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Lazy mornings fostering Alice

Alice – Fostering Blogs.

Tuesday.

The first couple of days have been good so far. Charlie and I have taken it in turns to have a later start to the morning. We haven’t seen Lauren or Annie before 11am. You could almost set your alarm clock to Alice waking up – she is always awake before 7am – whatever day of the week or time of the year, and just because we are on holiday doesn’t mean she is going to sleep in or even just stay in her bed and play for a bit. One of us has to get up with her because she needs to have her catheter done first thing.

Although she has an indwelling catheter in over night – we have found that if we don’t get up with her she will simply pull it out. And when she does that it is a nightmare – she has been lucky that she hasn’t actually injured herself or done any damage at all for that matter – but what she has done is made a huge mess.

When she pulls it out the tube that is full of urine goes everywhere – you can only imagine what a pain that is to clear up – has usually resulted in a full change o bedding, a bath for Alice and change of clothes, and sometimes cleaning the floor and walls where it has splashed. We have tried a number of things – getting super string surgical tape to keep it in place has done the trick – but now she just shouts and screams till one of us goes in.

Sometimes you just have to choose your battles and this is not one of the ones we are going to fight. For harmony in the household it is easier if one of us gets up with her. We can usually just take her downstairs and she is happy to sit and watch a movie. Friends of mine allow their kids to have a TV in their foster child’s room – this would definitely do the trick as I’m sure Alice would be happy with this. However, we have chosen not to do this as we have never allowed Lauren or Annie to have a TV in their room – and we are not going to change our minds with them. So we take the hit and get up with Alice.

Although I am quite an early bird (both ends of the day), I do miss the odd lazy start. I always think I will lie in on the days when Alice is at respite, but you can guarantee I will be up with the larks on those days. Perhaps as the girls get older I can encourage them to take a turn to get up with Alice in the holidays – I think this might be wishful thinking – I’ve probably got more chance of them spontaneously keeping their room tidy, or choosing to do their homework the day it is set!!

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Alice Holiday

Alice – Fostering Blog

Sunday

We have just started a two week holiday on the south coast. It could not have come soon enough as we have felt pretty tired over the last few weeks. Although we had a week away at the start of the summer holiday – a week camping was not exactly relaxing and we definitely need a few lazy days to recover. Charlie has been exhausted too – his boss has been on extended leave, so he’s been covering both jobs for the past two months. The end is in sight as his boss returns from leave shortly after our return from holiday. We were hoping to get some respite for at least part of our time away, but to be honest I just didn’t get myself sorted in time and all the usual options for respite were not available. So we are all going away – the five of us for two weeks. We are staying in a house a short walk from the sea – I am hoping it will mean we get plenty of opportunities to get down by the ocean and get at least a little bit of rest.

We planned the five hour journey with a couple of stops. Lauren has been suffering with car sickness over the last few months, so we wanted to ensure she got some breaks if needed, we also needed to ensure that we switched places and she sat in the front for the last leg of the journey. We have found that she has been fine with the motorway part of the journey – it’s just all the long, windy country roads. For this journey the first three hours are on the motorway, so we switch over for the last part. Fortunately this time she was okay. I think this is something we probably need to check out a bit further, I do wonder whether she has a problem with her ears.

I am reminded again, that I need to make sure I am giving my own children the attention they need. Having a foster child can be a bit time consuming making sure their needs are being met – so much of my attention is on her – meeting with social services, education and so many consultants at hospital due to her complex needs. There are times when I have missed things with my own girls. This is a challenge. I do need to ensure that their needs are also met and that they are not missed – they will only end up resenting out choice to foster if we don’t get the balance right. One thing we we do with our own girls is keep talking to them – telling them when we get things wrong, talking things through – so we know where we are all at and that we are not missing things.

We’ve definitely let this slip a bit during the summer so I am hoping we will have plenty of chances during the evenings when Alice is in bed to catch up.

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Fostering Alice Blog | Big hugs

Alice – Fostering Blog

Wednesday

Alice has gone to holiday club today. She was picked up by the staff at 8.30am and is not dues back util 4:30pm. They are off to a local wildlife park for the day. The trip is organised by our local disability charity. They pretty much think of everything. They ensured all of their staff were fully trained with all the medical procedures before the holiday. Before we moved here she was part of a mother group – but I would always have to go along to do her catheter and medicines. Although there were lovely days out for Alice, it kind of defeated the object of having the day for respite and I would then have to find child care for Annie and Lauren!!

It has been a lovely day for me to have some time with my girls – so we make the most of the day – doing each others nails, going shopping and having hot chocolate (and cake!!). It is great for them to both have a ‘normal’ day – no fights or tantrums, not having to negotiate before we do anything, just doing normal stuff. Charlie was working, so he didn’t get to come I did remind him that there will be plenty of opportunities to take the girls out on his own when we have our two week family holiday at the end of August.

