Last week Diego and I attended the first session of the Skills to Foster training. I wasn’t looking forward to it, and I wasn’t expecting much. When 3 years ago we had the first of our adoption training, we almost gave up on adoption, and I was anticipating a similar outcome. But I was pleasantly surprised, this time only half of me is considering quitting.

There is still so much I don’t know about fostering, and the Skills to Foster training is a good starting point to know more. But for me the training was more about taking the courage to deal with some of the issues I already knew about, but that I found hard to accept, and that I hope will never happen to me.

Who did what?

Allegations is a big one for me.

During the training we were told several times to log everything down: a change in the routine, a different behaviour, a particular event, something that happened, a fall, a bump, a scratch… That should help cover ourselves against complaints and allegations.

But what about the consequences on the child who made the allegation? And what about the consequences for us as a family, and specifically on Ben?

The child might be removed from our care and sent to a new family. Maybe that is what the child wanted all along. It is a self-feeding cycle: no one in the life of that child is there to stay, or to love him, or to help him, and if I happened to be involved it to would include me as well. I understand the gravity of an allegation, and the necessity to keep everyone safe, but I also see how a child that makes a false allegation gets hurt again and again. A part of me would be angry for being falsely accused, but another part of me would feel like I failed that child for not fighting to allow him to stay with us. I would be like giving up on him, and my only contribution in his life would have been adding more wood to a well-established fire.

And if the allegation is really serious, can the Social Worker remove my son Ben from us, either temporary while investigating the matter, or permanently? I have a duty of care towards my son, and I don’t want to put him in any danger, or expose him to any harm, let alone lose him!

Not a taxi service then

Contact with the birth family is another hot topic for me.

My very misinformed idea of contact was simple enough: drop off the child to the contact centre to meet the birth family/relatives and pick him up later on. I found out that’s not the case. The contact with the birth family can be quite extensive, often in very stressful situations, and unlikely adoption, unavoidable.

Can I really maintain calm and diplomatic in that situation? Or, as social workers described it, be professional? How will I react when the child refuses to go to contact, when the birth family shouts in anger and frustration at me, when I witness the pain of having a child removed, when I hear all the excuses for not showing up at contact, when I’m aware of how birth parents have hurt a child, when I’m the one taking the child away with me…

Situations can escalate very rapidly and, let’s be honest, I’m not the most soft-spoken person. Will I be able to keep it together, if for no other reason than the sake of the child in my care?

Farewell normal life

During the training, we were told about trying to have a “normal” family life (whatever that is), and treat all the children in the household like they all were our own. That’s good, who doesn’t want a normal family life? But then they also enumerated a long list of things we shouldn’t do with a child in care: no wrestling, no jumping on the bed, no sharing beds and bedrooms, no walking around the house in our underpants, no tickling…

The whole of our family life will need to change and adapt to the new reality. In a way, for Ben, it will be like he never left care.

How is that fair on him?

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