Fearless fostering
Foster parenting is a leap of faith - on both sides.
Howzat! Cricket's this boy's sport (iStockphoto.com)
“You’re doing such a good thing!”
“You’re very brave!”
These are the common phrases that my husband and I hear when we tell someone that we are fostering a 6-year-old boy. To us, it seems a bit strange, as our motives were far less selfless. We wanted a child of our own.

Meeting our foster child
The day arrived and we embarked on the trip to Krugersdorp. We had tried hard to think it all through before the first day, having received no guidance as to what to do or what to expect. We arrived at the home armed with smiles and a plan. Mini-cricket at a Pirates Club would take the pressure off him and us, so that was our first stop. Thankfully, my husband had picked up a pair of tekkies, socks, shorts and a white shirt the day before. Ever tried buying clothes for a child you’ve seen for all of a minute?

The gate bell rang and a supervisor let us in to sign the register and take out a boy. *Jason knew we were coming, and cracked a small smile as he walked out the door. Blond scruffy hair, blue eyed, boere boy in tekkies so small they caused a friction cut in his heel and ripped a toe nail.

He had no problem leaving with us. He quietly climbed into the back seat next to *Nicola, my preteen daughter from a previous relationship. They eyed each other. I dredged up my high school Afrikaans to explain the game plan, and offered him the new shoes and socks. Jason ignored them and just sat.  Maybe this was not going to be so easy. Thankfully the mini-cricket idea was a great success. All the boys in white shirts nudged him into changing into clothes that actually fit. Jason enjoyed the day and wanted to see us again. We drove home feeling like we’d just found out we were pregnant.

Building a bond
Weekend routines now included a day with Jason. Each week we saw more change and it became harder to face the five o’clock home time. Jason was creeping steadily into our hearts. The social worker visited our home, did a series of interviews and background checks and gave us the stamp of approval. Holiday season arrived and we received a call to say that we could fetch Jason for the holidays if we wanted to. Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh no! We didn’t have a toothbrush, pyjamas, bedside lamp; after months of waiting for this we were totally unprepared. We fetched him anyway!

Jason has now been with us for three months. He speaks mostly English (not that we have forced it), he’s learnt to ride a bicycle, swim, write his name and have fun. He pushes the boundaries of what is allowed, he stomps his foot when he doesn’t get his way, and he giggles so hard it’s infectious. He’s a 6-year-old boy!

The legal process of fostering has been frustrating with the homes and social workers having unrealistic caseloads that grow daily. For every one child placed into foster care there are another few waiting to be placed in the home. The system is bulging. It has been amazing to see how many children of every race and age are in need of love and support.  The home recommended we attend bonding therapy and a parenting course. We didn’t need to be brave, just enthusiastic and positive. We are not perfect parents, we don’t have all the answers, but we have a delightful boy who makes us smile every day. He has taught us about potential and motivation and that you can do it.

What do you think of foster care? Would you ever do it?

* Names have been changed.

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