Saturday, 29 June 2013

When Thursday comes...

 We are still waiting for a placement and it seems quite a while since we were approved now. I can remember telling an older, wiser friend (who is a retired social worker) that we'd been successful at panel and her response was “a placement by the summer then”. At the time I almost scoffed at the suggestion that we'd be waiting that long - but here we are!

We've had a couple of near misses over the last couple of months though. Our agency receives referrals from local authorities, they screen them then pass on the 'suitable' ones to us (taking into account our family dynamics, location etc) then we can decide whether to put ourselves forward as prospective foster carers. At this point the danger is to start imagining them living with us; sleeping in Edward's room, playing with our children, making friends in the community and being a part of the family BUT the process hasn't yet finished. The agency then sends our profile to the placing local authority and they make the final call on whether we are the right home for the child. On a couple of occasions we have been the contingency plan, just in case a family member couldn't take the child. That is not so disappointing as it is a much better solution for them. Another time it was a child who was going to be split from their other siblings, I never felt comfortable about this. Fortunately they found a placement that could take them all, what a relief. Unfortunately we have had others where there seemed no reason why the children wouldn’t have suited living with us and yet we were still turned down. Of course they don’t have to give an explanation for why, but it is quite hard to swallow the rejection not knowing.

However, it is also fair to say that I have had to turn down a referral too. I find this harder to do than being rejected. I have to think about not only what is best for the foster child but what is best for us too. If there is anything that I feel may make family life too difficult or unsettled I have to say no, but that doesn't stop me praying fervently that they go to a wonderful, perfectly matched home instead.

I have noticed that a pattern has emerged with the new referrals. All the phone calls from our social worker tend to happen on a Thursday or Friday! Maybe more children come into care nearer the weekend than any other time of the week? Who knows? So having sussed out this pattern I have started keeping my phone close to me on these two days, just in case that’s the day we all say YES!

So it wasn't this week, but it might be next week - I just have 5 days to wait and see.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Fostering Fortnight

So the previous two weeks have been Foster Carer fortnight, lots of things on the TV about fostering and being in foster care – all really great and positive ways to raise the profile of fostering and the need for more foster carers in the UK.  Also a very appropriate time for us to have our first placement!

We were able to give respite care for Jay* while their regular foster carer was away. OK it was only for a couple of nights but for the time they were with us we were their foster carers, officially!

It was a good first placement for us, our children had fun with an extra young face in the house and Jay seemed to enjoy staying with us too. It wasn’t without its hiccups though and there was a lot to learn (very quickly!)!

I realised just how routined we are as a family unit, doing things in a certain way at certain times. Routine isn’t a bad thing – it can bring a sense of security and safety, but Jay came into our house with their own routines and ways of doing things – not having them in place may have made them feel unsettled and unhappy in our house. All it took was a chat about their normal day and I got a sense of what routines were important to them.

It was also interesting to discover how quirky we can be – silly little jokes or phrases have become codes for different things and though this puts a smile on our faces it can ostracise a new person in the fold. I found myself explaining things to Jay so that they understood the conversation and could join in. I’m sure with a foster child that stays longer than a weekend they will bring their own quirks as well as adding to ours, but in the early days in-jokes are something to watch.

Another thing learned during our first placement is just how important foster dads are. Even though I am named as the primary carer and do most the ‘caring’ and ‘parenting’ on a day to day basis, my husband had such a positive impact on our young visitor. They listened intently to his instructions, they didn’t question his authority and actively sought him to ‘hang out’ with (it wasn’t always the same for me!) With such a short stay I am not to know what other male role models they have had before and who they have now – but it was clear that they benefited tremendously from having my husband around. You men are so much more important than you realise!

So all in all, our first placement left me smiling, exhausted but smiling! I wonder what we have in store for us next?

[*Jay is not their real name]