When I get opportunities like these, I do like to try and have lots of fun with the girls, but also give them opportunities for them to say how they are really feeling – not just with every day stuff – like friendships and school but also how they are doing being in a fostering family. It is not a bed of roses – which is often how people make you feel – “aren’t you doing a great job”, “I could never do what you do, you are amazing” and so on.

Sometimes you feel like you can’t say how difficult it is at times and that sometime you don’t know what you are doing or that it comes at a cost to your family life… I just want Lauren and Annie to always be able to say how they feel. Just as we were finishing up our hot chocolates, Lauren told me that sometimes she finds it hard especially when Alice is having a meltdown, and people are around. She said sometimes she wished she was invisible.

I just wanted to scoop her up and give her a big hug – but realise there is a time and place – and she would defiantly wish she was invisible if I did that in the middle of the coffee shop.

I told her I understood how she felt – and that Charlie and I feel like that too. She couldn’t believe grown ups would feel that – I reassured her and told her that we must feel guilty about having those feelings – note to self too – easy said than done!!

It is good to talk though – and we always want our girls to know they can be open and honest with us – even if things are hard to hear at times.

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Fostering Alice | Making a difference

Alice – Fostering Blog

Monday

Whilst social services are at breaking point being for lack of resources, social workers being overstretched and carrying far too many cases, unlike many families we have had a fair bit of consistency in terms of having the same social worker and seeing her on a regular basis (a little too regular in my opinion) over the last few years. She is consistent in her visits and length of time she gives us, what we don’t get is any action when it comes to providing us with the resources that we need. I would settle happily for more support and resources in the areas we need rather than the time he gives us doing statutory visits every month. So I was very surprised this morning to get a call from the Duty Social Worker to say that our social worker was on sick leave and they would be sending out a duty worker to do the stat visit. I did mention that we weren’t overdue a visit and we’d happy to wait until she was back. But they insisted they would send the duty worker to carry out the visit.

What a waste of time. I could have told them it was totally pointless. Yet another new adult for Alice to impress, for her to climb up upon and flutter her eyelashes and show how sweet she is. Another person to distract from what is really going on. Another person for me to fill in with on her life story because she won’t have had time to read the notes, she certainly won’t be writing many notes up from today’s visit, and there will be no action on what we actually need help with. I can’t help feeling that it is simply a box ticking exercise for them, to show that they are taking due diligence and not missing any visits. They are insuring against a bad result from their next Ofsted inspection.

Whilst that little box is being firmly ticked, a number of boxes are being ignored – ones that actually matter to Alice and to us. She has still not started her life story work – if I hear one more excuse about parents not being cooperative I will get very cross. It only takes five minutes of facebook stalking to find enough information to get the life story work started, social services along with her nursery provider and health service have enough information in her records to fill in the gaps – and we have everything from age 3. We are also still awaiting therapy to start and help getting our house made more accessible.

These things are at the bottom of a very long list of things social services need to get on with – however the stat visits will continue. As suspected, the duty worker came, I made her a cup of tea, Alice was charming, I tried to fill her in on the last month or so, and she was out of the door before I could raise the things that really mattered. It is very easy to feel disillusioned by the whole thing.

We have to keep reminding ourselves about the difference we have made to her life!

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Entertaining Alice

Alice’s Foster Care Blog

After weeks of experiencing the longest heatwave in my loving memory, we head into what must be the wettest day of the year so far – to put up a tent and begin a week of camping. What on earth were we thinking? This is typical!! We arrive in good time and fortunately our friends have arrived ahead of us meaning I can stay in the car with Alice while, Charlie, Lauren, and Annie get our to put up the tent. I’m not sure who is taking one for the team in this instance – Charlie and the girls get soaked putting up the tent and emptying out the car of all our gear, meanwhile I am in the car for over an hour with Alice who is having a pretty big meltdown.

Entertaining Alice was pretty tough, we had exhausted the music, stories, DVD’s and games that we had brought for the journey – everything else was buried deep in the back of the boot. There was no where to escape to until the tent was up. She really was trying my patience and in the confines of the small space of the car I was finding it hard to find my “happy place”. I appreciate being shut in a car seat was not much fun either, she wanted to get out and “help” like the big girls – she doesn’t understand her limitations of being in a wheelchair.

She usually gets to “help” by holding tent pegs or unpacking sleeping bags, and she was currently being kept prisoner in the car. She certainly didn’t appreciate how difficult it is to get things dry when they get wet while you are camping, all I was thinking of was how on earth were we going to keep dry if this weather continues. At home we can wash and dry everything pretty quickly, but when camping there is nothing we can do.

