Thursday, 21 November 2013

Liar liar

Our foster child has been lying to us and it has disappointed us very much. It has been happening for a while but the lies were caught out incidentally. We've had to talk to our child and so far no harm has been done, but who knows how far it could go? It hasn't been personal, but it feels personal. It's disappointing, it's been trust-breaking and it's something we really should have expected.

Sadly there are patterns of behaviour that seem to affect quite a lot of looked after children and lying is one of them. For our foster child they learnt to lie to survive before they came into care. Ok, now they are happy, safe and secure - they have no reason to lie, but how do you switch off a behaviour that has been established over years, just like that? 

We had to think carefully how we dealt with the situation - for their own well being it couldn't be ignored, and we needed to teach them that their behaviour affects us, that we felt hurt and betrayed, but we also needed to show forgiveness, compassion and love too. The things that had been lacking from their previous existence. 

So a fresh start has been set, the air has been cleared, sorrys have been said and so off we go again.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Carry on as 'normal'

So it's been a while since our new housemate arrived, I feel I can start reflecting back on what it's actually like being a foster carer. I've become a pretty good juggler of time (but what parent isn't?) but I suppose the biggest challenge has been establishing 'normality'

Our foster child has moved in with completely different ideas about eating, sleeping, education, communication, celebration, boundaries etc etc. Their whole identity has been formed and moulded by their previous existence - not all of which has been bad or negative, but it has been their 'normal.'  

At first I tried really hard to make sure that we did things all together, so it felt normal for everyone,  I cooked things from their limited diet that I knew the rest of the family liked, but everyone got bored of having chicken and rice 7 days a week. I've now gone back to my normal cooking repertoire but have back up frozen favourites for our foster child when needed - everyone is more than happy. 

We also have started being a lot more flexible about family trips and visits. To begin with I felt awkward about accepting  invitations from friends and family, not wanting to put our foster child through uncomfortable situations - meeting new people, answering difficult questions and possibly having to eat food they don't like (that is the biggest issue.) Our new, 'relaxed' approach is to not turn people down but to invite them to our house, this way our foster child always has their room to retreat to (definitely their safe place) or when hosting isn't appropriate (parties etc) we try and be super organised and schedule things alongside them like their contact with family, play dates or activities/clubs that they are already doing. No one misses out, no one feels uncomfortable - win win!

There have also been things that as a family we have had to embrace for the sake of our foster child. We have celebrated with our foster child traditions not normal to us, but so important to them. This has been an eye opening and enriching experience (exhausting at times too I've had a lot to learn!) The whole family have benefited from it and our foster child has felt loved, cared for, important and listened to. That's got to be worth the effort. 

So normality - does it exist in a foster family? Probably not, but who wants normal anyway?

Monday, 7 October 2013

It's all happening!

So we are foster carers! Yes, the wait is over, the house is full, there is never a dull moment and it's great! We have had our ups and downs already but actually our newest member has settled into their new home surprisingly well considering where they've come from. 

Their arrival was quite sudden in the end. I was walking over to a friends house for afternoon coffee when my phone rang; the agency with a referral - nothing unusual! I phoned my husband and we agreed to put ourselves forward - also nothing unusual! I phoned the agency back and gave our answer, excellent (and not unusual!) they'll call the social worker and let them know. By this time I was at my friends house and the kettle was on. 5 mins later I get a phone call from the placing authority. 'thanks so much, we'll be with you in about an hour' Panic stations!!! I left my coffee and ran, literally. First to the local shop to get an easy dinner and more bread and milk, then home to quickly clean and tidy their room, make the bed and give the house a once over. I also managed to feed the kids and fill them in on our news.  My hot and sweaty, flustered state had to be well and truly hidden when they arrived, and instead I composed myself to be the most calm and collected Carer around! It was tough, but I managed it, reminding myself that they would be feeling a lot more flustered and anxious than I could ever imagine. 

That evening there was a lot of talking, and that hasn't stopped really. But amongst all the off loading we have done quite a lot already. We've managed to organise education, after school activities, health checks and they even have a social life too. Its all rather good. 

