The last few weeks have been a constant reminder that the young person’s birthday is approaching. She has talked constantly about it and asked if half the school can attend a sleepover party.
Hidden behind this façade is a more complicated and darker reality.
What should be a time of celebrations and gifts, foster children can sometimes find these annual celebrations extremely difficult.
Foster children often experience a lack of trust:-
Why would a carer buy me such nice gifts?
What do they want in return?
What would my birth family say?
I’m not worth these gifts!
We are trained to deal with these emotions and are encouraged to put strategies into place with Calon Cymru who offers and encourages a wide variety of training courses. We have access to studio 3 via Calon Cymru, this organisation has a number of professional psychologists that visits and help the carers emotionally and practically. There are also support groups where carers from my locality meet, have lunch and chat. It’s surprising how much information is passed around the room.
With this young person, we have kept discussions calm, we have to remember we don’t fully know what happened to her at previous birthdays. The excitement she is displaying could be anxiety. Boundaries have been set and won’t be changed. Planning is black and white, there are no surprises. My own family have been asked to avoid visiting on this day but will come for coffee and cake the following day. Thankfully they understand that the young person can become overwhelmed very quickly.
A therapist I worked with advised me to use an “I wonder if……….” Method to help the young person understand their feelings. Initially, I found this difficult, but over time I found it does help. I sometimes address the dog e.g. I wonder if ‘Jacob is feeling a little scared’. The therapist we use was recommended to us via the courts. The young person meets with her weekly, I have a session with her monthly and all professionals involved meet with her bi-monthly. This way we are all kept informed and updated on a regular basis.
The following few days after her birthday will go one of two ways. She will display as ungrateful, thankful that daily routines are back to normal and she can relax, or she will spend them in a state of ‘come down’. These ‘come down’ days will have to be calm and restful.
Whatever happens, I will be guided by her and have the support of my supervising social worker to ensure that her day and following days after meeting her needs.
*Foster Carer’s name has been changed for privacy reasons.