So, the makeup of our family heritage already had an element of intrigue prior to fostering. My husband and I are both Caucasian. His two daughters are Caucasian and my three children are of a mixed heritage being white British and Black British Caribbean. To top this off I have a different surname to both my husband and my children (I didn’t realise being an ‘independent woman’ and keeping my maiden name would cause such a stir). As you can imagine, going through passport control is always interesting and I have actually come to carry a court order stating that I am the children’s mother and that I have permission to remove them from the country for up to a period of 30 days without consent from anyone else. This might seem like a hugely drastic step to take but as a family who likes to travel often, I would simply rather spend my time in an airport lounge sipping a glass of something cold and bubbly than be ‘proving’ to an ignorant member of staff that I am indeed the children’s mother and I am taking them on holiday and not trying to traffic them – yes, I have had this conversation more than once, I kid you not.
So, my sense of being aware of others perception and interest in the makeup of our family of seven (prior to fostering) was definitely heightened. Once I was talking to a friend of a friend about the fact we going through the fostering process and she obviously misheard (or rather, she heard what she wanted to hear) and by the end of the conversation she had come to the conclusion my actual children were fostered and to be honest, I just didn’t have the heart or the inclination to correct her. In fact, I used to joke with my husband that we were like the Brad and Angelina of our town (if you know, you know).
When our first placement was first just a referral I had a gut feeling. I didn’t necessarily voice it at the time but to say I held out for the placement, is an understatement. The children are Eastern European. Strikingly so. We went out for the first time and despite my husband’s complete oblivious nature, the looks we got were of utter intrigue. Now, don’t get me wrong if a couple walked down a seafront with six kids there’s a very good chance I’d have a good nose as well – SIX kids – who wouldn’t be a little drawn to that? But, having been a parent who differs in colour and heritage to her children since day dot I have become hot at spotting ‘the looks’. And to be honest, I don’t care. I’m proud of my birth children, I’m proud of my foster children and I’m proud of my current, temporary family. They have different cultures yet accept and completely embrace those differences. There is no expectation on anyone to bend and mould themselves into something they aren’t. And in a time where culture and heritage are at the forefront of society and where race is dominating the media, I feel a huge sense of satisfaction and pride knowing our chaotic family promotes everything that is positive in the world.