Monday, 26 November 2007

Taking a back seat

I had some news this morning - I won't be put forward as a possible match for the single child I had enquired about as they have decided it is important to find a black family.

I've done a lot of thinking recently and I have decided that before I am matched for a long term placement I'd like to 'test the water' with a respite or short term placement. I mentioned this to my agency; they seemed happy and said they would keep me in mind if anything comes up.

I'm also going to take a break from looking for a child/children myself until after Christmas. I'm fed up waiting for a call (that never comes) and not knowing what's going on, so I'm going to forget about it for a while! I'm going to concentrate on enjoying this time with just my daughter and if I do get a call about a foster placement, well that will be a nice surprise!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Special guardianship, siblings and BME children

When I wrote my last post there was something I didn't mention. It was still bothering me at the time, so I wasn't sure if I should include it or not. A week's gone by now, and I'm feeling much more positive about things. What am I talking about? A very disheartening phone call...

On Thursday 8th November I phoned an LA in response to a child's profile. The child's social worker was not available but I spoke to another worker who took a message. During our brief conversation the idea of special guardianship was mentioned, and, as this is something I would consider, my details were to be passed onto the individual who dealt with this specifically.

I received the special guardianship call the next day (note: the social worker knew very little about me, my background or my skills, hadn't seen my paperwork and hadn't spoken with my agency). Bearing in mind that special guardianship is something I have discussed as a possibility with other social workers, in connection with two sibling groups, I was very disappointed to hear that I would not be suitable because 1) my daughter is too young, 2) most children they are looking to place are older than 7 (the maximum age I have been approved for) and 3) most of the children for whom they are looking for special guardianship would need to be the youngest in the family.

Ok, so I'll continue looking for a long-term placement? Not according to this individual. Some of the 'facts' I learnt were:

* My daughter is too young. For any placement. Foster children come with many problems and disruptive behaviours. These may affect my daughter, and will certainly affect the amount of time I have to spend with her. She will grow up damaged.

* Many children in the age range that I have been approved for will regress. It will be like having 2 toddlers to deal with.

* Fostering 2 children would be very hard work and much more time consuming. See the first 2 points but multiply by x.

* RE: the specific children that I have enquired about (and have been told I will be considered for if adoptive families aren't found) - 'Has *name of social worker* made you aware of the very challenging behaviour these children are displaying?' no 'Oh well, I won't go into details...'

* It is very unlikely I would be considered for the child I had called about the previous day. Most social workers don't place black children with white carers. I would be ok to foster a white or dual heritage child. But not a black child.

I spent most of the next few days wondering whether I was doing the right thing. I knew all about the behaviour issues, but what if she was right and it was all too much? I wanted to do this, but couldn't risk my daughter's health and happiness. All of these points were things I had discussed with my agency and I was confident that I would manage. But if all I had been told was true, why had I been approved?

4 days later a magazine arrived. I had never seen one of the family finding publications before and I was surprised and saddened by the amount of profiles featured, advertising children who were looking for forever families. I looked through the pages and knew I was doing the right thing. Out of all of these children who needed a loving, caring family, there must be one who would fit in with myself and my daughter.

I was still feeling a bit deflated and didn't feel up to making any calls for fear of being told the same thing. But I did look through to see if there were any children who needed a long term foster family. Most of the children were being placed for adoption. A few children were looking for a foster placement, but most of these were older than 7 and/or needed a 2 parent family. In the end, there were only two profiles that matched my criteria. A sibling pair - 2 white British children. And a child of black African/Caribbean heritage (the same ethnic origin as my daughter's father).

