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Since Jonathan left us to move to long term foster carers nearer his hometown, we have had an empty spare room. There was a huge hole in all our lives, but it’s been lovely to receive regular updates from his new foster carers as well as the knowledge that he’s doing so well. Sabine keeps going to his old room but no longer asks for him. Maddie is wrapped up in her fast approaching 18th birthday but I know she misses him too, despite the epic arguments over the TV remote and who sits in the front seat of the car.
It is with a few nerves and anticipation that we are all preparing for a new placement due to arrive today. The placement team at Nexus Fostering rang last week and suggested my Husband and I look through the referral. We don’t always get several days’ notice for a new placement, but this is a Parent & Child Placement and the child hadn’t yet been born. We’ve since been updated and now know that the baby was born this week and both mum and the baby are doing well. I always try to remember that however nervous I might feel about a new child or placement coming to us, I’m sure it’s nothing compared to the nerves and anxiety the child or in this case, a new mum must be feeling.
Since Monday, we have been digging out all the baby stuff that had been put in storage when Sabine first came to us. I roped Maddie in to delving deep into the garage, mostly to get her out of her bedroom and to focus on a task. She’s been ambivalent about having a young woman here with a new-born and has asked lots of questions about why the placement is needed. Will the new girl tell her what to do as she’s older? Will I still be able to take her to Alton Towers as I promised? I’ve told her a little about the situation but avoided details as both the new mum and baby deserve their privacy, as do Maddy and Sabine.
Our spare room has been transformed from a 10-year old’s Lego and superhero cave to a peach and cream bedroom and living space suitable for a young woman and her new-born. We are now used to transforming a room quickly and have learnt tricks to make life easier. For a start, all our rooms are white or magnolia and we use soft furnishings and interchangeable pictures, art and toys to personalise the room for whoever is coming. If we have a child coming and know their gender we try not to make gender assumptions and automatically go pink or blue but choose more neutral tones with accents of colour. I’ve got a lot of clothes, toys and pictures to suit all ages that I store, so that even if I get a midnight emergency call, I can still make the room look friendly, age appropriate and welcoming in minutes.
Rosie (my social worker) has been giving me updates about how the baby is doing and when they plan to arrive and we have done a little last minute shopping for basics as new placements either arrive with nothing, or their whole life packed in black bags, suitcases and shopping bags. Incidentally, Nexus Fostering have an anti-black bag policy and never send a child or young person off with their belongings or clothes in black bags.
I’ve tried to prepare Maddie who is doing her best to express as little interest as possible and only wants to talk about her boyfriend Ryan, or her 18th birthday party which seems to be growing at an alarming pace. I know Maddie doesn’t like change and has felt the void of Jonathon leaving us. She is also as apprehensive about turning 18 and being an ‘adult’ as she is excited about not being told what to do all the time (I did explain that although she will be an adult, there are still house rules which she needs to respect). Maddie saw the efforts we made to make our new mum and baby feel welcome and was a little put out until I reminded her about what she found in her room when she arrived to live with us. We spoke about making the new arrivals feel welcome and how apprehensive she must be feeling. Although Maddie has been standoffish about our house filling up again, I know she will be warm and friendly, as well as a little shy and confused.
When I told Sabine about a mummy and baby coming, she barely took the information in until I mentioned it a few more times and then said, ‘no baby, I don’t want it’. A friend of mine has recently had a little girl and I popped in with Sabine to say hello and meet the new arrival but didn’t stay long as Sabine was most put out when I gave the baby a cuddle. I know we’ll have a few days of jealousy and frustration from Sabine as she adjusts. My husband and I have a plan to hopefully avoid a full-blown meltdown and as I won’t be the primary care giver and (with all being well) the baby’s mummy will be doing the basic care, I’m hopeful that she’ll accept the new baby more readily.
I’m glad the mum has been given the opportunity to try to remain with her baby and I really hope this placement ends positively. The notes I’ve had from my referral team give me hope for the future and as their arrival draws closer, I’m looking forward to being busy and hands on again. I am looking forward to this next adventure.