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Week in the life of a male foster carer 29th August – 4th September

‘What a great day with both kids having a lovely time.’



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 29th August
Today is the day of T’s birthday treat to LegoLand. This has been really hard to organise because the children T has asked to come have not replied to notes and so it has been a struggle to get someone to come along. I don’t know why that is but it may be down to T getting picked up in a taxi for school which means I do not spend any time in the playground and miss making those links with other parents. To be honest I would be unsure about sending my children off with someone I have not met too, which is why I regularly suggest meeting up so they can get to know me. No replies to that yet either but I will keep on trying. I mustn’t forget I am a strange foster parent and a man which does not always open up doors in the school playground. When my kids were young it was me in the playground then too and it was never easy to get connected even when I joined the PTA. It is certainly not a man’s world in a primary school playground…Don’t get me wrong the advantages of having T picked up and dropped off by taxi far outweigh this but it is an issue I need to sort out. Integrating with other children is something T needs to learn.

Anyway, we have a neighbour’s son who is coming so all’s well and he is the same age and hopefully will be a friend when they start secondary school next year. We are also booking up the Q-Bot which is a great device which means you don’t have to queue up for the rides. You book up your place via a pager they hire to you and then it buzzes and lets you know when you are at the front of the queue and then you just walk in. Simple, if you have the money as it costs £15 extra per person, and it will certainly help T as his impatience and anxiety would not suit the amount of queuing we would need to do. Though it smells a bit of elitism to me when we couldn’t even afford to take our kids to LegoLand when they were young (I won’t even tell you how much this day cost but next year I might hire a small cottage for a week instead)

But what a great day with both kids having a lovely time, really pushing the boat out and because it was two boys they did challenge themselves to go on the bigger rides too. And T only had one flip out which is not bad considering. The amount of kids that I saw in tears or having strops was too many to count, not surprising really though as this is a big day for them, the sensory overload is a lot to take in especially when you couple that with the fact that they probably haven’t slept properly the night before because they are so excited. At least with T he sleeps well even if there is a big thing coming up. Anyway, we had a great day and I got two tired kids back by 8.45pm, a little after T’s normal bedtime so I told him he had to lie-in till 8 in the morning to recover which he happily did. Mum’s on Sunday so I need him fresh for that.

Saturday 30th August
So after a big day like yesterday we are going to take it easy today which seems like a good plan except that T has woken up in a real stroppy mood. He had enough sleep so that was not the reason but through-out the day we have continuous arguments and disobedience and a general negative attitude. Suffice to say he comes out of the day with many negative counters. It does make you wonder why we work so hard to put on super treats if this is what we get in return, which I would love to tell him but know it would get me nowhere. Just to be sure I get him in bed early so that he is ready for Mum’s tomorrow. My only thought, at the end of the day, with regards to his mood for the day, is that he has realised that this signifies the end of the school holiday and he was disappointed and lacked any positivity. School starts again next week and so this is his last big treat. Maybe that’s it. Also, if I think back, this last couple of weeks of the school holiday are too much anyway. I am a strong advocator that summer holidays are 2 weeks too long. The kids get bored and fractious and their ability to do structured learning is turned off by the end of the holidays which means it is a task to get them back up to speed when they return.

Sunday 31st August
Off to Mum’s today and T is in a much better mood. He is at Mum’s so I can get the two of them back into the schedule which has changed over the holidays. We now go back to visit’s every other Sunday. When I come to pick up T his Mum tells me he has been a bit emotional during the day. His behaviour has been excellent but he has burst into tears a few times. Mum thinks that it is because he has visited a few relatives today and on our drive home he tells me all about his family which is a rarity. He gives me a whole family tree and talks about members of his family who have passed on. Maybe, because he was seeing some of his older relatives, he has been emotional aware of what he misses out on and that some of these family members will eventually die too, though I am sure that won’t be for some time as his Grand Parents are only my age. I let him off load while I drive him and he is all smiles by the time we get back home.

One last thing to say about today; when he is ready for bed I remind him that tomorrow is the day we will be doing his summer homework. He has known this for a while but I have realised that it is best to remind him again just so it does not catch him out. For me I have decided not to plan anything else tomorrow as I know what difficulties homework can bring.

Monday 1st September

Oh what a lovely morning. Not stressful but just long and agitated from T. This is how it panned out.

  • Woke at 7.30am and watched telly for a while
  • Had breakfast and tidied up
  • Lay on the sofa for one and a half hours moaning about doing his homework and refusing to get dressed. I told him this is what we were going to do before he could play at anything else. I told him that I was ready to spend all day on this
  • Eventually I went to his bedroom and got his clothes and said he had to dress in the bathroom as I could not trust him to not play in his room. This really annoyed him but once he calmed down he struck a deal. He would do his homework if he could dress in his room. I said fine as that was what I said at the beginning. He does like to feel like he is winning…
  • Finally he sat down and started his homework which took him a further 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete (could have taken him 30-40 minutes if he had put his mind to it).
  • Then we had lunch at 1pm

So it took, all in all, 4 hours to complete his homework when it could have been done in less than an hour. When will he learn? It is lucky that I have only 1 foster child and my kids are grown up so I can put this much time into achieving his goals. It would be difficult otherwise. Oh and school starts in 2 days so homework will become a regular thing again, a weekly battle. I don’t know if all foster children are the same but it seems all too common that they have miss a lot of education and so learning is not natural to them. This is another reason why school holidays are too long because they get out of their regular patterns with learning and so it is like starting over. With T it can feel like starting over after every weekend.

Tuesday 2nd September

Last day of the summer holidays. Yipee! It’s been a long time since I have had to deal with children over the holidays and I am quite worn out now. It is the persistency of looking after him day after day that wears you down. My wife mentioned that I looked a bit frazzled last night. Anyway, T has a very good day even though I have my social workers over for an hour to do my 6-weekly supervision meeting. As I have said before T can get very anxious when these kinds of meetings happen so I have been very clear with him and pointed out that the meeting is for me and though they will ask him a few questions most of it will be about me and how I am coping. It is not always easy to talk about things like that while T is about so I arrange for him to go on the PlayStation at the end so that I can say a few words. The day continues to be fine and I have T in bed at a good time.

Wednesday 3rd September

So we are back to school today. It has been a long six weeks but I think we have done well. T has had loads of great things and lots of fun and I have too. Luckily I did all the uniform shopping ages ago so it is all ready to go. T is up nice and early and dresses for breakfast. He likes wearing new clothes so it is a treat for him to have a new uniform. The taxi comes at 7.45am and off he goes as I breathe a sigh of relief. Now to get on with some of the jobs that I have put off for the last 6 weeks including most of my fostering paperwork. To be honest I don’t mind the paperwork because it always helps and I am quite looking forward to starting a couple of on-line courses that the fostering agency has provided for me.

T is home at 4 and not too happy as he has had tests all day. Which teacher thought it would be a good idea to test the kids on the first day back after a 6 week break? But even with this kind of day he still has a Golden day which is the best he can get so that is a good start.

Thursday 4th September

More tests at school today…T is not that happy about that. Still another Golden day so at least he is trying his best even though he is not happy. And Golden days mean he can go on the PlayStation when he gets home which is always good. I prefer good days at school so he has something to do when he comes home rather than him moping about. May the good work continue? His book bag is chock full of letters and other pieces of information which includes a new homework diary. Looks like they will be pushing the homework this year, unlike last year where we just got him into a good rhythm and then they stopped sending any home.