The Coronavirus Lockdown has given many of us more time to reflect and reconnect. Today I told a relatively close college friend of over 40 years that we have been foster carers for the past 9 years. They confided in me that when we first met they were living in a children’s home. I had assumed that they were living at home with a supportive family just as I was.
They had felt it necessary to sustain their secret for fear of being judged by their peers- even though they had become a successful professional in their early 20’s. When I commented “ I didn’t know,” the response was, “ Not many people do !”
As a foster carer it can be tricky to balance telling the truth – whilst maintaining confidentiality. The young people that we now care for, to our knowledge, have always chosen to be upfront about our relationship to them.
When Alan (names changed) was asked to give an account of his life in a group interview for his first job (in retail) he started his life story at the age of 13. When asked, by the interviewer, why he didn’t start younger he explained that this was when he came into foster care and came to live with us – and that was when he considered that his life started . That was quite a sobering thought!
Rhiannon was also in the same group interview, for the same job. She reported the scenario back to me. She was explaining that everyone must have known that she and Alan were related as she had started her account at age 11 and repeated his comments, without needing to be asked, that this was when she came into foster care and started to live with us.
Michael has also been really fortunate that his very best friend through Secondary school is the birth son of a foster carer. They are very different young men, so I wonder whether their friendship would have been so strong were it not that they had discovered that they had this common within the first few days of meeting. In one another they have found a friend who they can trust and confide in.
Being in foster care with all of your siblings is pretty unique. I often reflect on whether this is a key factor in how well the children adapted to being with a new family, with new routines, new foods and in a totally new area. It certainly has many advantages as well as some disadvantages and they have certainly thrived whilst in our care.
We have always used a positive approach to helping the children to behave well. Our resolve in the early days of each of our placements has been to fill their time with constructive experiences, to keep them busy as a distraction from their new circumstances .
I would far rather be exhausted from having fun than worn out from trying to cope with the inappropriate behaviour of children who feel insecure and anxious. There is undoubtedly a “honeymoon period” at the start of a placement, when everyone is on their best behaviour and in our experience catching the children being good and “noticing” their efforts has always paid off.
The non-negotiable routines of our home (mealtimes, bedtimes and helping with simple chores in return for pocket money) were set from the early days, readily accepted by the children and gave them a sense of security and belonging.
That early team work, even now – years later, helps to make the dream work.
Jayne Robbins – A Blogging Foster Carer.