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]

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The waiting game

You hear about the enormous need there is for more foster carers in the UK, how so many children are in inappropriate placements and need family homes to live in. So why, if that is the case, are we still waiting for children to be placed with us?

OK, with a rational head I can answer that question. We are fostering through an agency so we are not always the first choice for local authorities who much prefer to do things ‘in house’ if possible. In addition, we have a young family that has to be considered when making a match. This means we are not as flexible in placements as those with much older children at home or living independently.

Keeping all this in mind still not having foster children in place isn't so terrible. It means that when we do get a placement the chances of it working are far, far greater – a much more important factor than how quickly the beds are filled.

 Knowing that we are doing the right thing for the best outcome doesn’t make it any easier to live with on a day to day basis though! The beds are made, the room is clean and I have emergency kiddie food in the freezer just in case a chicken nugget and chips meal is required at short notice. Any plans with friends and family now come with the proviso “but of course if we get a foster child before then we may not be able to”. This of course means that like us, all our friends and family are waiting with bated breath for the big announcement! 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Will they approve? Going to panel

I’m sorry I haven’t posted for such a long time, the main reason for this has been me being unwell – something that was a little bit scary, very frustrating and knocked me for six.  On the bright side we have also now been approved by panel to be foster carers hoorah, hoorah! The panel was a little bit scary but you’ll be glad to know it was neither frustrating nor did it knock me for six.

So panel:  what was it like and how did it go, I hear you all ask!! Well, it was nerve wracking – but then isn’t every interview you go for where you REALLY want the job? Unlike other job interviews though, the panel had read pretty much my whole life story and knew more about me (on paper) than any employer I’ve ever had. I suppose that did increase the intensity of the situation.

The panel was made up of a group of people who all have something to do with children in care. There were two social workers, a nurse, a mental health nurse, a foster carer, an agency representative and an independent chairperson. Our social worker sat next to us and in a way was being interviewed too. When we had caught up with her earlier in the day she had tried to calm our nerves by suggesting that no one would ever take prospective foster carers to panel unless they thought the candidates were ready and that panel would approve them.  That was reassuring, but wasn’t a guarantee, so the butterflies continued to establish residence in my tummy until after the panel interview!

On the way to our interview I had been trying to second guess the questions the panel would ask us. To be honest I think I was harder on myself than they were! We were asked 3 main questions:
  • Why now?
  • What do you think our children will make of it all? and
  • What sort of support network do you have?

All three were reasonably straightforward and were things we had  discussed with our social worker before. ‘Why now?’  could be reflected back with ‘Why not?’ though our Social worker also helped answer this question and explained my wish to not go ‘back’ to work but become a ‘professional parent’ – a great expression which I intend to use again!

As for what the children think, well they have been at the heart of every part of this process. We see fostering as something that will benefit not only any child placed with us, but all the family. The children will grow up understanding there are other children who don’t have a loving home of their own and that it is a good thing to let them share ours. Panel agreed that during the matching process we should ensure that any children placed with us should ‘fit in’ with our children. Of course this creates a huge dilemma as it means that we would have to turn down children if they were not suitable. But in the long run it is better to have the right children placed with us from the start, so that the chance of the placement breaking down is reduced. A placement breakdown being far more heart breaking for the child (and for us) than having their referral rejected. I just have to hope and pray a great home is waiting for them somewhere else.

So the last question of the interview – our support network. We don’t have family living nearby and we haven’t lived here long so it is quite feasible that we could, as a foster family, become quite isolated. The panel needed to know what would we do in an emergency, who could help us at the drop of a hat? We are so incredibly fortunate where we are. Yes, we have only lived here a short time but no, we are certainly not isolated. For a start we have incredibly active and sociable children so from the beginning we have been making friends through groups and clubs they attend. We have also found a great church to be part of and have thus gained a ready-made community right there. But even so, both these factors don’t guarantee you meeting proper decent lifelong friends, like we have. So, yep, we have definitely landed on our feet (as my Granny says!)

