Men working in foster care often end up paying for the sins of other, somewhat less virtuous, fellow men.

Social Services make no attempt to hide their preferences when it comes to who should perform more sensitive tasks, such as help the children to bath, or go through their bedtime routine. I believe not because women can do a better job at these tasks, but simply because they are perceived as “safer”.

I’m not here to play the victim. Goodness no, there are enough victims in child fostering, I and my pity objections would never even register on the scale. But it does seem as we, male foster carers, have to prove our worth a bit more than our women counterpart. Isn’t that refreshing?

Me superhero

It’s not Social Service I’m worried to impress either. It might take a little while, but I’ll be able to earn their trust. It will be harder with the children, though.

Adopting Ben at six months made things very simple. At that age children trust anyone, they have to. Right now he thinks I’m some sort of giant superhero, and as long as I don’t mess it up spectacularly, I can expect my good reputation to last for a few more years.

It’s going to be a different story for any foster child who come and stay with us. Many of these kids will have suffered abuse and violence, and to them, I may look a lot like the person who caused the abuse and the violence. Or maybe they love and miss their father, and they’ll want nothing to do with me. Either way, I suspect they won’t like me much to begin with.

Do you love me?

I went through life taking the pragmatic approach that, if I somebody doesn’t like me, I won’t like them back. Being everyone’s favourite is too much hassle. You work so hard to get them to like you, only to realise you never really liked them anyway.

This laid-back approach to friendship served me well all my life, but I worry it is not going to work with the children in our care, and considering we will need to live together, it’d be nice to get along. Does that mean I’ll need to change approach?

I start wondering if I actually thought this whole fostering idea through.

Changes

Fine, I’ll change then, I’ll be lovable. But I suspect being liked won’t be enough.

Many children in foster have seen the worst, awful side of being human: the violent, frightening, and lonely one, and with time they learnt to identify themselves with it. I’m starting to believe that the job of a foster carer is really to show them that being human is not just that.

I remember the phrase “little eyes are always watching” from a book I read. That phrase made me pause for a minute. It was about being a model for these children; about being altruistic, caring, disciplined, fair, patient, forgiving, generous, responsible, sensitive, and honest to a fault.

I remember thinking, “Why am I hearing about this only now? Nobody told me that to be a foster parent you also had to be good!”.

But let’s say I can be (some) of these things. Even then, the word that stuck with me is “always”. Little eyes are always watching, and they watch up to you to prove them there’s an alternative to what they’ve known all their life, that they too can be good, and that being good is, well, good.

Downright good

I don’t know if I can be that all the time. Actually, I know I can’t. And I’ve never known anyone who could, either. Then again, it may have, but then realised they didn’t like me and couldn’t be bothered with them.

The truth is, I can aim for “occasionally very good”, or “good-ish most of the times”, but anything more than that would be a stretch. And maybe it’s a good thing. It’s going to give me a chance to show our kids how good people apologise to others for the bad choices they make, and if I know myself well enough, they’ll master that lesson within the first week.

As they say, “Lead by example!”


From this article

Team Foster: The Coach Approach to Foster Parenting

Team Foster: The Coach Approach to Foster Parenting
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