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We had been empty for three weeks and although it was by choice, it felt too quiet. We said no to three potential placements as we didn’t feel the fit was best for our family dynamics or location; our Nexus placements team agreed with our decisions but we did discuss fostering sibling groups again. This is where Life has got a lot noisier and definitely more crazy. It’s crazy in a good way but life is still full-on. Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll probably say ‘ahhh yes, but that’s just the way you like it’.
I will admit to being one of those people that doesn’t like sitting around twiddling their thumbs and finds it difficult to just relax or watch TV. I like to be doing. Well, I’m definitely doing now!
We had a referral for a sibling group of three children and it was needed quickly due to their unusual family circumstances. I called Hubby at work, discussed the referral with him and sent him the encrypted file for him to read. I knew he’d say yes but I needed that confirmation. And he did. I was told by our placements team that if we said yes it would be an almost immediate placement, however, we’d been vacant for three weeks so I’d had plenty of time to get all the rooms ready. Now I knew the age and gender of the children about to come I quickly got toys, clothes and decorations out of storage and made the rooms feel as homely, warm and welcoming as possible.
The siblings were coming straight from a police station so it was likely they wouldn’t have much with them but I had a few clothes in what I hoped would be their sizes. Their social worker was driving them across the town and I knew they’d be tired and scared as well as overwhelmed by the past day's events and the youngest two children just looked at me with big scared eyes as they walked in. I’d been told that Stephen, the eldest at 9, felt he was in charge of the family and he started talking as soon as he came in and pretty much hasn’t stopped since!
Before they arrived I took Luke, our big slobbery but loveable black Labrador, to my neighbour as I didn’t want to overwhelm them. They were eager to see their new rooms and ran upstairs exploring. The social worker told me Charlie, the youngest boy, aged 5, had been bitten by a dog the previous week and was now terrified of animals. I was so pleased Luke, who makes up for lack of manners with utter enthusiasm was currently next door with Vera.
After exploring and tons of questions from Stephen we told the children about Luke and they could meet him a bit later. Charlie was fearful and shook his head. So far neither Charlie or his 7-year-old sister Wendy had spoken. Stephen, on the other hand, hadn’t stopped and also answered all questions directed at his siblings. It seemed Stephen felt he needed to be in charge of his brother and sister and I’d been warned that he was very guarded about his family life.
Sandwiches along with little bags of treats broke the ice and the social worker left me with four little faces (Sabine also wanted to join in) sitting eating at the table, all but Charlie asking questions and wanting to meet Luke.
As the children settled into our house that day, their relationships with each other began to be revealed. Charlie, who has some additional needs, was oblivious to the tv and his siblings and immersed himself with toy cars. Stephen and Wendy bickered continually until it spilled over into all-out war, when Wendy casually told me a personal detail about their family home. Sabine at three was delighted by potential new playmates and was not disappointed as Wendy treated her like a living doll.
Just as things were beginning to look a little more like I would need to referee a boxing match between the siblings, Hubby came home and met the children. He was new and interesting and with him at home, it felt like a good time to collect Luke from Vera.
Luke has so far been a 100% success with all the children we’ve had in our care and he didn’t disappoint me. He wasn’t overwhelmed with what seemed like a hundred hands all vying to stroke him at once and took his new adoration like a man. I mean a dog.
Even Charlie, not to be outdone by his siblings had a stroke and was fascinated by his big soft silky ears. The children followed him around until bedtime and Charlie seemed to recognise that Luke would not hurt him. Stephen up till now had been loud, assertive and dictatorial but at bedtime he got down on his knees to Luke’s eye level and softly whispered to him, cuddling him.
Stephen looked up at me and said challengingly ‘I’m not telling you what I said’ and I knew that Luke would work his magic again even on this angry and scared little boy who’d been forced to grow up too early.