I read the profiles again the next day and there was definitely one that stood out. From what was written about the single child it appeared that we were a very good match. However, this child was black and I had been told in no uncertain terms that very few social workers would consider placing a black child with me. I almost didn't call but in end I couldn't stand not knowing - I decided to phone, even if it was just to put my mind at ease. The child's social worker, however, had other ideas! My enquiry was met with great interest and there was no mention of colour being an issue. This child is currently placed in a family with younger children and they all get on very well. The social worker seemed very keen to hear more about me and asked to speak to my agency so that my paperwork could be forwarded for consideration. This has now happened and I am waiting to find out what the next step is. I am so happy I made that call.

Over the next few days I received two other phone calls, both responding to enquiries I had made previously in connection with two sibling groups. One of these informed me that, like the other two sibling groups I have enquired about, they are currently looking for an adoptive family but will consider a long-term foster placement if they have no success by the New Year (that makes three siblings groups I have to call about after Christmas). The other call was similar, however the social worker didn't say that fostering will be an option but went on to ask if I would consider adoption as from the profile I had sent them I was just what they were looking for!

I'm not sure how the process works but at the moment I'm waiting to hear from the social worker of the single child. Hopefully it won't be too long. My initial thoughts were that I would prefer to foster a sibling group but the one thing I have taken note of from that very demoralising conversation is that going from one child to three children might be difficult. If things don't work out with the single child then it is still something I will consider, but I will pursue this option first.

All of the sibling groups that I have enquired about are of dual-heritage, reflecting my own multicultural family. It is a fact that children from black and mixed-heritage families are over represented in the care system. It is also a fact that these children are deemed harder to place, along with sibling groups, older children (those aged 4+) and disabled children. I want to make a difference, and I want to make a difference for at least one of those children who have less of a chance simply because of the colour of their skin.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Waiting for a match...

Well, it's 4 weeks now since I was approved at panel so I thought I should stop by for a quick update.

Sadly, I have very little news to report.

Before my approval I had been in contact with a LA looking for a permanent family for a sibling pair. My link worker seemed to think there was a good chance of a match. Unfortunately, I called the family finder for the LA the day after panel and it's been decided that they will continue looking for an adoptive family for the children. This is much the same with nearly all of the children in the family finding publications. Most children are to be placed for adoption, and those that are looking for a long term foster placement are usually older than the age I have been approved for, need a 2 parent family, or need to be the youngest child in the family. So it seems that I may be waiting a WHILE before I have a child/children placed with me.

That said, there is one child I have enquired about that received a very positive sounding response, but it's very early days. It's hard not to get excited but I don't want to get too hopeful in case it's another no. This child sounded perfect from the brief description I was given but it's all out of my hands now. If it's meant to be, we'll be matched. I just hope I know soon!

I have found a bit more time for reading recently and I just wanted to share a very informative book. It's by Margot Sunderland and was originally entitled
'Science of Parenting: Practical Guidance on Sleep, Crying, Play and Building Emotional Wellbeing for Life'. It has been renamed and is now published as 'What Every Parent Needs to Know: The Incredible Effects of Love, Nurture and Play on Your Child's Development'. Either way, it's a great book and has given me real confidence in the way I am raising my daughter. It also relates to the damage caused through lack of care for many looked after children, and gives a very good insight to what is going on within the child's mind. Essential reading for any parent I think!

Thursday, 18 October 2007


Ok, now on to the exciting bit!

I finally (after what feels like weeks of waiting!) attended the panel meeting yesterday for discussion of my approval. I was so nervous a whole 2 days before the meeting so u can imagine what I was like on the day. It was held in a beautiful location and the panel members were all very nice, but that really didn't do much to calm my nerves.

I met the chair person when I arrived and waited with my link worker (from the agency, the lady who had carried out all the homestudy meetings) while the panel prepared questions. This took them some time but they finally called us through to the meeting room. After introductions, I was asked a series of questions that had arisen from my Form F (homestudy) report, which took quite a long time to get through and were all very in depth and personal. Not at all like the 'so why do you want to foster question' I was expecting (although this did come up towards the end anyway!)

