Planning is much harder when you don’t know how many people will be sitting at your dinner table next month.

Despite that, Social Services ask nothing else of you but to plan. Plan the house rules; plan how spaces in the house are allocated; plan a fire escape plan too. Normally I would love nothing more than making plans and preparations, but not this time.

Even setting up a kid bedroom isn’t much fun when you don’t know the first thing about the children who will inhabit it. The room at the moment is as colourful, playful and welcoming as a vacant hospital room. Everything in there, is there purely to satisfy a basic function, like having somewhere to sleep, or a place where to hang clothes.

We are keeping it strictly non-committal when it comes to gender and theme: not too boyish or girly, not too babyish or grown up. The only sign that a child might be sleeping in there is a Winnie the Pooh wall meter, hanging in a corner of the room. Poor Pooh, he seems a little out of place against the cream walls and the plain white furniture, but he’s gender neutral–and I like him–so he stays.

I would hate for our kid’s bedroom to turn into a sort of misplaced B&B room. Nothing wrong with that, I’ve been in some lovely B&B rooms myself, but I always end up wondering how many people slept there before me, or brushed their teeth at the same bathroom basin. Nothing in those rooms has any connection to me. Not like home.

I truly felt home as I stepped through our house front door, coming back from a great week away. But the joy of being back quickly dwindled as I walked past our bare spare bedroom. How many foster families do a child need to move to before he or she realises that all these rooms and houses are little more that B&B to them?

I wonder if feeling loved and protected can somehow make up for that. But I need to ask myself how much I’d want a complete stranger to love and protect me when I’d much rather be loved and protected by my own parents, and stay and live with them instead, in a house that feels just like home to me–because it is.

They have every right to hate the new arrangements. Some children turn their hate against themselves because they wrongly believe something is wrong with them, or that they’ve have done something to deserve it. Others take it out on their foster parents because they can’t push themselves to blame their parents yet. Either way, these children learn to hate at a very young age.

I thought I had to wait until the end of the training before calling myself a foster parent; now I know it will take longer than that. Foster parents learn to care for their children and not to expect gratitude in return. They also learn to accept that their children may leave them before ever releasing all they have done for them. I haven’t done any of that yet.

All I’ve done is setting up a room. I hope it will feel like home for our foster children once finished, though right now it doesn’t feel like home to me.

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