Here at Family Care, we often get asked by those considering becoming foster carers in the Midlands and North West, ‘just what is it like to be a Foster Carer?’ Fostering young people, whilst hugely rewarding, is challenging and there are a multitude of different thoughts, feelings and emotions that are experienced by foster carers when trying to do their best. Here in this article we explore many of the feelings associated with a child’s first few hours with a foster family and how these emotions and concerns can be overcome.
It was really late when Tom arrived so we gave him a hot chocolate to settle him and encouraged him to go to bed. We asked him to shout us if he needed anything in the night. Oh no! I forgot to leave our “This is us” book in his bedroom! The book would have helped him in case he forgot our names – he must be feeling really confused given the circumstances in which he came. I will give him the book in the morning and go through it with him then. I hope it will help - it will tell him a bit about us, like our names and how we do things in the house - appropriate dress, going to the toilet in the night, routine etc. I know, I will encourage him to leave it in his bedroom in case he forgets our names or other information and he can go and check it whenever he wants.
Should I have left the light on for him? The social worker said Tom didn’t have it on in his last placement but maybe I should have asked him? I may ask my social worker to contact the previous carers tomorrow to see what wash powder they used – that may help Tom feel more secure – the smell will be familiar. Sound – maybe I should ask him if he would like music on when going to sleep – I know some children like to hear sounds at night because the quietness scares them. Does he like story tapes? …. I should have asked that too.
I left all of his bags on the hallway floor – I should have moved those to his bedroom. I won’t go through the bags until he wakes in the morning and we can do this together. I thought we weren’t supposed to use carrier bags these days. I’ll buy him a suitcase; maybe not…. if I do will he think he’s moving again? Need to think about that one. The bits and pieces I can see on top of the bags look dirty and full of dog hairs. There is a teddy poking out of one bag – it is really smelly – I need to wash that…. how will he feel if I do? It might have to stay the way it is if it has happy memories………will they be happy memories?... will he want it at all? I should have had a quick look in the bags before sending him to bed, what if he can’t sleep without this teddy?
I won’t chuck his belonging in the washer tonight but will ask Tom in the morning if he wants me to wash them. Some of his belongings look quite old like should I offer to buy some new clothes? The Social Worker would want me to do that but I don’t want to make a fuss of his clothes and embarrass him. What if the clothes were bought by his family he likes them the way they are – the smell – the feel – maybe it reminds him of home. What if he doesn’t want me to wash them? Does it matter that they look and feel dirty to me and others?
I better get some sleep – I will check on him before I get into bed. Ah – I forgot to tell him I will go and check on him, I hope I don’t scare him creeping around his bedroom... I hope he sleeps through the night.
Why is it that I am only remembering all these things now? I thought I was prepared - it’s just like they said on the training “You won’t know how it really feels until it happens”. Now I understand. Tomorrow I will get it right. What is right?
He still hasn’t woken up? Should I wake him or let him sleep in, he has been through a lot. I wonder if he knows he can just come downstairs? I wonder if he knows breakfast is here for him when he is ready? I should have spoken with him briefly last night.
I am confident however, despite all these concerns we have done the best we can do and Tom will be starting to feel at ease with us.