You know those people who really take pride in their job? She was one of them, and was determined to get the job done right. She looked at the movie cover, then at its back, then at the cover again, trying to decide what to do next. The movie certificate on the cover reported the letters PG. So, she moved her attention to the child, who was increasingly aware of being judged, still unable to make up her mind.

She then turns to Laura, my wife, and ask “Are you the mother?”. Laura takes a tad too long to reply, but then she does, “Yes, I am”. That answer would have hardly convinced a member of a jury, but for the cashier on the other side of the supermarket till, it was a good enough lie.

My wife paused to decide on the most sensible answer. She didn’t want to explain that the young girl buying the film was staying with us just for the weekend, as a respite placement. It was our first ever placement too, which goes a long way to explains why we were so unprepared for this kind of situation, which–I imagine–must happens to foster carers all the time.

She knew that claiming to be her mother could have offended the girl; she already has a mum, and a foster mum too, and the two days we have known her didn’t exactly qualify us for the title of parents. But the alternative was even less appealing; it would have required volunteering information that, frankly, the overly-fussy cashier did not need to know.

No one thought of it at the time, but claiming to be her aunty would have been easier. Oddly, that’s the way respite care felt to me, as if we were distant relatives glad of spending time with this new young person.

Looking after a pre-teen girl got me worried for days. I kept revisiting my last two years spent spoon feeding a baby and changing nappies, which only seemed to prove how unprepared I was. All my worries dissipated shortly after I met this funny, articulate, sweet and slightly geeky little girl who was staying with us. We had fun in the little time we spent together, but that’s all it was, a fun weekend.

In a simpler reality, my wife and I could have been close friends of the family who offered to kept the girl for a few days, as if that ever happens. She would have known us as the fun auntie Laura and uncle Diego, and she’d have jumped at every opportunity to spend time with us. I had an auntie like that growing up, and I’m glad I did. I’d be great if my son had one too, but that is not what I‘d like to be as a foster carer.

As a carer, I want to do more than entertain a child for a few days. I want to matter in the life of these children, not as their parent, but as a person who will always be there. I’m starting to believe that my decision to become a foster care is not entirely altruistic, that there’s something I want to get out of it, and a small part of me is glad for it. Because it means that, in my endeavour to save every child, I haven’t lost myself completely yet.

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  1. Sarah 15th December 2016 Reply
    • Diego Boccaleone 15th December 2016 Reply

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