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Week in the life of a male foster carer 12th September – 18th September

‘Maybe I should trust him more that he has listened but that is not always easy.’



Background

T has been with us for about 6 months. He is 10 years old and is diagnosed with ASD though it seems quite mild. Some of his symptoms that are attributed to ASD could also be just down to the fact that T is a 10 year old boy. In general he is a very happy lad but one who has moments of anxiety and has some problems dealing with his emotions. Because of his condition he does get fixated on things so he has a strong passion for cars and certain movies and TV programmes and at the moment he has a sometimes unhealthy obsession with Loom Bands (tiny little elastic bands that the kids make into bracelets).

I am married with three children, one at home, one at University and one living just down the road, and I am the main carer as my wife has a full time job as an Assistant Principal at a Sixth Form College.

 

Friday 12 September

So yesterday T told us about an incident that happened at school where a game he was playing turned a bit nasty and everyone started picking on him. He told us he got ‘beaten up’. To us this is serious as I know T does not always get on with children and I do think he may be teased a bit because of his circumstances. He has mentioned a few things that have been said to him, mainly about him not living with his own family, and I have to admit they are a bit mean. He does not help himself though as he can be very bossy with other children. But this seemed more serious, more like bullying, so I phoned the school today so that I could speak to someone and get a clearer idea of what happened and it turned out that T’s story may have been made up. Now who do I trust, T my foster child or the school? I do know T will make up things to cover his back; he did last week with the chargers for his electronics, but I also know that he is the type to be picked on. What he and the school did agree on was that T hit someone with a skipping rope, the school saying it was a game that got out of hand and T saying he was protecting himself. I know I won’t get to the bottom of this one as there is no way of knowing for sure what happened but at least T knows that if he says something like this, then I will follow it up so if it is a fib then eventually I will find out and if it is not then the school know that I pay attention to what T says and not let things get pushed under the carpet.

Saturday 13 September

T went to his Mum’s today for his fortnightly contact. It is taking place on Saturday because tomorrow is my birthday and Mum asked him if he wanted to swap so he could spend some time with me which is what he chose and that’s lovely. Lovely that he wants to be with me and also lovely that Mum thinks enough about me to suggest that. He had a good day with Mum considering he was told about his Great Grandad having a stroke. I am not fully sure he gets it yet as he has not been to see him so maybe the news will take some time to settle in. Anyway he was quiet when I picked him up but there was nothing major happening with him.

Sunday 14 September

And so it was my birthday and I don’t know if it was because of his Great Grandad but he was not the easiest to be with. I think in part it was but I also think he is not a good sharer and he had trouble letting someone else have the day. He does like to be the centre of attention, not unlike most 10 year olds I suppose.

So the day consisted of him absolutely refusing to help with anything, from breakfast and lunch to tidying up after and also involved many strops and moans and general grumpiness. Now there were a few of us, my family of 5 plus my son’s friend and girlfriend, so it could have been a bit busy for him too but some of the behaviour was tough to swallow. We all just wanted a relaxed day and to be honest we did all cope as I had told everyone that this could be an outcome after the news of his Great Grandad so nothing was spoiled but he was difficult and many times people had to leave the room, take a time out, so that they stayed calm. T was sent to his room on several occasions too, just so he could calm down. I even chose things to do that would be more suited to him, like watch the new Lego Movie as my birthday treat, which helped a bit but it was still a somewhat challenging day. Now, I ask you, is this a sign of his condition, his ASD, or is it about how he was raised. In his family, I believe he is the only child; his Mum is one of two children with her brother not having children, so maybe he does not know how to be part of a group and can only function if he is at the centre of it.

Monday 15 September

Today T woke up early, was very happy, and left for school with a smile on his face and at school he had a very positive Golden day. What a difference after yesterday. And even when he got home there was a lot less fuss when the homework came out and he did a really good job with it. I know deep down he is a very good lad and I wonder (I’m probably seeing too much into this) if he realised that he had been a bit of a s*** the day before and was making up for it. I won’t know that in the near future.

Tuesday 16 September

Another excellent day which just goes to show for us that he is much happier with a good regular structure even if that is about doing something he says he does not enjoy. A golden day at school and finished his last piece of homework after school. Great stuff.

Wednesday 17 September

And another fine, Golden day which is all I will say on that as tomorrow is T’s CLA review, which stands for, if you don’t know, ‘Children who are Looked After’ review. And it must be scary for a little lad.

Thursday 18 September

The ‘Children who are Looked After’ review comes around every 6 months and this is the second one that we have had. They have both been held in our house so far and consist of a very grown up meeting involving myself and my wife, T’s Mum, our supervising social worker and also T’s social worker, an independent social worker who chairs the meeting, someone from T’s school and of course T. Seven adults and a child. The point of this meeting is to review where everyone is in terms of T’s fostering, paying particular attention to T’s health and wellbeing alongside his education all with an eye on the long-term future of T, checking that everyone is happy and that we are all pushing in the same direction; and also that Mum and T understand why this is happening to them.

Daunting for an adult, which I can see in Mum who has the look of someone who is fighting on her own in a corner and daunting for a 10 year old child who must feel like their life is in the hands of everyone else. What this must be like for them we could never know, but what we can do is be aware and supportive to them. This is a lot of people, and I know they all have T’s best intentions at heart, but it sometimes feels weird to be discussing things like this in the open…in front of T. And what about T? He got a headache at the last one of these meetings and has at other meetings too because he finds them, not surprisingly, stressful, so it must be a highly anxious moment for him, having all these adults discuss a life that only he has to live. And people talk about him as if he is not even in the room which I find very difficult and so purposely aim my statements and questions directly to him and try to involve him as much as possible. I also do this for Mum as I want her to know that I am on their side.

But this meeting was a bit different, with T really stepping up and giving his opinion. He didn’t get a headache and he was happy to share his thoughts, mainly on more contact, which was a real positive for Mum. And I did make sure my daughter was home half way through so that she could take him away and they could play on SIMS, a real treat for him, and so have something to look forward to. I do know why he needs to be there; he needs the opportunity to have his say so that it’s not just a bunch of adults deciding for him, but I do wonder if there is not a better way. Again, we have it lucky as we have good relationships around the table but for some other families that must be a very tense and disruptive meeting. Anyway I think it was a good and productive meeting which has some good targets mapped out.