When they had finished questioning, we were asked to leave the room, and after 5 minutes or so the chair person came out meet with us again. There was a very anxious moment when he walked in the room and I waited and held my breath trying to guess what he was going to say... and then he held out his hand and said congratulations!!! Phew! I couldn't stop grinning!

The panel were impressed (with my nervous babbling?! I don't think so!!), were sure I had a lot to offer and had agreed that I would be suitable to foster one child, or two children if siblings, aged 4 to 7, either long or short term!!! Wow, I still can't believe it! The age range is only fixed for a short time, and will be reviewed after I've had children placed for a while. Now I just can't wait to hear I've been matched with a child/children, and get to start what I've worked so hard to achieve.

Preparation group training

This was all booked for earlier in the month - a three day residential course for both me and my daughter to attend - and I was really looking forward to it but unfortunately it had to be cancelled at the last minute. I've been told it will be rescheduled so I'm now awaiting details of a new date.

Health and safety

Especially for Anita, here's a quick summary of the healthy and safety check that was carried out on my home, and the items that I have had to buy and install...

The checklist consisted of four parts: a health and safety checklist, a questionnaire for dog owners, a farm safety questionnaire and a section to describe any pet, other than dogs, which may pose a threat to children. I only had to worry about the first section as the others don't apply.

The health and safety section looked in detail at the house in general, indoor safety factors, the kitchen, bathrooms, outdoor safety factors, first aid, hazardous activities, insurances, cars, and firearms.

In order to meet all of the requirements, I have done the following:
* booked a first aid training course specific to child care
* purchased a first aid kit
* fitted all electrical sockets with child resistant safety covers
* installed window locks (so that they only open a small amount)
* fitted safety gates at the top and bottom of my stairs and at the kitchen door
* checked smoke detectors work
* had the fire service round to advise on fire escapes
* bought a fire blanket
* bought a fire extinguisher
* bought and installed a carbon monoxide detector
* ensured cleaning products, medicines and alcohol are kept in a locked cupboard

There is a lot more in the checklist that I could mention too, but a lot of it is down to common sense, and different areas probably do things differently anyway. But hopefully this will give some ideas as to what an agency will be looking for :)

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Almost there...

Ok, first of all I must apologise for not posting for so long. August proved to be a very sad month. After many years of fighting cancer, my mum passed away. It's taken a while to feel 'normal' again but I've finally started to get back into the swing of things, and with my panel date fast approaching, fostering has once again become a main focus.

August also seemed to be holiday time for everyone concerned with my application, and very little progress was made, but September has brought lots of action! All three of my referees (all friends, two of whom were teaching colleagues) have been interviewed, and from what I can gather, it went very well and the agency have a very positive impression of me.

My link worker also came to see me last week. I had expected the visit to have been the one where I get to read through my Form F (homestudy) but with the loss of my mother, she wanted to see how I was coping and take further notes to put in the report. She also carried out a health and safety check on my home, and I now have a whole list of things to buy and put in place before my approval!

On top of all of this, my baby girl broke her leg three weeks ago, and has had to have regular hospital visits. She's been an absolute angel with it all, and hardly seems to notice her leg is in plaster. We have an appointment tomorrow when the plaster will be removed and *hopefully* her bone will be fully mended. Unfortunately, that won't be the end of it all as the accident has also gone into my report and I need to supply a written account, hospital notes and confirmation from my health visitor that there are no concerns over my daughter's health etc. I understand that this is good practice; I'm happy to supply the information, and glad that they haven't just accepted it and moved on as it shows that they take such issues seriously. I just hope it doesn't look bad on me, and affect my chances of being approved.

Well, that's all for now but I know I'll have more to post soon, as my report has to be submitted by the beginning of October, and I'm pretty sure I'll be meeting with the agency in the week to read it through and make any final adjustments. Wish me luck!!!

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Books, books and more books!

