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Week in the life of a male foster carer 21st – 27th November

‘Saying that it is going well does not necessarily mean that T is perfect but it does mean that we are working better as a family to accommodate him.’


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 21st November
It has been relatively quiet around here for the last week with T generally getting on OK or if not then us all pulling together with our new tactics to make sure situations don’t blow up into anything major. After almost a year of T’s stay we realise that this is going to be a long, long journey and the better we work together as a family the easier it is in the end for us and for T. Saying that it is going well does not necessarily mean that T is perfect but it does mean that we are working better as a family to accommodate him.

So T was late for his taxi again this morning and we were very lucky that they waited. I started wondering if the some of the school issues were holding him back so I called the school to speak about the trouble he got in this week with the other pupil. This was important so I could show T that we are working with him and supporting him but also so I can know the policies at his school so I can direct him to go through the correct channels at school rather than kick off. It was good to know that the school is working closely with the two of them to ensure less friction and now I also know what he needs to do, and does do quite a lot I hear, when there is a problem. He is not slow to ‘tell’ I am told but I also learnt that he can be quite manipulative with his emotions, for example, this week he had told his teacher of something that was going on in my wife’s life (personal) and had said that he may be ‘more emotional than usual’ and may need more support. This is either a very honest child or someone who has learnt how to use the difficulties in his life to his advantage. I suppose I can’t blame him, trying to even out the playing field, but it is not a positive trait and will need monitoring.

Saturday 22nd November
Today was OK though it was difficult to get him motivated. There were quite a lot of dull jobs to do, in his eyes, including some homework he was behind in, dog walking and fixing his bedroom door that he broke, and so to offer a carrot we decided to put in a Sunday treat of cinema and meal so that he had something to aim for and to look forward to. And though there were a few moments mainly the day went very smoothly and all the jobs were done. He also had plenty of free time with his electronic games so it wasn’t all graft

Sunday 23rd November
So today, like I said, was a cinema and meal day which went really well. He did get a bit grumpy on the way there when we got stuck in a very long traffic jam which meant we were late for our film (at one point we were not going to go as we did not think we would get there) but once there and in the cinema all was fine and to be honest missing the first 20 minutes of the film did not make any difference to our enjoyment. The film was about everything going wrong for a young boy which was a bit like our journey so it was apt. After the meal we came home and T was very happy, claiming this to be one of the best days, which was a bit surprising though I believe he also enjoyed it because it was me and my wife and so he may have felt like he was part of a real family.

Monday 24th November
Today I had training at my foster agency in Understanding Stress, Depression and Anxiety which was useful, though I already knew a lot of it having had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy myself. If you don’t know about CBT then it is well worth finding out more because it offers one of the best practical tool kits you will find when dealing with emotional issues.

We had my 6 weekly supervision meeting today which is always great as it allows me and my wife, when she can get there, the chance to talk about ourselves. Much of what we do is about the young people who live with us and so it is always great to have that opportunity to talk about us more.

Tuesday 25th November
T managed to get up and be ready for school on time which was great. After he had gone I got an email from the secondary school, the one we want him to go to, answering a question I had asked about enrolment because I had not received any information. Usually the primary schools in the secondary school’s catchment area would all get this information and pass it on to parents but because T is going to the school where we live, which does not have his school in the catchment, we had not received any information. I had asked out of courtesy, not thinking that I was late or had missed a deadline, but discovered that we had missed the deadline and that now he was not guaranteed a place. That was not good because T was already fixated on going to this school. And so I got into a bit of a panic. We had worked so hard to get him onto a taster and I believed that the school would contact and let me know of the procedure I would need to follow. I phoned the school and spoke to admissions who confirmed that we were late and that we would have to put in a late application now. Why weren’t we told?

This did not seem fair as we had done everything correctly so I legged it down to the school and picked up the late application form and brought it home. What else could I do? When I got home the first thing I read was ‘If your child has a Statement of Educational Needs then DO NOT fill in this form but call this number’. I phoned the number and was told that T would not need to apply the usual way because of his needs and that he was in the system and they would inform us when his application was done. Brilliant, but why didn’t the secondary school tell me? They knew of his Statement as I had told them on the taster day. Ah well, all’s well I suppose, but sometimes it does feel like we are battling blind to achieve the best for our kids. We should be told this information

Wednesday 26th November
T was late again this morning but did not miss his taxi. He will again soon though I am sure. This morning he was quite horrible, charging around the house, slamming every door, cupboard and drawer and blaming everyone and everything for his situation and all because he would not get out of bed when it was time. Though it is not a nice start to the day for us, my daughter is quite fed up with the amount of times she is woken up by his shouting and slamming, all we can do is ignore him and make sure we have done everything we need to do so that he can’t blame anyone. If we try to help it gets worse. Oh well, happy mornings. Either he is shouting at us or singing. Either way it is not ideal for a family who tend to be quite in the morning so as not to cause friction. A lesson here is that fostering means that you will need to become more flexible in the way you live your life because things will never be the same when the young person arrives, for better and for worse…

Thursday 27th November
A fine start today and a fine day too. T was a bit grumpy after school because he had had a good day (Gold) and wanted to play on the PlayStation as his reward but my daughter was home from college early and was taking a rare rest from her studies with a bit of TV. He believed that she should stop watching and he should go on the PlayStation but we were insistent that he needed to wait his turn as the TV was not available. Other things like the computer were available so he could have done something else but if he wanted the TV he would have to wait. He was grumpy for a while but relaxed in the end and when it was time he got to play his games so in the end that finished well. This was a good lesson for him I think.