Capstone Foster Care Blog

Child of a foster family talks about Frozen and some of the messages that are included in the film, and how these messages relate to fostering and supporting children to succeed.

Frozen – the messages that relate to fostering

We recently began doing some regular respite care for a child we will call Sophie. Sophie’s background, like almost all Looked After Children, was one of neglect and abuse. She has multiple needs and gifts. She needs regular daily help with her physical needs and has a number of emotional and developmental difficulties. The description of this child upon coming into care is a far cry from where she is now. She had no ability to regulate herself and operated at an age far below her chronological one. Many of her needs were masking her innate intellectual and relational capacities.

When we were introduced to Sophie we spent a good amount of time getting to know her foster parents and trying to understand her likes and triggers for anxiety. It was immediately apparent that Sophie had formed a significant bond with her foster parents in the relatively short time she had been in their family. In fact, it was hard to imagine how Sophie could have ever resembled the child that whizzed around our house while the grown-ups chatted. We were particularly struck by a very endearing method that the child had come to employ (with the guidance and support of her foster parents) in order to get attention in a positive way. Whilst Sophie still interjects conversations and has little capacity to ‘wait’ until the person she needs has completed their interaction with someone else, it was amazing to see how a small learnt behaviour enables her to get the help/attention she requires in a reasonable, regular and very cute way! We found ourselves marvelling at how much time and patience must have been necessary on the part of Sophie’s foster parents in order to enable this, let alone the other achievements. Sophie is funny and fun. She is clever, engaging and curious. She has a fantastic imagination and capacity for playing and games. Wow. What a testament to the care that has been afforded this child after the most sad and scary beginnings.

We felt compelled to write this blog to let other carers (and those a part of the fostering world) know how thrilled we were at seeing what great foster care can do for a child. We have no doubt that such care has come at some personal cost to the foster parents, their nerves and their grey hair count! However, we, like them, are happy to trade those things in for the joy of seeing a child thrive and flourish. We are very excited at the prospect of being a small part of Sophie’s journey and are equally privileged to get to know some brilliant carers and give them a well-earned break from time to time.

Holly is good as gold most of the time but we do have an ongoing concern as we journey and that is food. Holly is too big for her age and it comes from years of being able to eat rubbish and watching too much TV. It is very much a way of life for her. She even came to us with a slight American accent such was the amount of TV consumed and sedentary lifestyle lived.

As part of her care we have committed to help her lose weight and she has agreed that this is also something she wants to do. Great, we thought, we are on the same page. As time went on we realised that this was too big a commitment for Holly as pudding and large portions made her feel safe (familiar, comforting old friends I suppose). Nevertheless we employed quite a few techniques to help Holly progress. We removed the pans on the table for second helpings and kept them in the kitchen, we made smaller portion sizes, we encouraged exercise heavily (even bought her a bike for Christmas to get out more), spoke to school about more input from them and less cakes being made in cookery but more healthy stuff. This is to name a few. Holly looked like she was engaging with some of it which was great.

This kind of thing however has a creep factor. When Holly lost a bit of weight we celebrated and encouraged her to keep going she however saw it as permission to eat a bigger meal as she had somehow made space for it. If she gets to one pound below her target then there is no need for exercise. The fact of the matter was that this seems to matter more to us than it does to her.

This of course creates a predicament. On one hand we have a duty of care to Holly to keep her healthy and just like the rest of you who have a child who struggles with this, don’t enjoy the raised eyebrow from the LAC nurse. On the other, this really is one of a few things that Holly does which could be classed as unhealthy. How much pressure should we put on it?

We are currently trying to help her in a way that employs a common third idea. She loves horses and the animals can only carry someone who is 11 stone. This seems to be a good goal for her which she is connecting to so we shall see how it goes!

In all of this however Louise and I are in turmoil about whether we should major on food. Once you have said about listening to your body and asking whether it is hungry a few hundred times is there much point in banging on? In my own personal reflection I ask myself: Do I only take the calories I need? Certainly not! I am becoming more conscious that if we get this wrong that this could affect relationship and that cannot be worth it.

We will continue to be creative but I am aware that there is a reason why this means so much to me which I cannot put my finger on. This needs properly reflecting on as it may perpetuate and at worst produce shame in Holly. I don’t know if you have a conversation or situation like that in your lives but maybe you can see yourself somewhere in all this. This is very much ongoing for me and maybe I will blog about it when I have figured it out however if you know you are being played but actually it’s you that needs to stop then take a breath and work out if this is a fight worth having.