As I haven't got any more meetings with the agency or paperwork to complete, I've been filling my spare time with lots of reading relating to foster care. I love reading anyway, and I'm finding that I'm learning so much. It's even got me reflecting on my teaching experiences; a lot of what I now know would have been very useful back then. I won't go into details, but there seems to be a lot of issues mentioned in the literature that relate to some of the children at school, and it's made me wonder about their home lives.

I thought I'd use this post to list the books I've read so far:

'Damaged: The Heartbreaking True Story of a Forgotten Child' by Cathy Glass (a book written by a foster carer about her experiences with a very abused young girl.)

'Wednesday's Child' by Shane Dunphy (a childcare worker and his experiences with three families.)

'If you don't stick with me, who will?: The challenges and rewards of foster care' edited by Henrietta Bond (a collection of first-person accounts from foster carers giving a very real insight into what it's like to care for children - a very interesting book!)

'Providing a secure base in long-term foster care' by Mary Beek and Gillian Schofield (currently reading this one - this text uses case studies to show how children with backgrounds of loss and adversity need the experience of sensitive parenting and a secure base to contain their anxieties, heal their sense of hurt, build self-esteem and make them confident and competent - all based around attachment theory.)

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Assessment complete!!

Ooops, I never did get back to write about the second assessment meeting. Since then I've had two more (one on Monday 30th July and one yesterday). The second and third meeting were lengthy and as in-depth as before (I've forgotten exactly what we talked about now, but it was more of my history and parenting style, plus some questions on fostering, some of which I found quite difficult). But the final one yesterday was less than an hour and was really to gather any last bits of information and sort out some future dates...

My assessment is finished (I can't believe how quickly it has happened!!). My link worker has to go away and write up my report, wait for the medical to be recieved, interview my 3 referees, and bring the completed Form F report for me to review before it is submitted around mid-September. The next time she visits she will carry out a health and safety inspection of my home so we can ensure it's safe for children to be placed with me.

So now it's back to waiting... my panel date is set for mid-October (and the agency are confident I will be approved on that day.) Wow, I'm almost a foster carer!!

In the meantime, I will be keeping busy reading as many books as I can find on foster care, and I will have preparation group training to attend in September or October.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Assessment meeting #2

I had my second Form F assessment meeting today, which went well. I'll post more about it asap!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Assessment meeting #1

Wow, what a day! Things are really happening now!

I had a meeting with the social worker from the agency to start the assessment process and it went really well. She asked a lot of in depth stuff about my childhood, my parents and family etc. It felt a bit funny at first telling this woman who I'd only met once before stuff I wouldn't normally discuss with a stranger, but I think I did ok! They have to gather all this information to see how past events impacts on your own parenting style and I totally understand where they're coming from.

The meeting was 2 hours long and she left me with a whole stack of homework - forms that need to be completed on my upbringing, major events in my life, my relationships with friends and family (inc my support network) and detailed notes on my education, employment, interests and personality. I started them as soon as she left and I've hardly scratched the surface... luckily I have a week before our next meeting to get them completed!

Well, the good news from today is:

* the social worker still thinks I'll make a good foster parent :)
* she was very impressed with how knowledgable I am of fostering and the application process
* we have the next three meetings booked, and will be halfway thru the assessment by early August!! (I couldn't believe this, I thought it would take much longer)
* I could be approved sooner than I thought (more Oct/Nov than in the new year as I expected)
* two out of three of my references have been returned
* the major illness in my family won't impact on my application (from info I'd read on the net, I was worried they would say take some time out and apply later on)
* the two children (a brother (8) and sister (4) pair) who I spotted on a website and thought could be a great match for my family might actually be a possibility as things are progressing so quickly.

I still have a training course to complete, which hopefully will be in September.

Also, I spoke to the social worker about the possibility of moving to a larger, more child friendly home. It won't affect my application, apart from the fact that the health and safety check will have to be redone at the new property (which will probably prove to be safer as I have a couple of possible hazzards here which are out of my control). So I'm now looking for suitable properties and might be moving soon!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

'No' from Social Services

Shortly after posting my first entry, I received a phone call from Social Services.