I had to dig deep in order not to lose my temper and snap at her. I put the radio on – a little too loud and sat back and tried as best I could to block out the sound of Alice repeating over and over how awful I was not to let her out of the car. Just as Charlie and the girls had finished putting up the tent we got out and started nesting in out tent. Alice was relieved to leave the confines of the car to go to the confines of her sleeping pod in the tend. She sorted out her toys and teddies and helped to blow up her Ready Bed. She was happy again – for now.

And just when I was beginning to lose hope for a nice week camping there in the distance was a break in clouds – and a very feint glimpse of blue sky could be seen – just enough to give us new hope for the week!

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Camping with Alice

Alice’s Fostering Blog

Wednesday.

What a week – the heat has been stifling and we have hardly been able to leave the house. We are off camping next week, so we have been trying to sort out all our equipment. Last year our tent broke in torrential rain – letting in water the Lauren and Annie’s pods. It looked beyond repair so we didn’t bring it home. I’m not sure how many more times I can put myself through the ordeal of camping, and so didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a new tent. Fortunately a friend of a friend has loaned us their family tent along with a whole load of camping stuff that we do not own – gazebos, tables, camping cupboards etc. When we went to collect all the stuff, they just mentioned as we were leaving that they were not sure if the last people who had borrowed it had dried it out properly.

Oh dear – that means we need to put the tent up before we go – just in case! I guess it will give us a practice of putting it up before we go, which probably isn’t a bad thing. We have been putting off this job for the last two weeks – it is far too hot to do this, but now we are running out of time.

Lauren and Annie are more that happy to help, and after an almighty meltdown from Alice, we decided to wait until she was in bed. Last year her help consisted of holding the bag of tent pegs while shouting very unhelpful instructions to us – we literally wanted to throttle her. I am so glad we did put the tent up before we went – it wasn’t because there was any problem with it – actually it was in perfect condition, but because of the sheer size of the thing – it looked like an entire village could fit into it. It was a good job we could see the scale of the thing so we know how much space we need when we get to the camp site!

The good thing is – that if we get the same kind of rain we had last year – the tent gives us plenty of living space so we are not on top of each other. We make a plan as to who is going to have which pod – that way when we get there on Saturday we can just tell Alice where she is going to be – having a choice is not a good thing – as she will simply want whichever one Lauren goes for.

So now the countdown to camping begins and I need to get through a huge to do list before we go… I am just hoping now for an easy few days and a little drop in temperature would be nice.

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Tearful Alice

Alice – Fostering Blogs

Friday
School out for summer!!! So relieved to finally get here!! I thought it would be nice to take an ice lolly up to school when collecting Alice. The weather has been so ridiculously hot – and even the short walk home can be unbearable. I got up to school with perfect timing – as I walked through the school gate the classroom door was just opening and out poured the kids. I waited and waited and there was no sign of Alice or her one-to-one support or classroom teacher. After five minutes, I went to ask the classroom assistant. She went in to find them. Another five minutes passed and eventually I could see Alice coming, with a very red face, she had obviously been crying and was still wiping away tears.

It transpired that she had got very upset because it was the end of term. She was sad because the crossing patrol lady is retiring and she would miss her, she was also sad because she would not see her teachers until September. I find it hard to understand some of the things that she gets attached to and other things you would expect her to – she just has no attachment to. To make matters far worse the lolly I was no holding had turned to liquid – this poured salt on the wound and was of course my fault. She then launched into an attack of why I had let it melt and that I needed to get her another one.

Well at least she had now changed her mind about why she was upset and we managed to move away from the classroom. I did not hear the end of it until we got home. I breather in very slowly, counted to ten (several times) and tried to think of my happy place (sometime in the middle of next week when Alice would be at holiday club). We finally got home and fortunately there was another ice lolly in the freezer.

Ordinarily I would not have indulged such an outburst, but today this was not a sword I was willing to die on – choose your battles – if not for your child but for to keep your own sanity!!

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Finish line

Alice – Fostering Blogs

Wednesday.
I could have done with term ending a week ago. I’m pretty sure I say this every year but this summer term is definitely a week too long. We have friends whose kids are in private schools and they seem to have got it right as they broke up over a week ago. I know by the end of the summer break I will be wishing time away for them to go back to school and go back to the weekly routine, but for now it feels like we are on our knees – crawling to the finish line of the end of term. Every day there seems to be a new battle with our foster child and every day we persevere and get through it – only to face the next one.

We are exhausted and really need a break. Although six weeks sounds like a long time – we know it is pretty much filled already – some family holiday time, some camping with friends and a few weeks of our foster child in holiday club – this is the part I’m most looking forward to – this will give Charlie, Lauren, Annie and I the rest we need – before the new term starts ago before we know it.

