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.