Despite a national shortage and current drive to recruit more foster carers...

'Helen Clarke, recruitment campaign co-ordinator said: ‘The UK is currently short of a staggering 10,000 foster carers and the Fostering Network is encouraging people during these two-weeks to think about fostering. Anyone can apply to be a foster carer as long as they have what it takes to care for children separated from their own families.’' (The Fostering Network, 2005)

Despite my skills and my suitability and my enthusiasm...

Despite the fact that I have a spare room with plenty of space for a child or children...

...they have decided that the spare bedroom would be seen as T's room (she shares with me and will do for the next couple of years) and they cannot proceed with my application. I explained that I would be happy to do respite/short term care for as long as the spare room is available. But it's still a no. I wonder if they're thinking of all the children who need a home when they make these kinds of decisions.

No wonder there's a shortage of carers.

It's a good job I've decided to go ahead with the agency and that they are happy with my current situation. I think I might just take a look at 3 bedroom houses though, just in case!

First steps

I've decided to create this blog for two reasons. The first is as a way for me to record my journey to becoming a foster carer, and hopefully, if everything goes to plan, our life as a foster family. The other reason is to give people (who are thinking about fostering but aren't sure what is involved) an insight into the process. I have looked for personal stories from foster carers online but my searches have been without much success... I hope this blog will fill that gap and help other people in their decision to foster.

As for me, I have always wanted to foster/adopt. When my daughter was born, and I decided that I wouldn't return to work, it seemed the perfect time. I can raise her, work from home, and provide a loving, safe environment for a child or children who are in need.

These are the steps I've undertaken so far:

Sept 2006?: When T was a few months old I contacted my local Social Services team to find out more about becoming a foster carer. They asked me to wait until she turned a year old and to call back then to apply.

early May 2007: (T was 11 months but I knew it would take a couple of weeks for them to get back to me!) I called Social Services back to confirm I was still interested in becoming a foster carer.

end May 2007: I was frustrated waiting to hear from SS so I began looking into other options. I found a list of fostering agencies online and contacted several of these. Many had reasons they couldn't work with me (T was still too young, the fact I'm renting was a problem etc) but two agencies were interested and sent information/application packs.

After filling in forms and more waiting, I had three initial visits scheduled:
mid-June: Social Services
end June: agency
early July: agency

The Social Worker from SS seemed happy, but had a few points to clarify with her manager. She informed me she would go away and write her report, pass it to her manager for approval, and I should hear back from them... in 8 weeks!!! The whole approval process would take 6 month to a year, with the later being more likely. I'm still waiting to hear if they would approve me.

The first agency seemed very happy with me and I had a very positive feeling about this meeting. She said she hoped I would choose to work with them. She also had to write up her report but said I would hear from them shortly and the process should take around 6 months. In the time between then and now, they have sought references and sent a medical form to be completed by my GP. They also offered me training even before my initial visit but T was unwell so I couldn't go. I'm pretty sure this is the agency I will work with.

The meeting with the second agency was also positive. He was very informative and certainly knew his stuff but I just got the feeling he was trying to talk me out of caring for the age group I would prefer (primary school age) and was promoting teenagers and young mums. Obviously I would be happy to care for any age child, but his agency doesn't place many young children and I felt he was saying certain things to make me choose his agency. My preference for primary age children is based on my teaching expericence, the fact T is still young, and my confidence in dealing with this aged child. I'd be happy to care for teenagers when I'm more experienced and T is older, but right now I feel younger children would fit in with our situation better.

So after all the waiting and the meetings, I'm now waiting again to hear from the agency to start completing the indepth approval process. The second agency left a Form F questionnaire which has helped me to gather my thoughts for the sessions when they happen. I just hope I'm contacted soon so we can get things moving...