Local foster carer tells of family life in lockdown

With many families in crisis during the coronavirus pandemic, Dorset Council has launched a campaign to encourage more to consider fostering, backed by foster carer, Amanda.

The campaign’s message is that most people can foster, all you need is a spare room, love and energy. It also highlights that fostering is a paid career.

This account by Amanda, who Dorset Council describes as “one of our brilliant foster carers”, tells what happened when she got an urgent phone call asking if she could look after two more children, to add to her other six, just as the country went into lockdown…

Dorset Council foster carer poster

Dorset Council poster as part of its campaign to encourage more people to become foster carers

Amanda’s blog – Room for two more?

“What’s the best thing to do on lockdown, when you are struggling to find enough essentials to feed and home educate your brood of six? Well, you add two more lovely little girls on emergency, who come with no clothes and no education packs.

“So there I was at 9 pm texting my son an emergency list for ASDA of girls pants, pj’s, and any clothes that might fit two little girls. He also had to obtain food for ten of us. My son has only ever shopped for himself, so combined with social distancing rules, it was not far off a turn on a Jumanji game.

“I might self-isolate in the playhouse”

“I woke up with a ‘how hard can it be’ attitude. This lasted an hour tops, as I surveyed the array of Play-Doh on the floor and the cat’s fur. My littlies, aged 6,6,7,8 and 9 had already formed a ‘tight knit gang’ by 11 am and had even given themselves a name. I think my memory has erased the name to protect my sanity. By 12 pm I was wishing I had the energy to pour a glass of wine or maybe self-isolate in the playhouse. By the end of the day these two little whirlwinds had wrapped me round their little fingers and I can honestly say I’m really enjoying having them to stay with us.

“So three weeks on from this day, I’m still alive, the kids are still alive and I still haven’t found time to pour myself that wine. Home school has happened but with the children’s significant learning difficulties and three teens plus in the mix, we are effectively teaching every year from nursery to college.

“If OFSTED were to come and spend the day observing my makeshift school, I think they would quit, but my children are learning to tolerate and engage with each other. My youngest borrowed son has found a friend in my eldest borrowed daughter and my eldest borrowed son has enjoyed spending time with my youngest borrowed daughter as she is as ‘unique’ as he is. My birth daughter (6) is enjoying having someone to engage in imaginative play with and so the iPad is gathering dust as the Sylvanians and other dolls come out to play.

“I’m currently sat here pondering over the different roles we now have to play and how to get the balance right. During school hours I feel I am stricter and possibly more authoritarian to make sure school work is covered and then when school is over I struggle to leave that role behind and become just ‘mum’ or ‘Mandy’ again. Eldest borrowed son can’t cope that well with my role change either. He likes everything black and white and hates that I am teaching him something that ‘my teacher should teach’.

“First impressions mean a lot to frightened children”

“Then there are the new additions – first impressions mean such a lot to these frightened children. How do you build up a successful and sensical attachment when one minute we are having fun in the garden and then the next, I’m writing out sums for them to do? How do these poor kids feel when you are telling them that they can only see Mummy on the phone because we are in lockdown? Lockdown makes very little sense to many children.

“The only thing I can promise is to keep them as safe as I possibly can. I will also admit to myself that it’s OK to give my kids an inset day, when I feel like zoning out, it’s OK to pay my eldest kids to clean the kitchen and pass it off as my amazing multi-tasking and it’s OK to spread chocolate spread on a biscuit and call it a cooking lesson!

“Keep safe guys and keep blocking all the ‘Sally Sunshine’ posts like:

  • I’ve had a fabulous day bonding with my child over making an organic salad (child took a bite of a carrot in return for money)
  • Today my five year old managed to achieve GCSE Spanish past paper (child learnt ‘hello’ in Spanish thanks to Dora the Explorer)
  • This week my five beautiful kids have spent the day sharing and helping each other (all five children managed to remember to brush their hair today and helped each other locate the entire snack drawer and grudgingly shared it between them!)”

Urgently need more foster carers

Councillor Andrew Parry, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for children, education and early help, said:

“Dorset children need Dorset to care for them. We urgently need more foster carers to look after children of all ages.

“A lot of people think fostering isn’t for them, perhaps they worry they are too old or don’t fit a certain stereotype. We want to get the message across that most people can foster, we want to hear from people who are retired, LGBTQ+, single or have no childcare experience. Please don’t rule yourself out, all you need is love, energy and a spare room!”

For more information

Dorset Council has improved its website information, as part of the campaign, so it is easier for anyone interested to find out more.

FosterInDorset.com

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