10 funny/not-funny foster care problems

We’ve been doing this fostering thing for nearly 18 months now. In many ways I still feel like the new kid on the block. We’ve only had six little loves, and there are veterans out there with 30+ to their names and in their hearts. But all the same, I’ve learned quite a lot over the past year and a half. Here are ten unexpected ‘problems’ that I’ve discovered come with the territory as a foster carer. Some are funny. Some not so funny.

Maybe, if you know a foster carer, this will help you to understand a little more of their crazy life.

  1. The complete inability to plan ANYTHING

    Let’s say you want to book a family trip to the zoo a few months in advance. You probably have a good idea how old your children will be in any given month. In fact, you probably have a good idea how many children you will HAVE in any given month. This, friends, is a luxury I no longer enjoy. I know I’ll have at least two… but will I have three? Four? Will one be a baby and exempt from entrance fees? Will I have 7-year-old triplets? Only God knows – literally.

    Or let’s say you want to arrange to go for a walk with friends next Thursday. Thursday is your free day, so you know you can do it, right? How lovely. Thursday was my free day, too – until one quick phone call changed contact plans and now my Thursdays are full. Cue me cancelling my plans… again.
  2. Your life becomes a series of acronyms

    “I need you to meet with the CSW, IRO and HV at the LAC review next Tuesday. You will be discussing the recent care plan change from Section 20 to ICO, with a view to a FCO. We will also be discussing the upcoming IRH, which was mentioned at the PPM we had a few months ago. Your SSW will be there to support you, and a FSW will be there to support birth parents. You can bring FC6 & 2 with you, as we can arrange care here. If the courts rule for a FCO we would like to arrange a meeting with you and an ASW to discuss where we go from here.

    “Got that?
  3. Being the mom… but not

    I cook their meals, clean their clothes, wipe their bottoms. I teach them to talk, take them for their first swim, steady their hands as they learn to walk. I comfort them through teething, get up in the night with them, nurse them through illness. I read goodnight stories, get sleepy morning cuddles, tickle them till they giggle. I can read their faces better than anyone, understand their incomprehensible babble, and pick up on their subtlest cues. In my heart, I am their mom. But the problem is – I’m not.

    I send them off with strangers to visit their parents. I teach them to love another instead of me.   hand them over when I’d rather keep them close. I build in their now, so others can share in their future.

    I’m their mom – but I’m not.

  4. Getting the names wrong

    You know that thing you do as a parent when you try to call your kid, but call the wrong name first? Maybe you say, “Come here Jon – Davi – Lewis.” Well, my list of names is growing longer very quickly.

    “Come here, Ash – Am – Mar – Eliz – Bri – Luc – Ame – Charity…”By this time next year I might just call all kids by one generic name to save on memory space.  ‘Jo’ sounds good.
  5. The joy of the UNANNOUNCED VISIT

    So we all know the mad tidying up we all do before visitors arrive. But what if that visitor was a social worker? And what if, in addition to the 100 odd scheduled visits a year that social workers made to your house, there was also the promise of one unannounced visit a year. At any time a social work may just appear at the door, ready to record their findings of the state of your home and kids?

    Yep. Oh-so fun.
  6. The conflict of feeling new and experienced all at the same time

    When a new child comes to live with us, it’s like having, er.. I don’t know… a new child. Crazy, but true. And if that child is a baby, it’s like having a new baby. Obvious when you read it, right?  But the thing is, no one treats you like that. No one cooks you meals, asks if you need help, or sympathises with the demands of a sudden extra body in the house. (Okay, not strictly ‘no-one’. Some very wonderful people in our lives go out of their way to check if we need anything. If that’s you, know just how much it means to us. Thank you.)

    But at the same time, you’re not a new parent. And the longer you foster, the more experienced you are. You get used to constantly dipping in and out of parenting a variety of ages. You become experienced at dealing with different stages of childhood, because you’ve just done it so often and so recently. You don’t want people treating you like the newbie – you’ve most likely got more experience than them.

    We’re hard to please, us foster carers.  Sorry about that.

  7. Storage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Now I know here in England we’ve all got small houses and not enough space. We all need more storage. But seriously, foster carers take this to the extreme. In addition to the stuff our core family unit own and need space for, in our house we also store:

    a full size single bed; two toddler beds; a cotbed; a moses basket; bedding for all those beds; three chests of draws; a wardrobe; two carry cots; two pushchairs; two car seats; a booster seat; a playmat; a bouncer; a walker; a toy ring; two play mats; a baby bath; a highchair; a nappy bin; two nappy bags; a night-light; a baby monitor; bottles; dummies; toddler cups, plates, and cutlery; bibs; girls’ clothes from newborn to age 6; boys’ clothes from newborn to age 6; toys and games suitable from newborn to age 6; spare suitcases; memory boxes; contact bags;

    I think God gave us expandable walls.
  8. Awkward introductions

    It used to be easy – “Hi, nice to meet you!  These are my kids.” Not any more. ‘These’ aren’t always ‘my’ kids. Sure, it doesn’t matter if I’m just meeting you in passing. You don’t need to know that one (or two) are not really mine. But what if you’ve moved to the area and you’re joining my social group? Do I tell you now? Do I tell you later? Do I just let you figure it out? And what if I’m signing a borrowed baby up for a mother and baby swimming group? It’s just so complicated. Maybe a more experienced foster carer has a good system worked out, but I’m still floundering in this one.
  9. Knowing too much

    We did a lot of learning before becoming foster carers. Then we went through the assessment process, where they put us on a course to learn some more. Then they require that we do a minimum of five training course/books a year, every year. Then we started fostering actual children, and the REAL learning began in earnest.

    Suffice it to say I know an awful lot about attachment, trauma, loss, and transitions, both in theory and practice. The trouble is, I know more than the professionals who I rely on for help. So when it comes to transitioning a child from my home to another, I am often helpless to make things better. I know what needs to be done, but there are too many others in charge who don’t know, and my voice is not enough to get it done.
  10. A really long prayer list and a head full of dreams

    The more kids we have, the longer my prayer list gets. By the time I’m 40 I think it’s going to take me all day just pray for each child.  This a good thing.  But time consuming.

    And my nights. They are filled with dreams of the little loves we no longer have in our homes, but are still in my heart. Here they visit me, sometimes happy and sometimes distressed. It makes for heart-achey sleep.

So there you have it. Ten things I’ve learned in eighteen months. But for all the ‘problems’, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Fostering has been the biggest blessing our family could have asked for, and we are so thankful God entrusted us with this beautiful life.

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