The good thing is that Alice loves holiday clubs – she goes to a local special needs club – where she can take part in all sorts of activities like swimming, climbing, horse riding and then there are days out too, to adventure parks and theme parks. She gets a one-to-one support worker who looks after her, and she pretty much has the staff wrapped around her little finger!! We always book transport too – which means we get an extra long days break. We worked out that we are the first on the pick up and last on the drop off of transport – what a bonus. It may sound pretty mercenary but we know our limits and know when we need a break. So we take the opportunities when they come.

Next year when she is ten years old she will be able to go on their residential for a five day break. She is already talking about it – which is great as she wont need much persuasion to go!! She is also hoping to go on the school residential next year – and as long as there are two medically trained staff who are willing to go then she will be doing that too!

We have learnt that you really do need to take the breaks when they are offered, and when they are not you need to find ways to get them – whether that is by pushing for respite of booking them into holiday clubs. If you don’t look after yourself then you can’t look after them properly. I remember in our training recently the guy leading the session asked us to think why when you are on a plane you are told in the safety instructions – adults put their life jackets on first – then the children. It sounds counter intuitive – but actually it is true we must take care of ourselves in order that we can take care of them.

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Meltdown Alice

Fostering Alice Blog

Friday

In a bid to change everyone’s attention away from the football, I tried to get the girls to watch Wimbledon. Whilst there were no British players left in the singles, there were still Brits in the doubles and wheelchair tennis. I though Alice might be interested in wheelchair tennis. Whilst her own hand eye co-ordination is pretty poor at the moment – her wheelchair skills are excellent – and what amazing role models the players are. I decided after school we would walk through the park past the local tennis courts. I thought showing her a tennis court in real life would help her to understand the game a little better when we watch it on the screen.

When I picked her up from school, I should have realised this was a bad idea. Her teaching assistant told me that she had been pretty stubborn today, had refused to drink anything and had not allowed her to apply any suncream at lunch time. This meant she was not allowed outside for the break. So she was in a foul mood, she blamed the teaching assistant for this and took no responsibility herself. With hindsight I should have taken her straight home, but I persevered. This was definitely a mistake. I tried to give her a drink and put some sun cream on when we got to the park. She was having none of it and started swinging her arms round to bat me away from her.

I decided to call it a day and take her home. She now refused to move and grabbed the wheels of her wheelchair. She was going nowhere. Eventually after she had run out of energy I managed to get her home, but she was still very cross and telling me exactly what she thought of me. It was pretty good timing that as we crossed the road to get home, the social worker was waiting for us. She had just popped in to drop some paperwork off for our annual review.

Alice didn’t know what to do with herself, she had been having a full on meltdown, then she spotted the social worker. It was like Jekyll and Hyde. Suddenly Alice started engaging in conversation and smiling. It would have been funny but I was pretty exhausted by this point.

The social worker had seen everything though – which was great as usually she only sees the good side of Alice. Her visit had a great influence and the rest of the evening was much calmer.

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Angry Alice

Alice – Fostering Blog

Thursday

Although Charlie is very much into football it hasn’t really filtered down to any of the girls, and being honest it’s not something that I take an interest in. Lauren our youngest birth daughter, took a little interest when Charlie managed to get tickets to Wembley recently, but it soon wore off when their team lost and she got stick at school for supporting the losing side. However, the World Cup seems to have drawn everyone together and we have been following it more closely than ever before. Charlie even set up a family sweep stake – so we have even been keenly interested in countries other than England.

All our teams in the sweep stake were out by the quarter finals so we now focused our attention fully on England as they reached the semi finals. “Football’s coming home” right?? We have lived through the reality of this dream – since our our hopes of it coming home in 1996 when the song was first written. It was three decades before this song was written when football actually came home in 1966. We sang it like we believed it, but like many English people – did we actually believe it was coming home – probably not.

This tension of saying something is going to happen while knowing it probably or even possibly won’t became a real tension point for Alice our foster daughter. She didn’t understand why football didn’t come home – after all she heard the song being played, she sang the song (all be it with some wrong lyrics – Jewels Remain – not Jules Rimet and so on). She saw the flags flying on homes and cars and at school. So when she learnt the news the day after the match that England did not make the final and football wasn’t coming home (well at least not for another four years!!) she went into meltdown.

She was so angry, she felt like she had been tricked – and she blamed us. She could not understand why we had lied to her and she was now venting all her anger at us. It probably didn’t help that we had been off guard and not prepared for such an outburst. It definitely didn’t help that Annie and Lauren found this hilarious, and had failed to use their “poker face”; falling about laughing – which simply added to the anger of Alice and only confirmed that somehow this had been a huge conspiracy to trick her.

It was no use trying to explain, I think only time will help her come to terms with it. We simply cannot think ahead of every situation and predict how she is going to react. However, we can learn from this one and hope that if and when we believe football is coming home next we can at least prepare her that it probably isn’t.

A Less Ordinary Fostering Family