it was my two mums', my sister, my brother and me. I had the most stable and loving upbringing that any child could ask for. The house was always full of laughter and we were forever putting on endless plays for my parents to fall asleep to. When my mums separated, life continued, the laughter didn't stop, but it was just shared between two homes.
When my mum was about to get her first foster placement, she was so anxious and nervous. I remember sitting with her and running through our worries out loud together. What would they be like? Would they like us? Was their behaviour going to be awful? Was it going to be like the horror stories that you hear? We were waiting on the doorstep for our new little borrowed one to arrive, when we saw the car pull up. Out climbed this tiny five year old with hair down to her waist. She was very shy, polite and was probably as anxious as we all were. All of the worries and the worst-case scenarios melted away in the coming weeks. We all seemed to find a new rhythm as we adjusted to this new little stranger that had come to live with us. She enjoyed playing in the garden and going ice-skating. She was eager to please and hugged you too hard when saying goodnight, almost like she was unsure of how to do it. We began a tradition of having croissants on a Saturday morning. She was such a joy to look after, and you could see her personality growing in the safe environment that my mum provided for her.
My mum has since gone on to have about 11 short-term foster placements with young children looking for love and stability. Many kids that with a good routine, structure and cuddles, blossomed into charismatic little people they had never got a chance to be. Of course not all of them have been so smooth and delightful. She has had to look after children with more challenging needs. Some placements with children that have been so badly neglected that their behaviour is full of arguments and tantrums that seem to go on for months.
Reading up about attachment disorders has helped with the way that my mum and our family interact and understand why some children won't look you in the eye or constantly try to push you away. You start to understand that it is not bad behaviour that they are asserting, but more that they are trying to establish the boundaries and how you will react to them. After a few months the tantrums begin to subside, once you are able to show them that they are in a safe place. That their behaviour will not be responded to with violence or negligence. They begin to trust you and open up about their feelings, and the hard work that you put in seems to take effect.
The bad behaviour does not outweigh the positives you take away from being a foster carer, and I'm sure my mum would agree with that. I think that we are so fortunate with the families that we are born into, that we sometimes don't stop to think about the impact that you could have on a child's life, whose family is not so brilliant. We are not always so lucky and helping a child in care could be the most challenging and rewarding thing that you ever do. I think that is it really important to raise awareness to the amount of children in our care system that still need a home. If you are heterosexual or homosexual, a single carer or coupled, you can make a difference to someone.
Think about it today. You could change somebody's life.
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