Heart melting moments amid the tears - it's all part of daily life for a self-isolating foster parent.
A new foster parent has told of her life during ten days as a self-isolating family in the hope it will help other young families experiencing the coronavirus 'lock down.' Jane, a single mother who lives in the borough, has an eight-year-old son of her own, Adam, and is providing care for two girls, Betsy, six, and Chloe, five (all names have been changed).
“I work in a school and usually we are busy, active and outdoors people," says Jane. “I became a foster carer in December and, just before Christmas, Betsy and Chloe arrived and we soon settled into school routine. Despite our ups and downs I can see how far Betsy and Chloe have come. With the support and encouragement of a brilliant social worker and her team, we were adapting to being a family of four before we had to self-isolate for 14 days after Betsy's teacher called and told me she had been coughing."
Here she tells of life in self-isolation day-by-day:
Day One: Tuesday 17 March
Everyone was excited to be at home and not go to school and I don't think the realisation of 14 days at home together had sunk in. Together, we made a timetable of school work, activities and play. For someone who isn't very tech savvy I managed to get Youtube working on my TV. We had fun dancing. Hope it continues like this.
It's going to be a long 14 days. All my school background hadn't prepared me for this. The 5:40am wake-up calls I can handle – but the bickering over every little thing is draining. We don't normally stay indoors all day and we just need to run off some energy. Unfortunately, we don't have a garden so we walked to our local football pitch. What a relief to be in the fresh air, to run. We didn't see one person so were proud of our social distancing.
It's the simple things that make a difference. The children enjoyed using big boxes to make houses, shops and robots. Today started so well but ended up being quite tough, with some 'time in' (where the foster carer gives a child special, close attention) and 'time out'. Is it bed time yet? How am I going to survive these 14 days? Our first respite is in April not that long away and myself and Adam have a little holiday planned. Adam has been saving for more than two years to go to Harry Potter Studios.
Trying to stick to our timetable, rewarding positive behaviour and not stressing over the amount of stuff now creeping into the lounge - small piles of half built Lego, cardboard robots, paintings dolls. Explaining to Adam that Harry Potter would not happen as planned was tough but he took it so well and it's moments like this I realise what a mature and lovely son I have.
I don't like being dependent on others but I have had to ask for help for food shopping with not being able to book online deliveries. The children found the bag of Easter crafts and got stuck in. Why not?! Betsy and Chloe actually played a role play game for over half an hour. Believe me, this hasn't happened before, and it feels like a break-though. No 'time in' or 'time out' today - I must be doing something right.
Day Six: Sunday 22 March: Mothers' day
I guess I spoke too soon. The day started at 6am with bickering and it continued so we went out early to the football pitch, (I am worried about bumping into people). This seemed to help. At home and my friend kindly surprised us with happy meals for the children. You should have seen their faces.
It's Mothering Sunday but no cards and I can't meet up with family as planned. Quite a tough day.
There are some moments that melt your heart. Betsy truly believes it's her fault she is in foster care. After a good chat, it's been quite a productive day.
I just knew from the moment Boris Johnson gave out his speech we are on lock down, no respite, no end. I sat and cried. I cried for the country, for the school closure, for my family who work in health care. It's scary. I cried knowing the respite care for me and Adam will be cancelled. There's no end at the moment, no break, not even an hour.
Today is a new day and I thought, 'let's go with the flow, let's go with the children's interests rather than making them do work.' Adam got interested in flags so we went down that line. He copes very well but gets frustrated when the girls copy his ideas, so ends up with bickering. Youtube has been so helpful, lessons, Joe Wicks and the Go Noodles! child development classes
There generally has been an improvement in Betsy's behaviour. However, phone contact with parents starts Thursday (Day 10). I am dreading possible change in behaviour. Is that selfish of me? I can't imagine what it must be like to be one of the parents.
A good start to the day and Chloe managed to spread her chocolate spread on her toast using a knife. May seem a small thing - but it's a big step for Chloe. We went for a walk managed to dodge people passing by. The children even drew some pictures for our neighbours to post through their letter box. It's the day before Chloe's birthday. I just hope she has a special day.
A 6am start - that's not too bad. Chloe was very excited and couldn't wait to open her gifts.
Before 9am Betsy had had a 'time in, a time out.' She had called me all sorts and had hurt Chloe. Please, let's not have a hard day. Phone contact with dad and then mam and then face time with siblings. A birthday lunch and cake (thanks to a friend who waited in a huge queue in Asda) and an afternoon of party games and a ride out on Chloe's new scooter before tea and early baths to watch Frozen 2 before bed. I think Chloe has had a good day and I am so proud Betsy was OK.
The isolation continues - but it's all just another day in the life of a foster carer!
Could you help change the future of a child or young person? Contact the fostering team on 01642 444087 or visit www.redcarcleveland.gov.uk/fostering
For information on council services during the coronavirus outbreak go to www.redcar-cleveland.gov.uk
For tips and support for dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak and information about volunteering and accessing help, go to the council's Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2819334994816740/