Caring - a blog by Cherise McColl, young champion with the Fostering Community Champions programme

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Family - a group of parents and their children. The Oxford English Dictionary.

Families are one of the most important things to us, but some families are a little more dysfunctional than others. To us family is loving and caring people who will always look out for us and after us, but for some poor souls this is not the case. My mum is a foster carer which means she looks after kids that have been mistreated or simply cannot be looked after by their own parents.

For some children their mothers fostering could be hard on them, especially in the relationship they have with their mum, but for me fostering created excitement. The thought of getting a little one made me feel at ease as I love helping out with kids, I really want to work with them when I’m older, just the thought of helping my mum out and by showing the children a different way to treat others and be treated themselves.

Looking back I didn’t realise what an inspirational person my mum is and the strength required to pursue her job with such patience. She does it so gracefully with a tremendous amount of effort put in to helping these children along with the time she puts into her family.

Where would I be without my mum?

I don’t know where I’d be without my mum - I know she would be there for me no matter what. Have you ever stopped for a minute and thought about children, much younger children, that don’t have this? How would that make you feel, growing up with parents that couldn’t care less about you, hurting you, not just physically but emotionally? Luckily there are people like my mum who can look after these kids.

Just like the previous child we fostered, most will go to loved ones or back to their parents if social services see fit, although for some this is not the case. Thinking about the little boy we had for almost a year and a half, we didn’t even realise what we’d done for him.

When he first came he couldn’t speak properly and was still in nappies but with some attention and caring help he was out of nappies in five weeks and talking in no time. During this time it didn’t seem like anything extraordinary but looking back it really was. If he wasn’t with us god knows how he would have turned out! He was a beautiful little boy, absolutely gorgeous.

Some say it’s an amazing job we are doing, taking in these unfortunate children. Yes it has its ups and downs but, to me, it’s the best job my mum will ever do. There was a time when we were going to pick him up from respite after our holiday and met him at Largs shore front. We were walking along the prom and he was coming towards us on his scooter, from the minute he saw us I can honestly say I’ve never seen him happier, he scooted as fast as he could, stopped dead and jumped into my arms. It was the perfect moment, the “Kodak” moment, I genuinely would give anything to see that or even better re-live that again.

Yeah there were amazing times like that but, just like in life, there were times when I wished I could pause and rewind. Mistakes were made and now regretted. I wish I could go back, little moments like when he would ask me to play with the cars with him or the animals and I would say no because “I was going out” or “couldn’t be bothered”… these are the moments I would take back every chance I could. My mum is the same, wishing we could spend another five minutes with him.

There are small moments in life that are never thought of during the moment, but the simple things in life make the difference - family comes first, and to me this little boy is classed as my family, even though he was not a relation he definitely made a massive impact on my life, which made me more grateful for mine.

'A right wee bruiser'

This young child went through hell and back and still had that cheeky little smile on his face in the end. He was beautiful and extremely clever for a three year old kid, he did things that wouldn’t be expected from someone who had been raised in a dysfunctional background such as his, although we know it was bad I don’t know just the extent of what happened to him as we are not allowed to know due to the confidentiality policy of social services.

The neglect which this little boy suffered was unnecessary as no child should have to go through that; his nappy wasn’t changed for days; him, along with four other siblings shared one breakfast between them, strangely, thinking back to the first time we seen him, he wasn’t a skinny child - he was a “right wee bruiser” as my mum said.

I remember one day, he was in trouble for playing with his cars on the wall, unknowingly marking the wallpaper, after being told numerous times. The cars were taken off him and he went in a sulk, the petted lip came out and his head went down, sheepishly he walked over and climbed up onto my knee, puts his arms around my neck and said “I’m sorry Cherisey… I no do that never ever again… I love you” and stroked my face. “Can I have my cars back please?”. Handing them over he gave me a “big squeezy tuddle” and a kiss and, to him, everything was fixed, that was the first time he ever told me he loved me and that wasn’t the last.

To think it was January 2014 he left, it feels longer, I miss him running about causing havoc. He was a loveable rogue, everyone would agree, they all had a soft spot for him, especially his nursery teachers.

Most children, if they are aggressive are hitters or kickers, but he was a biter, he didn’t care what or who he bit but my mum would be informed after the nursery session ended, but that was the norm for us. He was a cheeky little chappy but with a face that butter wouldn’t melt.

One of my favourite moments wasn’t particularly good for him because his behaviour wasn’t the best but looking back on it; it puts a smile on my face. My mum, him and I were in Burger King and after our ice-cream he was running frantically around in the play area having a great time, having a sip of my Fanta, a scream erupted as a little boy ran to his mum in floods of tears, our little man ran towards us and said “I didn’t bite him”. The little boy’s mum walked towards us and explained what happened, while his head lowered. His shoes were on and he was in the car as quick as a flash, when we got home the usual “I’m sorry I no do that never ever again” was said. Despite his behaviour I had to look at him annoyed but then turned round and smiled, no matter what he had done, I loved hearing that - it has always put a smile on my face.

In my eyes he was practically a little brother, and I know he was young but I’m almost positive he viewed me as a sister… yes he had his real sisters but for that short time in his life I was a perfect replacement.

Is blood really thicker than water?

I now question the authenticity of the phrase 'blood is thicker than water'. Was I really more of a sister to him than his natural ones? Yes for those people who are adopted they may treat their new parents as mum and dad, meaning the people who raise you can be more of a parent that your genetic ones? 

To me a parent is someone you don’t need to be related to, they are the person who raises, feeds, clothes and will love you unconditionally whether genetic or not. Parental influence plays a big part in shaping our character. From their own life experience they teach us right from wrong and the ways of life. Siblings play a supporting role; they display qualities that their parents have instilled in them during their upbringing.

The work we have done as a family brought us closer together, as families should be. However seeing what these children go through made me more grateful for my own family. At the end of the day it’s the luck of the draw, fortunately for me I have been lucky to have been brought up in a loving and caring family in contrast to the many unfortunate children that are being cared for through the child care system.

Fostering Community Champions, funded by the Big Lottery, is an exciting four year project that aims to improve the outcomes of children in care by reducing the isolation experienced by many foster carers and helping young people to use their experience of foster care in a positive and meaningful way.  Thirty six foster carers and 12 young people from fostering households will be trained to provide peer support to foster families across Scotland.

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