It takes a village to raise a child.

On entering a local school many years ago I noted that over the internal door it stated,

“ It takes a village to raise a child” AFRICAN PROVERB.

It means that an entire community of people must interact with children for them to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment and it is something that I have revisited many times in my own thoughts.

We are incredibly proud of the young people who share our home with us and for whom we are foster carers. This week, when they have collected exam results and made plans for their next steps, it seems really appropriate to reflect on their journey so far and the people who have supported us to support them.

  • We are very fortunate that our local school is outstanding. The nurture and support offered by teaching and non-teaching staff has been phenomenal.
  • Key friends and family members who have included our foster children as an integral part of their day to day lives as well as major life events.

These are the people who have shared our journey, the joy and even our tears. Together we have been able to offer unconditional love, consistency, clear guidance, endless giving, a watchful eye, endless patience, thoughtful teaching, careful role modelling, a listening ear, a fair mind and an open heart. They have been our village!

I walked through our local community today, with two of the young people. Michael and Rhiannon (names changed) who have lived with us for 7 years now:

  • We stopped to speak with Kevin, who was in his garden with his new Chow Chow puppy. We all spoke of his Akita who went over the rainbow bridge just after Christmas and how it hadn’t seemed right to pass his house without the dog in the garden. She was a real miss – so the new pup is a very welcome addition
  • As we approached the cash machine the landlady of the local pub came out of the local shop and asked us all how we were doing. She addressed the young people by name and asked what they had been up to since she saw us last.
  • We walked past the riverside cottage of Mark, with it’s beautiful floral displays. He was out watering his pots as he so often is. He remarked on the grey cloud overhead and suggested we might get wet before we get home. He asked whether they had done well in their exams and was genuinely interested in their future plans.
  • As we hastily returned to the house we heard a car approaching. The car stopped, it was Catherine a family friend who had been passing and brought some “Well Done” gifts for their exam success. They were very popular with Rhiannon and Michael.

This is clearly where they belong: Is it any wonder that the children are all so settled, very much a part of this community and of our extended family. They identify with this community as home and have a sense of security and belonging here. They have each other (here) and a mum who they see 6 times a year, but they have no contact with any other family members.

Their friends are supported by school staff, parents and friends / family and that is actually what they have too.

The hostility towards their Social Worker ( an Amazing woman ) that they had when they came to live here 7 years ago was intense and borne from years of intervention and direction from children’s services within their family home.

An integral part of our role as foster carers has therefore been to try to ensure that we build a life for us all, as a family, where the level of scrutiny that comes with our situation does not become overwhelming to them . They tell us that their friends don’t have a succession of Social Workers and other professionals with their interventions, PEP and LAC meetings, and what they describe as the scrutiny of their every thought or comment through endless questionnaires and evaluations.

Sadly, our young people have not really allowed social care professionals to become part of the “village.”  I suspect their original mistrust of professionals was heightened because of the transience of the people within the roles. Their need for longevity in relationships was impossible, not least because of the policy to move them to new social workers from the 16+ team.

It is enlightening and somewhat sad that, 7 years after entering the care system, when asked what they would like more than anything else,

  • Alan states, “ I will say whatever he  ( the Social  worker ) wants me to say just to get him off my back !”
  • Rhiannon will say , “ I want my social worker to do what I need her to do without having to nag, “
  • Michael will tell you quite emphatically that he just wants to be “normal”.

Jayne Robbins – A Blogging Foster Carer.

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