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Fostering Holiday

Emma’s Fostering Blog

Holiday

With the New Year comes the thought about holidays. I always make sure I get a letter from the Social worker in plenty of time, arranging permission, getting paperwork signed; obtaining passports and overcoming any legal issues, booking a holiday can be a lengthy process. Before our main summer holiday we go camping as often as we can with all the children and young people as they all love the fresh air and the freedom to run wild and play games, and making great memories about places they have been.

Experiencing a ‘typical’ family holiday benefits children in a number of ways – it introduces them to new cultures and experiences, helps them to socialise, builds confidence in different circumstances. And of course, it gives them notes to compare with school friends about how they’ve spent their six weeks off!  I have different experiences of taking foster children away with us so I can say sometimes it is very stressful and they don’t always cope well with the change so I always complete a risk assessment, and involve them with showing and talking about where we are going. However sometimes a child just can’t cope with a holiday it depends how long they have been with you and their nature. 

Despite my best efforts I took Megan 11 on holiday she was very excited as she had never been on holiday but the expectations for her were too much and she ended up having several meltdowns before we decided to cut our holiday short to return home.

Going on holiday is fun but it can also pose a risk as in safety- less familiar with the child’s personal sense of safety, or  running away as holidays made Megan think about her own family and how she wanted to be doing this but with them. This holiday was in the UK and we were prepared and briefed for any potential hiccup, I wanted to test the water as I had doubts whether she would manage going abroad this year.

Over time going on weekend breaks and getting her used to camping, team working, being involved putting tents up, cooking and other tasks, she absolutely loves it. Now settled Megan has enjoyed so many holidays abroad, taste of a different culture, language and food.

My thought are thinking and planning ahead and fighting for the rights of looked after children to have as much normality in their life as possible, which includes holidays. We should also take annual leave to allow the opportunity to rest and recuperate too. It’s getting the right balance which stops you burning out as a Foster carer.

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

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Sunday

After all the preparations this week Christmas Eve has finally arrived. We have a few family traditions on Christmas Eve and it is so lovely to now see Alice joining in on them because she too remembers them each year. I always start the day with some food preparations for Christmas day – it begins with chopping red cabbage, it goes in the slow cooker to make braised red cabbage. The smell of the cabbage, mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg, balsamic vinegar and wine wafts around the house. It has become such a familiar smell of Christmas.

After lunch we head to church for the Christingle service. Alice feels very grown up that she gets her own Christingle orange and is allowed to join in when the candles are lit. We are sitting very closely ensuring that she does not tip her lit candle up! Straight after the service we get in the car and head for the streets in our neighbourhood. This is our annual event where we look at the top ten ‘crazy’ house. The more Christmas lights the better!! We then head home and have a picnic tea while watching the Muppet Christmas Carol film. We end our evening with a tradition that our American friends passed on to us when they came to visit twelve years ago, and we have carried it on ever since.

We each have one Christmas gift to open – it is not something big, but is something useful – usually pyjamas, or a hot water bottle or a book – something that can be used straight away. All the girls love these traditions and it definitely something we all really look forward to. It is great that we are helping to create positive memories, especially for Alice. Alice’s first few years of life were very difficult and she had a lot of bad memories when she came to stay with us. Contact with her birth parents can often trigger these memories, so we have worked hard to help her have some positive things to think about. We are hoping that she will get some therapy in the new year to help her deal with her emotions and with the memories of the past.

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Thursday

It is always slightly chaotic in the run up to Christmas. This year the children broke up from school ten days before Christmas day. That meant I had them around the whole week leading up to Christmas and I had no time to get on with the preparations that I normally do when the children are at school. This meant I had to entertain the children in the day and get on with last minute shopping and wrapping of gifts in the evenings. By the time Christmas arrived I was feeling pretty exhausted. Charlie is busy with work – so has not been around to help with preparations.

The other thing I have had to factor in this week is contact with Alice and her birth parents. I have tried to be positive about contact over the years, but I know how it affects Alice. Whilst I agree that contact can be a positive experience for children, in this case there is no meaningful relationship being formed and it only causes her upset. We have learnt that is is best to only tell her about contact on the day it happens. This is not something that social services have always advocated but they trust us now that we know what is bet for Alice. We know if we tell her beforehand, then she gets very anxious, and there have been times when her birth parents have cancelled contact at the last minute.

Today, we are taking Alice into the city to meet her birth parents. They want to meet her at the Christmas markets. It wouldn’t be my choice for venue, I give my opinion and then the social worker decides it with birth parents. We get there in plenty of time so that we can meet the contact worker to do a handover before she is left with her parents. As has become normal, it is another new contact worker who has never met Alice before and has no idea about her disabilities – physical or learning. I made sure that Alice’s catheter was done and she was ready for contact. Her parents arrived a little late, but I will still collect Alice at the designated time, this is so that we can get back home in good time for catheter and medication.

When we collected Alice, she seemed ok. She had eaten her body weight in doughnuts and she still had the remnants of a hot chocolate round her mouth. Alice and her parents said their goodbyes and handed a bag of Christmas and birthday gifts to me. Alice was remarkably calm with no signs of being upset or anxious.

The contact worker didn’t have anything particular to report. As we got nearer to the car Alice suddenly burst into tears. She said that she missed her parents and wanted to know when she would see them next. We didn’t know the answer to this but it was likely to be around the Easter holidays – I don’t think she would have appreciated that as an answer – the Easter holidays would feel like years away to her. So instead we opted for the “let’s ask the social worker” – which usually suffices.

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