James (name changed) came home with a message from Paige’s father asking if I could call him that evening. James was anxious about this as he had no idea why. I asked if there had been any problems and he said, categorically, no.
We had dinner and I went into my bedroom to call Paige’s dad, Darren. I actually felt quite nervous about making the call as I thought it was going to be bad news. Darren seemed like a nice bloke, he was simply concerned about James being in care and the reasons behind it.
Obviously I couldn’t give him all the background but I simply said that he was in care through no fault of his own and that he was a nice young man, well mannered and honest. He accepted what I told him and we discussed the rules I set for James around school work and friends. We said our goodbyes and I went back into the front room where James was sitting like an expectant father.
I explained the conversation and he was, initially, miffed that her Dad had concerns because he was in care. I explained that some young people come into care due to their own behaviour and not for the reason he did. He seemed ok once I explained everything to him and went up to his room to sort his stuff for the next day.
About an hour later he came back down and said he wanted to ask something. He asked if people would always think badly of him because he was in care.
It was a tricky question to answer as there is no doubt that some people make a generalisation about being in care and what it means. I told him the honest truth that some people would judge him because of it but that he should show that he was a strong individual who was not weakened by his past. He seemed reassured and he went off to bed.
This is a side of fostering that isn’t always talked about, the mental effect of the trauma involved of being in care. I’ve seen the mental effects of being in care, quite clearly, in many of the placements I’ve had. It seems to happen mainly in children of secondary school age but happen in younger placements. It depends on the circumstances of coming into care and the behaviour of their parents.
I’ve experienced horrible situations where parents are more concerned about their own wellbeing over that of their children. I remember one Family Group Conference where a parent actually stated that she wasn’t coping with her children being in care as she couldn’t claim any benefits for them! Nothing about her children and how they were coping.
Also where a parent, who put her children into care because she couldn’t cope with parenthood, then proudly announced, in front of her children, that she was pregnant!! She ended up having two babies while her older kids were in care.
You do wonder about the long term effects of this on the children as they go into adulthood and if they receive the support they should do, I suspect not.
Fosterman – Foster Care Blog