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!