The panel seemed happy with our answers and were really friendly. They appeared to want to hear the best from us and the questions reflected that. However, we were given one tricky  ‘off piste’ question about dealing with difficult situations. My clever husband quickly said, while I ummed and ahhhed, that  he would, in this kind of situation, seek advice from our supervising social worker!  A fantastic answer, which had them all nodding with approval and agreement. Once all the questions had been answered we were sent out the room so that they could decide our fate. It wasn’t long before we were brought back in to be told that they had unanimously agreed to recommend approval. Hallelujah!

So, that other thing I mentioned at the start, my bout of illness. Well it happened shortly after we were approved and took us all by surprise. Without going into too much detail I wasn’t well enough to look after my own children, let alone any foster children, for a few weeks. During this time friends and family visited, looked after the kids, cooked meals, took me to appointments and rallied around to help us out. Having people willing, and happy, to help made it so much easier to recover properly. I was blown away by their generosity and it showed me just how fabulous they all are! The wonderful support network we described at panel showed they were just that.

So now we are approved (and I am better) – when will we become actual foster carers? I’ll keep you posted!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013


We have just had Mothering Sunday, a day where we make a bit of a fuss and treat our mothers to flowers, chocolates, breakfast, a rest etc. I considered how the day would have been if we had foster children placed with us. It must be very hard to be without your mum on a day when everyone else is celebrating theirs. These wonderful, festive days  aren't so wonderful for everyone. But I suppose it doesn't have to be just the 'big' days that cause the pain. I'm sure that any one missing a loved one will have triggers of  loss and sadness in the mundane of life.

Mothers day is also a day for appreciating motherhood. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to be 'Mummy' and love every minute (even the frustration, exhaustion and messiness of it!) I am also very excited to be given the opportunity to parent other children while their parents cannot. There are around 50 children taken into care each day in the UK; there are approximately 4,000 children waiting adoptive families and more than 8,000 foster families needed to take on the the 'burden,' giving homes to our most vulnerable and damaged children. When I think about these numbers I am even more grateful to be given the opportunity to help.

Recently I have been inspired by 3 amazing Mums; one is a friend of a friend who has fostered and adopted children with highly complex medical needs. She manages to juggle everything a child normally needs alongside the delicate and vulnerable health issues they also have, so that their lives remain as rich and happy as possible - she does this with so much love and care, its amazing.

Another one is a lady on a reality TV programme who has had 16 children so far! OK, she started a lot younger than me, but I don't think I could go through that many pregnancies or labours! The inspiring thing about her was that she was so optimistic, happy and enthusiastic about her children, and her children seemed happy, healthy and thriving! She and her husband worked hard to support them all both emotionally and financially, yet their marriage seemed stronger for it. This mother, and her family, didn't make me want to have a football team of kids, but made me realise that you can nurture, cherish, love and raise a large family.

The last Mum is a lady who was interviewed on the Mothers Day 'Songs of Praise' special (a Sunday evening tradition) She lives in a deprived estate in south London and one day found out her son had got involved in the very scary and dangerous gang life there. Her reaction to this was amazing. Instead of trying to keep her son away from it all she decided to open her home to her sons 'friends.' She cleared her living room of furniture and filled it with a pool table and massive TV. She always had enough dinner for everyone, welcomed them all into her home and showed them love - they called her their second Mum! Getting them off the streets, keeping them well fed, warm and happy had such a great affect on the young men that many turned away from gang life and have gone on to better things (including her son). With gun and knife crime so common place within gangs, she could have even saved their lives. What a fantastic testimony to have!

All 3 women have given me new motivation and enthusiasm for fostering children that desperately need a home. By filling your house with kids it doesn't mean you dilute the love and care you give them, but by offering a warm and welcoming home you can help change the future of the most disaffected and damaged child. Thank you ladies

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Edward's room: near death by flat pack

As I have mentioned in previous posts, there are plenty of checks to be completed during the process of approval - not just checking us, but also our house. We have had to do quite a lot of things to our house to make it ready for a foster child, including decorating and furnishing their bedroom.

When we moved into our house about 18 months ago, the upstairs had not been touched for over 20 years - and it showed! Edward's room was the worst of the lot. 'Who is Edward?' I hear you cry - well Edward is the 60 something year old son of the old man we bought the house from (who recently died at the ripe old age of 103!) His room was the one we are now using for our foster child/ren, and we know this because his name is still on the door! It feels nicer referring to it as Edward's room, rather than the spare room or foster room, don't you think?

