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.