Tina has been a Foster Carer with The Foster Care Co-operative for the last 6 years. She was recently awarded with an ‘Outstanding Contribution to Foster Care’ Award from The Fostering Network in recognition of her work. Tina and her partner Rob have 6 children between them, and 11 grandchildren. Over the last 4 years they have been looking after a sibling group, currently aged 9, 10 and 12 and recently she has also accepted another child into their family on a special guardianship order, aged 5. In her spare time, Tina and her daughter Donna, who is also a Schedule 3 Foster Carer take part in fun runs and marathons.
Today, Friday is an inset day for three of the four children I look after, and after careful consideration I had decided this is a good day for two of the children to revisit their past…
I recently went on a ‘Life Story’ training course with The Foster Care Co-operative, which aims to help children understand and make sense of their past. I have been successfully working on their life story, and the children are now at an age and in a better place to be more able to accept their situation, and their now very different life.
The children were from a very large sibling group, and they experienced lots of upset and trauma. Three live with me, and five of their siblings were successfully adopted. I have discussed the benefits of revisiting the children's past with various professional bodies, who have always stated that in order to move forward you sometimes need to go back, but of course the timing is very important.
After working with the children on their life story a few days ago, the children asked if was possible to revisit their old school, the last time they had seen the school was over four years ago just before they came to live with us. I rang the school and spoke to a lovely lady, a secretary at the school who not only remembered the children, but was both excited and relived to actually know that not only are they thriving, but they are actually loved. After an emotional discussion this lady spoke to the headmistress said it would fine to visit after lunch on Friday.
So Friday morning, after a busy breakfast (standard in my house!) I sent the eldest to catch his bus to high school as there is no inset day for him. He knows his younger brother and sister were visiting the school with me today, and although disappointed he couldn’t join them, he is also pleased that on his next inset day I will be taking him too – just the two of us.
After breakfast it’s a quick tidy up, and then I help the newest, and youngest member of our special family to select suitable clothes, as she is going to spend some time at my daughters house gardening, while we go on our school visit. The two siblings are both very excited and nervous about the planned visit, they both make a special effort with their clothing and appearance – and I must say they look very striking.
Jumping in the car we drop the youngest at my daughters, we make our journey back to the children's old school. I tried to kill some time at the shops beforehand, and try to stop for lunch, but the children are too excited. Just before one o'clock, I drove onto the children's old housing estate where the school is situated. (The children's parents no longer live here.)
The school is quite small, but very colourful and welcoming. The secretary who I spoke with on the phone was waiting by the door and was genuinely pleased to see the children. The oldest, the girl, became very shy and cuddled into me, but the boy began firing questions at such a quick rate the poor lady didn't have time to catch her breath.
Then there was a flurry of teachers, who knew the children - all commented on how much they had grown and how good looking and well they looked. You could tell the teachers had been just as excited to see their former charges as the secretary was. It must have been a big gap when these children left their school... I can understand this, they have such big personalities.
Next, we were to meet the new headmistress who as it turned out, was the former headmistress of the children's current school. She had no idea that these children had previously gone to her new school, or were the children her teachers were so keen to see again. She commented to me that she also remembers the children when they first arrived at the school they are at now, and how very disturbed and traumatised they were initially, and how quickly they adapted and started to smile again. What a small world this is!
We were given a tour of the school and I was very pleased to see what a lovely nurturing environment it is, all the children looked happy there. The girl came out of her shell a bit and was pleased to see familiar faces and her old classroom. The boy, due to his age, could only remember the school hall, but asked lots of questions and the teachers were pleased with how much confidence he has.
When it was time to leave we said our goodbyes and everyone appeared to be happy with the visits outcome. I informed the teachers that I will soon be back with the oldest, and they were genuinely pleased that they get to see how he is doing too. On the way home we stopped for a late lunch, and the children talked about their old school with fondness.
At home, the oldest had just returned from high school. We have a visit from the L.A.C (Looked After Children) Nurse who was doing their Annual L.A.C Medical. She measured and weighed the children. I handed over their completed medical forms, and had a private chat about changes in their circumstance.
After tea the children chatting excitedly about their day, and told stories about their old school. It never stops in my house – I now have to deliver some clothes for the youngest who had so much fun gardening wanted to have a sleepover at my daughters (who is my respite foster carer) and play with her young children, who are the same age. I also have to pick up another of my grandchildren, who will be staying the night with us.
My partner Rob is going on a works night out, so he was allowed some time to get ready while I took the children for an ice cream, we always have one on a Friday it’s our tradition.
A quick check on my 82 year old mum on the way home, and then it's time for me to start the showers, baths, getting everyone in their PJs, picking a DVD, and making a den making in the bedroom. The children that is, not me...