So anyway, back to how Edward's room was when we first got here - one friend referred to it as 'The Sauna' due to the wood effect wallpaper, but I've never seen mustard coloured shag pile carpet in a sauna before! Have you got a mental image of it yet? Well whatever you are imagining, it was so much worse!!

After stripping the wall paper we found some pretty rough walls, but since moving here my husband has become pretty handy with the old Polyfilla so he managed to get everything smooth enough to paint, even the ceiling! We decided to keep things pretty neutral and the walls have been painted a yummy vanilla colour (my husband's favourite!) and it works perfectly for either a girl or boy.

We weren't planning to get new carpet but instead sand the floor boards and put rugs down - but that wasn't possible. The amazing shag pile was laid on newspaper, dated 1956, and under the newspaper was some rather ugly, battered floor boards (functional but not pretty!). There was no way they could be used. So off I went to Carpetright, with a rather tight budget but an attitude to haggle, and haggle I did! By being dead set on what I wanted (style and colour wise) and what budget I had, I got it all, yippee! Putting up a colour- matched blind added the finishing touch to the room - it was transformed!

The next thing was furniture. We had discussed with our social worker the possibility of having two same sex siblings who could share the room on bunk beds. My new mission was to find reasonably priced bunk beds that could split into two single beds if necessary. I started obsessively watching eBay items, scouring Gumtree and stalking Freecycle. The problem was, it seemed, so were loads of other people. Secondhand  bunk beds are like truffles, saffron, frankincense or  diamonds - very rare and really not very cheap either! In fact one relaxing Sunday evening was completely ruined by a very frustrating eBay gazumping. I was tracking my 'winning' item and was so happy to have found one that was local too. Then suddenly with only 7 seconds to spare a new bidder got in and got it for £1 higher than my maximum. AHHHHHHHHH, I was so cross - cross enough to want to write a letter of complaint immediately (I am so British!)

Even though we had been looking at second hand beds and furniture (we just don't have a lot of money to spend) we also knew that we wanted the room to look nice, so that any child coming to live with us would feel valued because they had a decent bedroom.  Unfortunately the pre-loved route wasn't looking very productive so we decided to go for the next best thing to decent secondhand and take a trip to Ikea! Off we went, the four of us, to the big blue and yellow furniture haven with our shopping list of bedroom furniture and hungry bellies ready for meatballs (so disappointed that they are on the 'horse' list)

I don't mind flat pack, in fact I quite relish it! I have always seen it as a bit of a logic problem, a challenge with the fab outcome of new furniture - it always seems a bit of a win-win situation to me, new furniture and entertainment! My husband, on the other hand, hates it. He sees it as a necessary evil and gets frustrated by just looking at the boxes waiting to be unpacked! If I could get the job done single handed I would, and relieve my hubbie of the stress he gets from it all, but wardrobes and bunk beds cannot be done single handed so a joint effort was required. We would have to wait till the boys were in bed and then get started on each project - first the chest of drawers, simple; then the book shelf, easy; next the wardrobe, tricky hingey things and lastly the bunk beds, my nemesis!

The bunk beds took close to 5 hours to get up 5 long, frustrating, exasperating hours, and once they were up I just wanted to cry. It looked like flat pack had finally broken me. No longer did I have the joy of a fabulous piece of furniture to make the whole process worth while. The bunk beds looked HUGE in Edward's 'little' room and the place just looked crowded and confused! My little day dream of creating a lovely, comfortable space for a damaged little soul was completely shattered. I now felt flattened!! Over the next couple of days I couldn't even open the door of Edward's room, I had to just avoid it. But I started thinking of alternatives, trying to logically find a solution and I created another game for myself! I could smile again.  When I finally got the opportunity to start putting my ideas into practice things weren't so straight forward. Moving the furniture round the room was like doing a very large sliding puzzle (do you know what I mean, one of those little puzzle things children get in party bags?) Everything had to be moved this way, then that way till I finally got it all in place. Sitting down on the floor, by the door, feeling a little bit worn out by it all, I observed my work and do you know  I liked it! It had been achieved, the lovely room for whoever may need it had been created. Flat pack, you did not beat me!

