Katie Walton - 12th August 2022
The bed is made, clean, fresh, corners tucked in. The bedroom dusted to within an inch of its life. The fridge is able to cater for a range of tastes. I’ve even managed to make cookies which are in the oven as we speak. For me, nothing says welcome more clearly than the smell of baking.
I look at the clock. They are late. Nothing unusual as that. I fidget and find things to do with my restless hands. The clock hand moves so slowly. It always does. But here’s the thing, no matter how many children you have fostered, how many clocks you have watched, it is always unnerving waiting for a new child to arrive.
The fostering rollercoaster
Fostering certainly keeps you on your toes. The week leading up to my frenzy of bed making and cleaning has been a veritable loop-the-loop. It has involved reading through information on the child, thinking of what questions we need to ask, reading between the lines. There have been numerous phone calls with our placements manager at Eastern Fostering Services. In the background, I know a lot has happened to get me to the clock-watching point. At one point we didn’t think the plans to move this child here were going ahead. The Local Authority found a carer slightly closer to school and family. I am philosophical about this. A shorter journey to school and being closer to family has to be in the best interests of the child. I take a breath and let go of the child I have already invested in, thought about, planned for.
I am sent more potential matches. There are always more sadly. And then a phone call.
“The Local Authority would like to know if you’re still available for O?”
The placements officer continues, “The carer has withdrawn her offer and they need to get O settled today. Are you still happy to take her?”
Yes, I am still happy to take her. My contact details are given to the Local Authority Social Worker. He calls me after lunch. O doesn’t yet know that plans have changed and that she is moving to a different carer, a bit further away. She will likely be told when the social worker picks her up from school to bring her here. Can you imagine? I ask him to show O our welcome book which has photos of us and the dogs. Pictures of the house and her new bedroom. For me, fostering in an imperfect system, it is important that I push for the best for the children, even if the best isn’t quite good enough.
I’m interrupted from my thoughts by the shrill ringing of the phone.
“We’re on our way. O is happy and is very excited to meet the dogs. See you in half an hour or so.”
Expecting the unexpected.
Like I said before, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve waited for new children to arrive over the years I’ve been fostering. It is always a mix of emotions. Some nerves. Excitement. Trepidation. Are we going to gel? Give it time. Are there going to be any surprises? Behaviours that were not in the child’s information? Highly likely. Expect the unexpected. Will the child be scared, excited, hypervigilant? Will they be withdrawn, anxious or hyper and noisy. You know you can never predict this. Will they be too eager to please? Or will they get straight to the testing phase? A bit of both most likely depending on the day. Can I make this a happy home for them? You can certainly try.
I glance at the clock again. The doorbell goes. The opening bars to the song. They are here. I go to the door, pull it open and smile. My anxieties pushed away the moment I see her framed in my doorway.
“Come on in!” I say.