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        Musings of a foster carer – Food for thought.

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        Josh Brightmore - 16th September 2022

        Food is a big deal in fostering. So big, you’d need a few blogs to do it justice.

        I’ve seen a lot over the last few years since starting fostering. There are so many ways that childhood adverse experiences can impact food, eating habits and behaviour around food.

        We once fostered two brothers, who had suffered severe neglect. The first evening they were with us, we sat at the table to eat. I brought out something I thought would be a safe bet, not knowing what their favourite foods were. It became obvious immediately that they had not been taught how to use a knife and fork and had probably never sat at a table to eat. Carnage doesn’t come close to describing it. The boys used their hands to eat. It was alarming to see how much food they would put into their mouths, rarely stopping to chew or swallow. One of the boys finished and immediately launched himself at the leftovers on the kitchen sideboard. The other brother did not take kindly to this and fighting soon broke out.

        Once we’d finished, the boys wanted to know immediately when the next meal was and what it would be. We told them it would be breakfast and that they could have cereal, toast, eggs or fruit.

        That night we were disturbed by noise coming from the kitchen. The boys were making themselves a midnight feast. This would become a regular thing. Food would go missing and we soon found that they were hoarding the food under their beds. They would also eat to excess at every meal and constantly ask when the next meal was and what it was.

        Suddenly food, which had always been a thing of pleasure became a source of pressure for us and obvious anxiety for the boys.

        Over time, we came to understand that previously the boys had had food witheld as punishment, that there often was no food in the house, that they had had to eat pet food or steal food. They didn’t yet know they could trust us to provide regular meals and needed to ensure they always had a supply hidden for those times when the cupboards might be bare.

        Finally able to understand what the boys were thinking and feeling, we began to respond. We provided them with storage tubs and a small selection of healthy snacks that they could keep there and top up to a certain number. We put up meal planners and times for each meal. We took the pressure away at meal times and responded with praise when they ate well and didn’t fight over food. They gradually learned to sit and enjoy mealtimes, though the need to have a stash of food never really went.

        Treat or trick?

        A young lady we cared for really had us stunned. We had announced that we were having a takeaway one evening. She totally freaked out, locked herself in her room and refused to come out. Later, she confided that she associated takeaways with abuse as they were often presented as a “treat” following sexual abuse.

        We’ve seen children with eating disorders as a result of the experiences they have had and subsequent need for control or lack of self-esteem.

        We’ve had our food rejected, scrutinised and thrown at us! (not very often happily). We’ve come to realise the importance of food in terms of cultural identity and comfort. And we have also found food to be a critical part of the nurturing process. I’d like to add that we have also had children who have had healthy relationships with food and who have enthusiastically embraced new foods and food experiences. And we have learned about new foods and ways of eating too!

        Perhaps the most important thing we’ve learned is that you can’t make any assumptions in fostering. You need to expect anything and be prepared to be flexible. Understanding the lived experiences of the children is so important when it comes to food and fostering, but this takes time and is not always immediately obvious.

        Apply to foster
        Transfer to us
        Contact us

          Register your interest

          If you would like to register your interest in fostering, please complete the form below. We will get back to you shortly to discuss next steps.

          Have you applied to foster before?

          YesNo

          Do you have a spare room?

          YesNo

          We will contact you, using your preferred contact details, as soon as possible.

          Make a report to one of CEOP's Child Protection Advisors. If you are worried about online abuse or the way someone has been communicating online, let CEOP know

            Transfer to EFS

            Existing foster carers sometimes approach us because they want to transfer from their existing fostering provider. If you are not happy with the service you are currently receiving and would like to know more about transferring fostering provider, complete the form below and we will get back to you.

            Do you have a child in placement?

            YesNo

            We will contact you, using your preferred contact details, as soon as possible.

            Make a report to one of CEOP's Child Protection Advisors. If you are worried about online abuse or the way someone has been communicating online, let CEOP know

              Contact us

              If you have questions about fostering, please complete the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

              We will contact you, using your preferred contact details, as soon as possible.

              Make a report to one of CEOP's Child Protection Advisors. If you are worried about online abuse or the way someone has been communicating online, let CEOP know
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