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Week in the life of a male foster carer 23rd January – 29th January

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 23rd January – Thursday 29th January

It seems, having read back through a few blogs, that a lot of what I say in these writings is negative. I don’t necessarily mean it to be but feel that the truth is very important here, in my sharing of my experiences. Part of my reasoning for this is that it is a ‘warts and all’ diary but at the same time I realise that it can be a bit one sided. There are positives, of course, but the negatives are far more dramatic and read better. If I am honest a lot of the days can be tough and one thing I have learned is that I have a thick skin which is, it seems, essential to this work. And believe me when I say this, no amount of parenting will help you to understand the kids that come to live with you because the fundamental difference between your kids and your foster kids is that you have had the opportunity to have helped shape and formulate your own kids emotional and mental states but with fostering you never really know what has happened before they arrived at your house. So there are many days when it does not make sense because you don’t have the knowledge and so for me writing this blog is in a way a cathartic experience which helps me unravel what is going on. Still, there seems to be a shortage of positives in here so today I’m going to rectify that.

T is lovely. When his mood is good he has the most beautiful smile and at his essence is a loving boy, sadly one that does not always understand what has happened to him, but needless to say a very thoughtful and caring young man. His main aim in life, I think, is to be loved, and to love back, and he responds to compliments and praise wonderfully well. Not everyone can. Many people I know brush off praise and compliments as if they mean nothing, so what T can do can be seen as an asset. We could all learn a little from that. He also has a very sunny disposition; he sings in the morning (which can be annoying to others), he is very chatty and friendly and he cares for animals even if he does not fully understand that they need to be left alone as well. These are the qualities we want to see more and they are the skills that we want to encourage in T.

It has been a tough week, for him as well as us, but one of the lovely things was having ‘Free Play’ with T. My new social worker suggested this when I went down to offload a bit last week. The idea is that for 30 minutes T has complete control about what we play (no electrics) and what the rules are and I go along with it. This is supposed to offer him the opportunity to experience full control, useful in a life where he may not think he has any, but also to help him to understand that someone else is giving themselves up completely to his needs. It supposedly teaches empathy, which I will keep an eye on, and understanding of sharing and the different roles in playing.

So we had half an hour of ‘Hide and Seek Tag’ which means that you hide but once you are found you then have to be caught as well. And we played a variation of this which was once you are found you have to both race to the bin and the first person there got to hide the next time. The game was fine but the smile on his face was priceless. T really enjoyed himself and it reminded me that he is just a small child. Sometimes when he speaks it is difficult to remember that. On Sunday we did it again when we took the dog out and so we spent 30 minutes building a survival den and then protecting it from marauding enemies. Again this was fun and energetic and so satisfied two key things, having a laugh and burning off some energy, all in one game. T loved it and I have to be honest it was nice to be smiling and playing like that.

I have also enjoyed watching T get into reading and to see him giggling to himself while he reads on the sofa is a real thrill. Since he broke his thumb T has not been able to do sports at school and so he has started reading David Williams’ books and he really enjoys them. Our thoughts on this are that if we can get a 10 year old boy into reading then we are giving him a real good opportunity to succeed, both educationally and socially, because with reading comes knowledge and understanding which is something T is going to need buckets of. And of course since he has lived with us we have always read bed-time books to him; the bath, story and bed routine essential for balanced sleep, and it is a real pleasure to watch him get into the stories and the other worlds they create.

And T can be very helpful. Sometimes it might be because he wants something, name me a child who does not do that, but sometimes it is just because that is how he feels. If I think back to a year ago then I would never imagine him coming into the kitchen while I am cooking tea and just laying the table for everyone. And to be honest I would not expect my own children to do that either. Nor would I imagine him volunteering to take the dog out on the green outside the house and chucking a ball for him. But he does. He can be very considerate and thoughtful. And he is quick to compliment people and also pick up on others emotions and he can be lovely about that, once just coming up behind my wife and giving her a shoulder massage without expecting anything back when he knew she’d had a tough day at work.

And his own success can make him very happy and that is lovely to see too. This week, after a bit of duress, we got down to some spelling homework and he did so well, putting together some very intelligent ways to remember the words, that he was getting them all right. And he just came in from school, as I was writing this, and told me he got 9 out of 11 which for him is excellent. And he has a grin on his face because of that. His school record today reads, “Absolutely Fab all day. T was a delight to teach” and his beaming smile is testament to how that makes him feel. And how it makes me feel too.

So it’s important that I remember the good things about having him here. Some days it is very apparent but other days it can be very hard to find but, and this is an important but, I must remember, even during the tough moments, that it is always there, it never goes away, he is a good lad. He is still the same little, lost lad but he is growing every day. Like his teacher says, it is ‘a delight’ to have him here… well most of the time anyway.