Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Names and a new placement

Over the years there seems to have been a general shift in terminology from "foster mum" to "foster carer". People we know from our parents' generation and older regularly refer to us as "foster mums" or even just "mums", and many made a point of texting or calling on Mothers' Day to congratulate us, thinking we'd be celebrating it as our first.

I think the shift is intentional. We're not allowed to encourage the children we foster to call us "mum" or "dad". I've heard of several cases recently where the foster children called their carers "Grandma and Grandad", or even "Auntie and Uncle", but "Mum and Dad" seem to be sacred terms reserved for a child's forever family (so of course in permanent foster placements the child might choose to use those names.) We're using our first names to refer to ourselves with Jack-Jack, but in reality it has meant that we haven't actually referred to ourselves half as much as we would have done. It just doesn't feel as natural to us to refer to ourselves in the third person using our names, it's not like saying things like "it's ok, mama's here," "come to mama" etc. Most of the time we use I, my, me instead, which I'm sure is not delaying his speech and understanding, but it probably is delaying his use of our names (as opposed to how early he might have said "mama") as he doesn't hear them as much. Our names are also not reinforced by others i.e. a stranger in a shop will say something like "you look so much like your mummy," or "I bet you keep your mummy on her toes!" (we get this last one quite a lot.)

The only person to use the word "mummy" in our house so far has been Jack-Jack's social worker asking him how his contact with his mum had gone that day. Everyone else seems to skirt the issue - our social worker, support worker and the health visitor never mention Jack-Jack's mum to him and don't refer to us at all!

One of our neighbours bumped into Esmeralda in town the other day, and, after not recognising her immediately, she suddenly said "Oh you're Jack-Jack's mum!" We don't usually correct comments like that, and hardly any of our neighbours know that we're fostering. Esmeralda and I had a chat about it and we agreed that it might be a bit awkward when a new child arrives or if/when Jack-Jack leaves us, but we don't think it's the right thing to announce our foster family status to all and sundry, especially if/when an older child arrives who might not want everyone to know.

We have some news - we had a call about a short term placement today, and a little boy will be moving in next week and staying for a few weeks whilst his carer is away on holiday. He's a few months older than Jack-Jack and his blog name will be Andy. We're looking forward to meeting him!

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