So now Edward's room is ready to be someone else's room, but who's, we do not know. We have now just got to play the waiting game.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Check us out

I don't think anyone would be surprised to hear that there are a lot of background checks to be done before you can be approved as a foster carer. So be warned, this is quite a wordy, factual post - but important and necessary. So here goes.............

We have needed to complete:-

  • enhanced CRBs (really no surprise there)
  • employment references including income checks. In the application form you have to give details of monthly outgoings (mortgage, bills, travel etc) which they then compare to your household income, so to make sure that you are financially stable,  not going into fostering for just the money (or about to have your house repossessed)
  • medical checks (I mentioned these last time - thorough but reasonable)
  • a reference from a family member - just the one was needed but the person needed to know us both well and have spent time with us as a family. 
  •  references from friends - we needed two of these, one who my knew my husband better and one who knew me - but who both knew us as a couple.                                                                    Hint: when choosing referees think about people who know, respect and love you and are fully supportive of you becoming foster carers. Also think about what they know about you as an individual, a couple and a parent - can they comment constructively on all these aspects? And are they able to give your social worker insight into your previous life experiences? For example, my husband was born in another country and only moved here as an adult. One of our referees had known him in his home country and could give plenty of useful information. Also, all 3 of our referees felt nervous about their interviews and wanted to make sure they said the right thing to our social worker - they all did sterling work and helped enormously in giving her a much richer picture of us. We really appreciate their willingness to help.
  • overseas checks -  my husband moved here as an adult so checks needed to be made to ensure he had no criminal past in another country. This could have been a huge sticking point as there is no equivalent to a CRB in his home country, and it could have taken months (even years) and been very expensive to get Police checks completed. Fortunately, he works in an environment requiring enhanced CRBs so when he was recruited from abroad relevant checks were made by that place of work - we were able to get written confirmation from them that he was ok rather than having to go to the Embassy, HUGE RELIEF!
  • fire safety checks on the house - this was great fun as it involved a visit from the local fire brigade and they brought their fire engine! We had friends and their toddlers over for a play date when they turned up so we had 5 very happy toddlers gawping out the window and once the checks were made, which included establishing emergency exits and putting smoke alarms in the right places, got to sit in the engine, wear the helmets and boots - AMAZING! All the firemen had also grown 'Movember' moustaches so it was like a visit from the village people, I'm not sure they'd all see that as a compliment!!!!

I think that was all the checks we needed to get done, and they took a few months to be completed. It would have been even more lengthy if we had had any other children with previous partners, been married before or had lived with anyone else as they would all have had to be interviewed too. Its nice to be straightforward in something!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The interrogation!

Our  first meeting with the social worker was lovely, we talked about why we wanted to foster, the process of approval and application. We laughed, joked and drank tea - it was very relaxed. I didn't find the idea of our second meeting as nice! She wanted to meet us both individually so that she could talk through our childhood, our  previous relationships and our friends/support network - obviously easier to go through those sort of details on your own, less chance of confusion. But she also wanted to discuss our marriage dynamics, how we met, what our strengths/weaknesses were, basically every little thing about our  relationship. This did worry me, not because I am in any way concerned about things (in fact I think our marriage is brilliant) but because I had in my head that she was going to impose some sort of Mr and Mrs quiz which must be passed in order to be approved (and nothing as lighthearted as the one my friends organised for my hen do either.)

What made it even more nerve wracking was that my husband went first! I took the children out for 2 hours while they completed the interview and the only feedback I got from him afterwards was that it went OK  The thing is, my husband is a very calm and laid back person. He faces problems as they appear and always eases his way to a solution with minimal stress or frustration. I prefer to be prepared for any eventuality or outcome,  so that whatever problems arise I have a solution to hand and then don't need to panic. It means I am always planning and over thinking things - but this is fine for me as it gives me more confidence and keeps me calm - my husband thinks that that's just making work for yourself! So if it had been me that had gone first I would have probably fed back to my husband every minute detail of our conversations- giving him the complete heads up, and probably giving him a headache!

