Other Peoples Children – The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Fostering [UK]
Your life is laid bare, the rules are ridiculous; it’s tiring, scary and the kids swear at you. Why would anyone with a life want to foster? Jane Wheatley finds out. Upstairs in a tiny Hansel and Gretel cottage in the lee of a church tower in Wiltshire, a ten-year-old boy …….. He is not allowed to foster girls, only boys. Chris is not allowed to sit on his knee nor to indulge in any physical contact beyond a quick sideways hug. In the car, Chris must sit in the back seat, not in the passenger seat next to Allan; when they go swimming, they must change in separate cubicles. Bedtime stories must be read downstairs, not in a bedroom. If Chris comes home from school with a scratch, it must be logged in a diary in case he later accuses Allan of the injury. “The rules are more to protect us really,” Allan explains. “Lots of kids know the system, and if they don’t like a placement they know that an allegation of inappropriate touching will get them out of there before you can say knife.” Even so, Debbie finds the restrictions exasperating: “It makes you behave weirdly,” she says. “The other day my niece was around and went to climb on Allan’s knee; he said no, gently, and made her sit beside him instead. My mum was appalled; she said: ‘Allan, it’s OK, she can sit on your knee, she’s family.’ We’re supposed to be giving Chris the experience of normal family life,” she says. “What’s normal about not giving a child a cuddle?” ….