Foster carers know they should expect the unexpected. And sometimes the smallest things can make a particular foster child memorable. So in her own words our foster carer, Michelle, provides her own small glimpse into the everyday world of fostering that is always; since no two situations are ever the same – special, unique and revealing…
When you have a new foster child come into your home, you never know what to expect. They bring their world into your home. Sometimes there’s a lot that’s sad in it. But, and here’s what makes fostering special, a child can charm you in ways that can be surprising. Take Ronnie. She’s a good example. she’s been with us a couple of weeks and when she arrived she was what we have come to expect. At least in the first few days of a placement. Ronnie’s thirteen going on eighteen. Quite a bit of attitude. Also a fair bit of suppressed anger – that, as every foster carer will recognise, is quite usual. The first week we had a bit of trouble getting through to her. Sure, she was reasonably cooperative – going off to school every day mostly on time. I quickly got into the habit of setting my alarm clock to go off fifteen minutes earlier so I could call across the landing
“Time to get up Ronnie.”
Just one of the number of small adjustments to timing foster carers often have to make.
would be the usual response in a voice that was, to say the least, sluggish and heavy with sleep – and not suggesting there would be an appearance any time soon.
To be fair, by the end of the second week, we could rely on Ronnie to appear in the kitchen with a reasonable amount of time to have some breakfast. One morning the box of cereal was finished. I thought nothing of it as I was putting dishes into the dishwasher. Just made a quick mental note to ask Ronnie if there was another breakfast cereal she might like to try. Before I could do that she said:
“You will make sure that the empty box goes into the recycling bin.”
Mildly surprised I said that of course, I would.
“it’s just that we’re doing a project at school on the environment. We have to list all the household things that are used up that get put in the recycle bin.”
I said what a good idea. And with that she turned and left for school.
As a foster carer you’re always looking for an ‘in’. Something that can give you the chance to open up a conversation with a child. And one that can be maintained: finding shared ground – that’s the ideal. So mindful of Ronnie’s request, I made a mental note that day to separate out the rubbish, but not to put it into the recycling bin straightaway. Instead I placed the empty tins, egg boxes etc in a cardboard box by the backdoor.
That evening as Ronnie was finishing her tea, I mentioned I had set aside everything I could find for the bin. It was a pleasant surprise when she fixed me with the broadest grin I had yet seen.
“Thanks, I didn’t even think you had heard me.”
I said: “Well, saving the planet is something we all have to think about and we can all do our bit.”
“What’s your project at school about?” I ventured.
“Well everyone is going to total up the number of tins in a week that get recycled, then boxes, then plastic items like milk cartons and we are going to produce a graph for the entire class and after that we will be thinking about the kinds of choices we can make at supermarkets to cut down on…”
After half an hour, I had a pretty good idea about her project. More importantly, I could see that it was something that had fired up her enthusiasm. I could tell she had really appreciated that I had kept back all the stuff destined for the recycle bin. For her, it was the fact that I had listened and acted upon something that was important to her. Something that was interesting her at school. And something we could discuss at home. Very quickly I discovered Ronnie had an enthusiasm for the environment – like many of her classmates. It’s a big topic – with the potential for lots of conversation. And that’s what matters. Many children who come into foster carer have never been listened to. Far less, do they think their opinion might be of interest to someone.
Ronnie is with us on a short term basis so will be moving on. We are getting on fine and I know she wants to stay in touch – which is great. For myself, her gift to me – when our next foster child arrives – will be a ready-made and ‘recyclable’ subject most young people will be interested to share an interest in.
Names changed to protect privacy
Foster with Rainbow Fostering.
Michelle is a foster parent who specialises in fostering teenagers. At the moment there is a real shortage of foster carers to look after teenagers. Foster carers; like children, come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. We have foster carers who are single/divorced/married – as well as couples who live together – with or without children. Rainbow also has same-sex couples fostering children and young people. Rainbow have been rated ‘Outstanding’ in all areas which means the training and ongoing support we give our foster carers is second to none.
All Rainbow foster carers receive a FREE subscription to FosterTalk magazine which contains interesting and important information about all the different aspects of fostering: at https://www.fostertalk.org/
We always strive to place our youngster in foster homes which will reflect their own background and cultural heritage. We are always looking to find potential foster carers drawn from all the different communities. Rainbow is recruiting carers in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Hampshire. Call us today on 020 8427 3355 or our National Line – 0330 311 2845.
Visit these pages of ours for more useful information: http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/introduction/