Hi my name is Millie, you know one of the charms of being a foster carer is the unexpected delight at the innocent wisdom that you find children have. It always surprises me and then makes me wonder how can anyone be deaf to it. I suppose it comes from the natural innocence all young children have. But then I suppose being a foster carer means your ear is tuned in a little bit more. You are trained to listen and be alert – you have to be – as so many children who come into care have never really had a voice. Listening can make them feel valued – perhaps for the first time ever. So I keep my eyes and ears very much open. It’s a two-way street as you can get so much back from hearing a child speaking its mind. There’s a very good example of what I am talking about that happened in the first lockdown of the pandemic. Enough to make a grown-up with all my years stop and think…
“That’s not fair.” We were watching the six-clock news as Jack our young foster child, who I thought had been concentrating on his fish fingers and chips, suddenly piped up. I was listening carefully, as like all foster carers would have been thinking back then, that I didn’t want him to be alarmed by what was being reported.
“What’s not fair?” I asked.
“That man on television with the scruffy hair, I just saw him telling us we have to wear masks but he wasn’t.”
I looked at the TV and saw the Prime Minister telling us that we could only go to supermarkets if we wore masks. I thought well Jack was right about two things; the PMs hair could have done with a comb and, from a child’s point of view, there was an obvious unfairness. It was one of those moments that all foster carers experience: humorous and touching at the same time. They are what makes all the hard work and worry of fostering instantly worthwhile. On the face of it – no pun intended – something about masks that was funny in anxious times. Doing my duty as a foster carer and losing no opportunity for ‘engaging and educating’, I told Jack that the ‘scruffy man’ was in fact our Prime Minister and he was very busy at the moment.
“Is he too busy to comb his hair?” Hearing this I laughed.
“At least it might be a reminder to you to comb your hair before going out,” I replied as I cleared the plates away.
“He must be very clever if he’s the Prime Minister and too busy to have remembered to comb his hair,” Jack said as he ran up to his bedroom fuelled by fish fingers and chips.
It was only a week or so later, after a busy day helping Jack with his homeschooling, I had my feet up watching the late news. I was tired and thinking of foster carers and parents everywhere struggling with the challenges of helping children keep up with their education. Strange and exhausting times. And then I heard someone senior in government being interviewed and specifically apologising for not wearing a mask at some event or other. I can’t remember exactly, but he was saying something along the lines of how important it was we all behaved with fairness and respect for the wellbeing of others. It made me remember Jack saying:
“It’s not fair” when he had heard the man with the scruffy hair. Then I thought, yes, hearing Jack say that had been touching and amusing but there was a deeper truth: the importance of fairness as well as understanding. And it’s one that all children seem to have wired into their DNA almost from the moment they can walk and talk. He had picked up on a perceived unfairness that weeks later a cabinet minister had to apologise for. But at the same time, he had somewhere in his heart made an allowance for someone who might have just been overloaded – “too busy.” As I lay in bed, I thought what a privilege it was to be a foster carer. Jack in his own completely innocent way had given me a great lesson in the enduring themes of fairness, understanding, and making allowances for all people – whatever their station in life.
All foster carers hear repeatedly of the rewards fostering offers. Especially when they are first considering it. It’s a term that has become commonplace on every agency and local authority website. So much so, because it is such a general term, it’s easy to become blasé. But, I realised just how much Jack had pulled me up short with his succinct and childlike observations. Each expressed in its own way a quite fundamental truth. This made me think about the quality of truth and why when at its most powerful it is described as being ‘simple’. However many rewards there are in fostering, and they are legion, I know being given this understanding is one of the greatest.
Jack had come to us after suffering a harrowing time. An only child, he had been severely neglected before being taken into care. Still a quiet child, he had at least started to open up and I could see he was slowly gaining in confidence. It is a sobering but welcome thought that children – even when their story has been so sad and damaged – provide us with learning even as we think we are teaching them!
Name(s) changed to protect privacy
Why you should foster with Rainbow.
Well, fostering is an amazing, heartwarming and eye-opening experience. It’s tough and challenging at times, but so is anything that’s worthwhile. If you have your own children, it’s an experience that can really transform the way they see the world. They learn to share as well as value how important and precious family life is. Ours is a diverse and vibrant family you can meet through our training and support sessions. And every year we get together at our Annual Rainbow Foster Carers Awards: always moving, inspiring and uplifting.
The door to your spare room – you must have one for a foster child – could open an entirely new life for you and your family. One where the values of caring and sharing are reinforced every day. There are more and more vulnerable children desperate to find safe and stable homes. If you are lucky enough to have one, sharing it could be the best thing you ever do…
Open your heart, open your home and open your mind to the possibilities of fostering. We’ll do the rest and ensure your journey – starting with a simple phone call – will open up your world. Call 0330 311 2845 and we can start your application immediately. There’s no obligation: we can email you a wealth of information about what foster care is all about. And then there’s our website which will answer all the basic questions. http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/frequent-asked-questions/
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Contact details for Rainbow Fostering Services can be found at: http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/contact/
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Rainbow keeping the focus on fostering.