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Pigs and rotas

Alice – Fostering Blog

Friday.

I am not sure why I thought getting pets for the children was a good idea – I guess I thought it would teach them about responsibility of looking after something. A couple of years ago I thought it would be a great idea to get the girls guinea pigs for Christmas. On Christmas day, we surprised them with a hutch as a gift and then took them the day after Boxing Day to go choose a guinea pig each. They were super excited about their new pets, but the the novelty soon wore off and Lauren was the only one who really took an interest.

This wasn’t too much of a shock – as it had been Lauren who had been asking for a pet for years.

We set up a rota for Lauren and Annie to clean them out each week – but as you can guess, I was left to sort them out the majority of the time. One of the errors I made was to let them each have their “own” guinea pig. That meant when Lauren’s got sick last year and eventually passed away, she was left without a pet. Despite this she has still loved and cared for the other two.

Today we found Annie’s little pig stiff as a board at the bottom of the hutch. There had been no sign that she had been sick – and they had only been cleaned out yesterday. We broke the news to the girls. I was surprised how sad Annie actually was about it. Lauren, who had already experienced the grieving when hers passed away last year, was very kind to Annie and told her she knew how she was feeling. Alice – who was now the one left a guinea pig she did not care for by any stretches of the imagination, went into complete meltdown. She wailed and cried and said how sad she was because she missed Annie’s guinea pig so much. She was inconsolable.

I’m pretty sure she was not that sad about the guinea pig. I can’t even remember the last time she even took the slightest interest in them. I don’t mean to be cynical, but it definitely felt like she didn’t want Annie getting any of the attention over this. I am sure there are also some attachment issues going on around loss too – so we tried to be sensitive. After Charlie did a little ‘funeral’ for the pig, we buried her and planted some bulbs. I then took Annie and Lauren out for a hot chocolate. I thought it would be good to let them have a bit of time away from the drama Alice was creating – to give them a chance to say how they felt and process it all. I also thought Charlie could spend some one to one time with Alice and try to help her be a little bit more empathetic toward Annie.

Empathy is not something that comes naturally to Alice – so we try to teach her by modelling it. Modelling behaviour is one of the strategies our fostering agency advocate. It can sometimes feel a bit fake and over the top but we have seen some positive results of using this over the years. When I returned home with the girls, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Alice offering genuine comfort to Annie. This was a huge turnaround from when we left the house just over an hour earlier. Charlie definitely earned his brownie points today!!

A Less Ordinary Fostering Family Blog.

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Lovely language

Emma’s Fostering Blog. Dinner

September – Charlie is 7 and I’m beginning to establish a good routine and boundaries, but I am finding the attention seeking, ‘in your face’ type behaviours difficult to ignore. He is constantly ?dgety and anxious, he is overly charming; he knows everyone’s names, their business and likes to help whenever he can, even if I don’t want his help.

October – Charlie seems to be settling in well he is responding to the boundaries and enjoys getting rewards. November – Charlie is managing his drama club and now looks forward to going every week. December – Almost daily, I am being spoken to about Charlie’s behaviour at School; he is being disruptive and rude, spoiling other pupils work. Charlie had a Christmas contact with his parents, he was excited about going, he had gifts from them then after a couple of days he destroyed them. Now we seem to be walking on egg shells with him, today we went to see Father Christmas, in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t, Charlie told him that he wasn’t real and he was a F*****g liar.

Christmas morning – Charlie is super excited, but this seems false, as if overshadowed by some horrible incident. Rapidly opening his presents, a quick glance, declaring several times ‘how lucky he is’ and ‘his favourite things ever’. Christmas dinner – we saw a very different Charlie – ‘I’m not eating this F*****g Shit’ then throwing the plate across the table he became louder, and very controlling, as if two people, in and out of character.

‘Triggers’ sounds, smells, tastes, things he saw, emotions he felt, reminders of trauma. I really wanted this day over and I was upset at his actions, my extended family were great, really supportive and despite everything they made him welcome. On reflection the gift from a particular family member had triggered anger, pain and loss; he had witnessed domestic abuse and was acting out the behaviours, ending up in disruptive and challenging behaviour. There’s lots of pressure to have fun, it can be difficult to cope. If things go wrong, they often go spectacularly wrong, so it’s very important to have an extra layer of support around this time of year.

It’s the most difficult time of the year for some children – Adam, care leaver once told me about his early experiences of Christmas with us, ‘I hated the emotions it stirred in me as we sat at the table together, there was laughter and a real family sense, but for me it felt like a physical pain in my heart because this is what it should have been like for me at home, it’s the dread of feeling that way because I felt so heartbroken’.

My thoughts are Step out of the box- think and plan in advance, you can have a happy Christmas; you might just need to tweak your routine or traditions.

Emma – A Blogging Foster Carer – I Love What I Do!

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Another rejection

Emma’s Fostering Blog. Another rejection

I feel like I have failed with Craig.

When Craig 14 yrs. came to us we knew it would be a challenge but we never realised just how much. Craig had been in Foster care since he was 6, then his Foster Carer died so he was moved, and has had two carers since. They were seeking a placement urgently as his current Foster carer had given notice and wanted him out immediately as they couldn’t cope any longer. We agreed to a month while they were looking for a more suitable placement as we knew we couldn’t support long term.

It has been 4 months now, the behaviour is out of control, and we are hanging in there by the skin of our teeth. Craig has stolen items from our home, sold most of his things, he absconds from school on a daily basis, and he has thrown a brick from a bridge onto a car windscreen.

He smoke’s cannabis; he lies compulsively, and is in trouble with the police, refuses to come back on time and often turning up in the middle of the night. I understand it’s not his fault and during supervision I was talking about this and I became tearful because I felt like a failure, I know my feelings are real, I really do care, and I know I shouldn’t feel guilty. It’s not the social workers fault, but I needed some empathy from her as she goes home at the end of her shift, I don’t, and I can’t recharge my batteries ready the next day.

I know my job is to advocate as strongly as possible for Craig as I have his best interests at heart, but I can’t do this anymore, I’m exhausted, and its awful feeling so guilty and responsible for him. There is so little support, because there isn’t much available, and they can’t find anyone willing to have him because the behaviours are so challenging.

This is now impacting on my family life, and I have to look after myself, my own mental health. I’m worried about the other children in placement because it’s not fun anymore as he keeps playing up and they are getting upset. Our agency won’t like us giving notice, and we probably won’t get another child for a while because of this, as if frozen out, and on the naughty step. I know I have to give notice as he needs far more support than a Foster family can offer and maybe this is the only way Craig will get the help he needs as I am his fourth Foster Carer now, and it’s happening again, another rejection for him.

My thoughts are I have supported Foster Carers who try and try in situations such as this, and watched as relationships break up, they experience mental health issues, and their own children suffer.

Emma – A Blogging Foster Carer – I Love What I Do!