Foster carers can always rely these days on a special event or anniversary in the calendar that will provide entertainment or activities for the children they care for. As we approach the end of October and the nights draw in, Halloween is now only a few days away…
The blogs in this series offer brief insights into the lives of some of our foster families. Charlotte, a carer who has been with us for five years having transferred from another agency, now describes the run-up to Halloween in their household…
A foster carer now recalls.
I have been fostering with Rainbow for quite a while now. My husband Ray and I have had quite a few youngsters with us over the years. Many as emergency placements. We’re very happy now as for the last two years we have been looking after Chloe who is seven years old. She is with us now as a long term placement. And she’s really come out of her shell now. Wasn’t like that in the first few months at all. She was very dispirited and lonely. When she arrived, all she really had that meant anything to her was a battered old bear. And she wouldn’t tell Ray and me its name for days on end. That really touched and saddened us. You could see Chloe wasn’t a child that could trust anyone at that time. Foster carers will recognise this pattern I’m sure. So not easy at first, but things gradually got better. A turning point came – and it’s often the small things that count most in changing direction for the better – when Chloe brought home an egg she had painted at school. It was Easter and the entire class had all painted eggs to take back to their families to celebrate Easter. When Chloe had got back, I had seen from the broad grin on her face that she was pleased about something. As soon as we got in the kitchen she had plucked her painted egg from her schoolbag and I could see it was even covered in glitter. She was delighted when she saw my reaction to her ‘creation’. I told her it was beautiful and that Ray when he got back, would also think it was “the best-painted egg he had ever seen”. And so he did. But to be honest, I was pretty sure, it was the first painted egg he had ever seen. That’s the kind of delight fostering can bring – many different kinds of experiences – all unexpected and to be enjoyed for the first time and then remembered always.
Chloe settles into foster care.
That was over a year ago and Chloe has now settled in well. She’s even made a couple of friends at school. They come back to the house for tea sometimes and this weekend is going to be really special as we are having a little Halloween Party. The idea is the girls are going to bring a Scary Halloween Pumpkin and decorate it for the ‘spookiest night of the year’. So Chloe and I are now off to the garden centre to pick up a pumpkin…all in a days work for a foster carer!
“Can I choose it when we get there?”
Of course Chloe – there will be lots to choose from, I’m sure – grab your coat as its beginning to rain.
“Yes,” said Chloe to herself. I could see she was excited by the whole idea as she pulled on her raincoat. The garden centre was only about two miles away and for the entire drive there, Chloe talked nineteen to the dozen about how we had to find the biggest pumpkin.
“Yes, ” I said, but it’s going to be busy there and a lot of other children will all be looking to get the biggest one too – “so it’s going to be a scramble.”
I could see Chloe’s face in the mirror. She was smiling to herself. Lost in her own world of imaginings. That felt great – it reminded me what a contrast to when she had first arrived at our house. That had been a bit trying for Ray and me as she had looked so forlorn. Then we had to wait quite a while for the Chloe that we now know to emerge. That is a common experience amongst all foster carers I’m sure. If you are going to foster, you have to have some emotional resilience. Over the years that is something Ray and myself, as foster carers, have had to develop. It becomes a little bit like a second skin.
We parked the car and once inside the garden centre I noticed that Halloween seemed to have been bundled into Christmas. There were lights and decorations everywhere. Even Christmas trees with their lights on. Father Christmas was not due until December: this was written on a prominent sign to avoid disappointment. Just as well really as there were already quite a few families with children thinking Santa might be planning an earlier than usual appearance in October! I’ve got to say it all added to the atmosphere. Not far beyond the trees and decorations, I could see a load of pumpkins displayed in an area that was also decorated with skeletons, bats and witches hats. It looked really good – a lot of effort had gone into making the display. There were even a few ‘toads’ scattered about.
“Look at that.” Chloe said pointing her finger upwards “How creepy is that?” I looked up and there I could see the figure of a witch – with a bright green face and long nose – attached to a broom hanging from the ceiling. I especially liked the way they had managed to attach a soft toy black cat to the back of the broom. For a moment, Chloe seemed quite transfixed by this spectacle. Then in a flash, seeing the pumpkins, she remembered our mission.
“Come on all the big ones are going.” She said – with a slight note of panic in her voice.
“I’m sure there’ll be one left for us.” I was confident of that – being upbeat is a quality foster carers need to have on tap!
But even as I said this, looking at the numbers of youngsters making off with pumpkins, I thought it best we didn’t delay. But, no need to rush, already I could see a couple of members of staff bringing in even more pumpkins. It was going to be a sell-out day for the garden centre.
“I can see just the one I want, ” said Chloe. “It’s fallen down the side behind the others and it looks lonely.” I struggled to get my head around the idea of a pumpkin being lonely – remembering I must tell Ray – being sure he would find that amusing.
A few minutes later we were in the queue by the checkout. Slightly strange as it was a long queue of kids all clutching hold of their pumpkins. Another memory to file away.
Whilst waiting for our turn in the queue, Chloe said to me –
“They told us at school how to make a scary face on a pumpkin. Loads of people get it wrong as they cut the face out straightaway…and that doesn’t work.”
“Really, did your teacher have another way of doing it?” I said.
“Yes, and she said that it was the best way as children have to ask an adult to cut the shape of the face out. That’s because knives are dangerous and pumpkins have tough skins.”
“Our teacher also said that we can have a lot of fun drawing the eyes, nose and mouth on a piece of paper to make the scariest face we can. And then you stick that to the pumpkin to help you cut out the face.”
By the time Chloe had finished saying this, we had got back to the car. I was thinking what a nice opportunity this would be for Chloe and Ray to spend time together at the weekend creating the scariest pumpkin imaginable.
Just one final memory of that afternoon…rather special. As I was making sure that Chloe’s seat belt was pushed firmly in, she insisted that the pumpkin be put on the back seat next to her, with the other seat belt over it. A strange-looking sight – one you don’t often see – so I took a picture on my smartphone as I was sure Ray would see the funny side.
So that’s my tip for all foster carers out there – as I firmly believe we should share the ideas we have. If you choose to visit a garden centre at the right time of year – like Halloween – it’s a free and stimulating place to go. And to prove the point – going back to the witch hanging from the ceiling – Chloe told me later that evening that their teacher had said they had to write a spooky story at school the next day. Hers, she had decided, was going to be all about a witch that flew into a garden centre and got trapped inside with her cat.
And finally, garden centres all have cafes these days – so the kids can have a meal as well! For more inspiration visit https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-carve-pumpkin
All names have been changed to protect privacy.
If you enjoyed reading about the experiences of Chloe and Charlotte, it’s possible you might have been thinking about fostering as a career. We hope so. There is a shortage of over 8,000 foster families in the UK. That means a lot of lonely and vulnerable children needing a stable and loving home.
We always work hard to place our youngsters in foster homes that will reflect their own cultural heritage. This is so the have a background that is familiar to them. This means we are working to recruit applicants from all our diverse communities. And that also means LGBTQ2+ communities. Rainbow is busy recruiting in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Hampshire. If you think fostering might be for you, call 020 8427 3355 or our National Line 0330 311 2845.
And remember that all Rainbow Foster Carers will receive a FREE subscription to FosterTalk Magazine: a goldmine of useful information.
Discover the many and varied aspect of fostering by visiting other pages on our website http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/legislation/ http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/legislation/ And our fostering news can be found at http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/news/