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!