Hi everyone! I hope you’re doing well. It’s Wednesday, meaning it’s time for the next post in the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge hosted by Long and Short Reviews. If you’d like, you can check out the list of topics for the year here and see what other people said on today’s topic here. Today’s topic is:
Something I’m Proud of Doing
I have always been somebody who’s known from a very early age that I did not want to be a parent. I have about 50 million nephews and nieces (at least it feels like that at Christmas), and I was content with being a fun, cool uncle.
In 2018 we started the process of becoming foster parents to my thirteen-year-old nephew.
One evening, I received a phone call from social services explaining that he was being removed from his home and placed with a temporary foster family. ‘Would you be interested in taking him in?’ the social worker asked.
For a moment, I was stunned and didn’t know what to say.
‘Take a few days and think about it,’ the social worker added. ‘Really think about it because it’s a big decision.’
He promised he’d call back in a day or two, then hung up.
Really, there wasn’t much to think about regarding my nephew. We love him so much, so, of course, we would take him in. Back then, he was a quiet kid who loved computer games, pokemon, and Yugioh, and when he’d stay over on weekends or when he’d come for the holidays, he’d often disappear into a TV screen. He only surfaced to eat chicken nuggets, so, we thought, it’s not like anything will change for us.
A few days later, the social worker I’d spoken to previously called back.
‘We’re keeping your nephew in temporary foster care,’ he said, ‘until we can get you assessed as a foster carer.’
It was frustrating because my nephew was living with strangers after having his world turned upside down, but we understood there was a procedure that needed to be adhered to.
What followed next was the beginning of a long and stressful process, starting with a face-to-face interview. The social worker came out to our flat to talk to us to ensure we were sure about fostering him.
He also inspected the place, criticising our decor, telling us that our bathroom and kitchen were ‘adequate’ but that the living room would need to be repainted.
Next was the police safety checks and background checks. Of course, we weren’t worried about that.
Meanwhile, my nephew was calling us, crying his little eyes out. He wasn’t settling with the temporary family. He kept asking us to go and get him, which broke our hearts. I kept having to say ‘no,’ and it was gut-wrenching.
Passing the background checks, the next thing was medical and psychological checkups. It was at this hurdle that I thought we’d fall. I have a long history of mental health issues, though my doctor explained that so long as a person is well enough to provide care and support for a child, it’s not usually an issue. Even the social workers were supportive. They seemed really eager for us to pass our assessment.
With our medicals passed, the next thing was paperwork.
The social worker arrived one day with a mountain of paperwork. We had to agree to a planned diet (he’d only been eating fried egg sandwiches with the temporary family) and discuss bedtimes, school, and chores. We even had to come up with a showering schedule for him. It was tough. I never thought I would have to arrange school meetings and talk about anyone’s bedtime other than my own. When all of that was completed, the social worker went away.
A few days later, we received a phone call asking us to supply character witness statements from people we loved and trusted, saying why they thought we would be able to provide a stable home for my nephew. They wanted three, so we asked my nanna, who all but took over my parents’ roles when they died, my sister, whose son we also looked after from time to time, and one of my mum’s best friends and next door neighbour because she’s known me my whole life.
While these letters were still being written, we got a phone call one morning telling us we had failed our assessment. I was heartbroken and furious. After everything we had been through, the hoops we had jumped through, and the embarrassment of having our lives and home picked apart, I wanted to know why.
It turns out that when the social worker came to our home the first time, he had asked if we had known of any issues my nephew had been having at home over the years, and we had said no. He was always his happy little self when he came to ours. Of course, as you do, I’d asked him, ‘How is everything at home? Everyone all right?’
I’d get the same old response every time, ‘yeah, all good.’
To me, that wasn’t a good enough reason. The social worker heard us out. I asked him if he thought I was a mind reader because he seemed to imply we needed to be. We could only have known social services had been involved with my nephew if he’d volunteered that information, and he hadn’t.
The social worker agreed. He promised to see what he could do.
Days later, he called and told us we were getting a second chance. We were thrilled because my nephew was suffering by this point. He was calling daily, sobbing and begging us to come for him. It was horrid.
So, once more, we went through the rigmarole of being assessed – this time, however, we had the added benefit of the character witness statements, which had been written and sent off.
It should be said, too, that our family and friends are fantastic; they said wonderfully lovely things about us in those letters, and I’ll be eternally grateful for that.
‘You’ve done it,’ the social worker announced when he called us one day, ‘you’ve passed your assessment. Now we have to do a graded moving-in so that you can learn how to look after him.’
You did read that right. They wanted us to learn how to look after someone we’d been looking after since he was born. At that point, though, we didn’t want to rock the already patched-up little rowboat that was our fostering assessment, so we agreed.
Slowly, starting with a meet-up with my nephew, his mum, his siblings and his stepfather, we gradually showed the social worker that we knew him well enough to know how to be around him.
Then the social worker wanted to see how we worked as a family unit, so we went to Mcdonald’s for lunch. He told me later that watching us all together, he knew it would work out. He said it was clear that we loved him and wanted the best for him.
And so, my nephew moved in.
From then, because we wanted to get him out of the foster system, we began the process of becoming his legal guardians, which is a whole process, too, with many similarities to this one, but we did it. So, we now share parental responsibility with his mum.
I’ll say this: I definitely knew growing up that I didn’t want kids, and if you asked me now, I’d say the same – I don’t want any of my own, but I would never change how things have worked out for the world.
It’s undoubtedly been the most challenging experience of my life, but at the same time, it’s been the most rewarding. My nephew has just turned 18 now. He’s an actual grown-up with a fully developed teenage personality to boot. He’s a kind, courteous and considerate young man who, though he still has to do some growing up, is eager to be out in the world. He has opinions on climate change, gender politics, fashion, and culture… things I had zero views about when I was his age. I know I’m biased, but he’s brilliant.
So, this is the thing that I am most proud of doing. If you’d told me ten or fifteen years ago that I would be raising a child… I would have called you a liar right to your face. But here we are. I can’t imagine doing anything else that could make me this proud.
Well, that’s post number 4. Hopefully, it wasn’t too long. I tried to cut it down as best I could.
As always, thank you for spending your time here with me today.
Until next time,
© 2023 GLT