From fearful to forever
This journey began on a cold spring evening; it began with a phone call from our supervising social worker asking us if we could take in a six year old boy who had come into care due to severe neglect, he was one of four siblings.
I shall refer to our foster child as Connor* during this story; Connor’s social worker bought him to our home. He looked undernourished and dishevelled, he was very vocal and spoke in a loud and aggressive manner, swearing and saying, “I am not stopping here, you try make me”.
I had to sit with him as the social worker made her escape. He continued with the verbal abuse, we heard words that wouldn’t have been out of place on the docks. After sitting with him to calm him for about 2 hours he started to get tired so we gave him some beans on toast to eat, (usually a safe choice until you find out the child’s favourite food), a hot drink then he washed and changed into his new pyjamas, (best to always have a few ‘must have’ items such as toothbrushes, underwear in at all times). I read him a story he was still very tense and angry, but tiredness overcame him, and he snuggled under his duvet.
Next morning, we took him shopping for new clothes, he had arrived in a pair of ripped P.E. shorts a grubby t-shirt that we had to assume was once white and a pair of battered plastic sandals, nothing else, nothing.
We went to our local Tesco extra store with him, he was spitting and swearing. As foster carers, it’s good to develop a thick skin and learn diversion skills, as people do not know that the screaming child isn’t your birth child you may receive looks of disgust and lots of tut tutting; you will never have a dull moment.
We had a 25-mile round trip to his school which was very close to his birth parents house, which caused problems as his Dad often went into school threatening the head and teachers; the police had to be called on several occasions.
We soon discovered that Connor was very disruptive and rude at school - I went to pick him up one day and he had thrown chairs and desks at other pupils and teachers, swearing at them. It was upsetting to see him so angry, so distressed. We felt strongly that Connor needed to move schools, it acted like a trigger when he re-entered his old territory and eventually, after visiting a few options, it was agreed that he could move to a school in the next village to us. Wow! From his very first day there he blossomed, no disruptive behaviour and he started to actually learn something at school.
Connor started to take pride in his appearance. He enjoyed choosing his own clothes and hairstyles and was changing into a lovely smart, polite little boy. We introduced him to lots of different environments; we took him to family worship at church, to restaurants, the cinema, we took him abroad on holiday where we stopped in a rather posh hotel, and he loved it and fitted in really well.
A forever home
After he had been with us 18 months we were told that a suitable match had been found for Connor to be adopted and move on to his “Forever” family. This is a bittersweet time, you feel so happy for him and yet another, rather selfish part of you, feels sad that he will be gone. But we are only human, and a mixture of emotions are part of fostering.
Prior to being adopted and moving to his new family home, the adopters spent about a week with us getting to know their son, finding out his routines etc.
I took Connor to his new parents; we travelled by train and when we got their nearest station, there at the end of the platform were his new parents. Connor ran into their arms. It was all I could do not to cry. I walked up to them and said, “I have brought your son home, enjoy every moment with him, he’s a very special little boy”.
I stayed for 5 days in a nearby hotel, so I could help Connor transfer his feelings over to his new parents gradually. This is a magical time and you realise that you have made a difference to this little boy’s life, all the work you’ve put into helping him become the young person he was meant to be has been so worth it.
I got a phone call on my way home to say that we already had a new foster child moved in that day! Oops here we go again!
We hope that by reading my story that it has inspired you to begin life as foster carers, it really is a fantastic and rewarding life.
Go on, jump in!
Written by Phil, foster carer from Mansfield.
* name changed for confidentiality reasons