My gut instinct was to  then to interrogate my husband to gain as much information and detail as I could, but  I decided to not go down that route and instead to trust that 'it went OK' for him also meant it would be OK for me.  That was the best decision I could make because actually it did go OK and it wasn't very stressful at all. There were no bright lights or cross examinations, in fact she was just interested in seeing things from my point of you; which also ended up being very similar to my husbands (we're not so different after all!)

After that we had a few more visits from the Social worker, but these were either the two of us together, or with the kids as well. It was important for her to see how we were with our children and whether we put our words into practice. This all went smoothly enough and our toddler even started to refer to her as his friend!

On a practical side, we had to have medical examinations made by our GP. These were surprisingly thorough and went through our whole medical history. The GP then made a recommendation whether we were fit and healthy enough to complete the role as foster carer. We both passed, phew!

The next hurdle: CRBs and References.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


Offering a child a home is an amazing thing to be able to do - whether you plan to foster or adopt. This video may be a little cheesy, but I love the sentiment. You have no idea who this child, in your care, will become but what a privilege to help them get there!

So you want to be a foster carer?

If you answered yes then maybe this will help prepare you for your own application process, if you're are already fostering, maybe your experience has been different - your comments would be most welcome and could really benefit other readers. If you're just curious, I hope this doesn't put you off!

So our journey started in summer time, 2012. After making initial contact with a fostering agency, a member of the team came to visit us and go through all the details of what it is to be a foster carer, the process of application and to discuss whether it was right for us. Our visit was in the evening, timed after the kids' bedtime, so that both my husband and I could concentrate and be involved in the conversation. Typically, for the first time in months, none of them wanted to settle, so we were even more distracted by the noises coming over the monitor! In the end they joined us and the social worker got to meet the whole family - even then the kids wanted to make sure they were involved!

After this initial visit came some decision making. For us it was whether we wanted to do this now? For the agency it was whether we were worth taking on? Fortunately we all answered 'yes' and so the application process began!

We met our assigned social worker in September. Her first visit was to quiz us and get an idea of what our motivation to be foster carers was. I had worked with looked after children for years and knew a lot about fostering,  so she wanted to make sure this was a joint venture and not just what I wanted. It was really great to hear my husband explain to a third person his reasons for wanting to foster. I knew it and had hear it all before, but to be reminded again was lovely. It is so important to make sure that such a life changing experience, like fostering, is embraced fully by both of you; fostering can be stressful and is really hard work, you need to fully rely on each other to be able to do it properly, and to keep going. It can put a strain on the strongest of relationships, made only worse if one person is not as happy about doing it in the first place.

After that first visit we were left with a big pile of forms to complete - BAAF application forms, CRB forms, references forms, house/garden risk assessments - and a document listing all the areas that would be covered in the next few meetings. We were to complete as much as possible before seeing her next, where she was going to interview us individually. We had plenty of homework to do, and enough time to get ourselves really nervous about the interrogations!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Why now?

In the last 4 years I have been pretty busy. I have met, dated and married my husband, been promoted and then made redundant, moved house 5 times, had children and applied to become a foster carer! The majority of them being life long desires and on my 'when I get older' list. What an amazing, full on 4 years!

My husband and I both knew we wanted to foster children before we met each other, so it has never been about 'will we?' but 'when will we?' When I was made redundant and was coming to the end of maternity leave  we thought we should start finding out when we could start the process. I have a professional background working with looked after children and so decided to quiz an old colleague about it. We were surprised when we were told we could start straight away! We sat on this news for a couple of months - letting it sink in and making sure when we said go we were certain of our decision, so in  September 2012 we started the application process.

We decided to go with a Fostering agency for the following simple reasons; we know them, we respect their professional integrity and it gives us more flexibility. Fostering is to be something that benefits everyone in the family. The foster child/ren, our biological children and our marriage should be strengthened and enhanced by the experience. We believe we are in the right hands to be able to give fostering our best shot.

So that answers the question 'Why now?' the next question is 'What happens next?'-  cue next blog entry.....