Thursday, 13 February 2014

Teach them a lesson

Whilst having a reflective 5 minutes with a cuppa (everyone else is still asleep) I got to thinking about all the things we teach our children (birth and foster) just by our actions and behaviours. 'Do as I say, not as I do' is a bit of a cop out really. Surely we should model the behaviour, lifestyle and attitude we want our children to adopt too. Giving instruction to children is of course important, living out those instructions for children to see and experience is much more powerful. For our birth children, this will be something they have experienced from the beginning. With fostered children, they will probably have been learning a totally different lesson before they came into our care - if someone hits you, hit them back twice as hard; if you don't like it, leave it; lie for an easy life; steal for an easy life; take drugs/drink for an easy life etc etc are all things we have heard. 

Lessons in forgiveness, reconciliation, empathy, working hard, staying calm, loving, caring ..... the list goes on and on, may be alien to a foster child. The best way to help them learn is to live them out in front of them. Show them that the lessons work, that they make life better and strengthen relationships. 

The 'care cycle' is a hard one to break, unfortunately. Children in care are at far higher risk of having their children taken into care. Maybe this is because their parents, by their actions, have not taught them how to be good (or even good enough) parents. So us foster carers need to be the ones to show them how. Whether it's how we parent and care for them, or how we are parenting other children in our household.  

Our foster child finds it very difficult when our little one has a tantrum, but finds it even harder when I don't 'give in' to it. This approach is not something they have ever experienced, they think to show love means to give a child everything they want. Hopefully by me teaching my little one that tantrums don't work, but still being a loving and caring parent, will teach my foster child a new lesson which will help them when they become a parent. 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Through the fog

I have wanted to be a foster Carer for years, decades even. My chosen career path was totally influenced by this, so that when I finally was in a situation where I was able to start fostering I had as much experience and skills under my belt as possible.

I saw a quote on the fostering network website the other day from someone who had been a foster carer for over 20 years saying 'fostering is the best and worst job, it's a vocation.' I understand this lady's perspective because when thing are going well (they are attending school, not getting in trouble, smiling, talking positively about the future etc), all the hard work is worth it, you have the best job in the world. Unfortunately you can also have your difficult days where you feel you are running through tar, where you need to be trouble shooter, fire fighter, counselor, mediator, diplomat etc etc

I feel extremely privileged to be given the opportunity to foster, it is an honour to be thought good enough to be able to help and support a child on their journey to adulthood, however small the influence. But it can also be extremely draining. 

When your day job is to work with vulnerable and damaged children you still find that they can get under your skin, take over your thoughts, give you sleepless nights etc etc but that physical act of going home and leaving the office/classroom/youth club/clinic helps give you some separation and space. 

When things have been tough recently with our foster child (Christmas is always a tricky time) I have had moments where I have felt trapped in my own house, needing somewhere else to go to retreat and  get some space. Looking after foster children full time can be full on. 

This is why foster carers need good support networks and It is really important to access them as much as you can. So, a little message to all supporters out there - your role is vital and necessary, thank you!

As well as a support network Supervision, coffee mornings, training, out of hour helplines, social events and respite are just some of the other things foster carers are offered. 

Well I think I'm coming through the thick fog now and I'm still smiling! I also still want to be a foster carer (which is the most important thing!) so all is well. I'm going to book in some respite soon though, just so that I'm recharged and ready for anything.