My Life Begins As A Foster Carer
The awesome journey of becoming foster parents
I thought the big day had arrived and that my career as a foster carer was about to begin. Everything had been prepared for the expected arrival of an 11 year old girl, entrusted to our family. How did I feel? Excited and apprehensive! We had only met her once, with the social worker and were looking forward to getting to know her better. We will call her Josie. There was a lot to take in and sort out. We needed to be clear of our role and rights. Not so much because of Josie, but more due to what appeared to be a complicated business of working together with so many people who are involved in her life and need to know what is going on.
The whole process began a couple of years ago and after several months of interviews and filling out forms, came to a halt when we needed to prepare the house and I think, also our hearts in completing the application. We needed to be sure that we wanted to be foster parents, as we reckoned it would cost us much time, energy and at times, heartache.
After bringing up our own family of four boys, the youngest of whom were still teenagers living at home, we felt that our work of parenting wasn't over yet. Far from gradually putting down tools, we felt that we still wanted to make a difference, not only in our own sons' lives, but also the lives of children who haven't had the good fortune of a happy family themselves. I had already qualified in Early Years Care and Education, realizing my interests and gifting lay in the area of caring for children, along with my husband and I love homemaking.
In short, I was keen to share the blessings of a loving home with others. We had already taken in many needy adults, many of whom had never experienced proper family life before and now, stepping into fostering children felt like the next step.
So at the beginning of this new year, here is the first week of my journey into fostering.
Photo courtesy of Dreamstime
It's a big decision, becoming a foster carer!
After a couple of years and much heart searching, we finally decided to do it. Half way through we thought we had given up on the idea, but after mustering some more courage and support, in addition to completing the required work on our house, we finally went ahead and completed our application just before Christmas.
I am curious to know how many others have ever thought about doing this and either shelved the idea or gone ahead with it.
Have You Ever Considered Fostering?
Finding The Right Child
from a new foster carer's perspectiveWell maybe this is how it's going to be from now on, a bit of a rollercoaster. Just when we thought we were getting a new addition to our family it all went "pear shaped" and we had to reluctantly admit that she wasn't the right one for us. We had hoped that we could have ridden the initial storms together, but it wasn't to be. So now we start again and await the next phone call. At least we now have a better idea of what we want and the social services have got to know us a bit better in the process. We need to find someone who won't be a danger to themselves and our family. Sure they will have needs and be unsettled to begin with, but there are limits that we won't go over. There's too much at stake. We need someone who will be willing to talk with us rather than just reacting when things happen and who wants to be here, even if they are unsure of what to expect at first. Having met her I have already felt a longing in my heart to reach out and take her in, to love and keep her, but she's not mine and I have to keep a light touch until I know that they are staying.
We receive a phone call asking if we would have a 6 year old boy. He arrives the same evening- (talking of being prepared)! I quickly change the quilt cover from pink to football blue and hearing that he will probably arrive with nothing, install some toys and books in his room along with a couple of furry toys to greet him. He actually arrives with a couple ot things and is a bit unsure for the first 5 minutes, after which he is off wanting to see his room and the rest of the house. We manage to keep him occupied until bed, when I read him a long story to help him relax. Winnie The Pooh almost does it, after 1/2 hour he falls asleep and sleeps right through. So far so good!
The next day it's decided that it would be better if he didn't go to school, so it's another day of keeping him entertained. Thank God for the playdough and arts & crafts that I've kept in the cupboard! As it's a lovely sunny day, we walk to the park, only to find that it's closed for 3 weeks! Still he enjoys running up and down the skate park. Tomorrow will be a day of meeting other professionals and everyone making the important decision of whether he stays with us and for how long.
He's making himself at home, says he misses his mother, but also says he likes it with us, so I just hope that for the time that he is with us, we are able to give him the love and support that he needs.
Out Of The Mouths Of...
After working hard at settling him in, he turns to us and says: "You have turned my life around, you know!"
Would It Be A Boy Or Girl Who Receives Your Foster Care? - this new foster carer didn't know for sure until she did it
We were given the choice of gender and age, but decided that we could take either. We decided on school age but younger than our boys. We had plenty of experience with boys, yet a girl would make a welcome change and we didn't want to start again with babies and having to be with them all the time.
Which would you choose if you decided to foster?
Want To Read More About Foster Care? - these books will help and inspire you
There's nothing quite like reading someone else's account of fostering, to find out what it is like. These books will make you laugh, cry and feel better informed.
Support Network For The Foster Carer
a first meeting with our social worker
I met our social worker yesterday for the first time. The way it works (in UK anyway) is that the foster child has a social worker allocated for them and we have one for us. We all keep in regular contact and hopefully manage to stay informed. Yesterday my social worker seemed to know what had happened the day before, when we declared that we regrettably wouldn't take Josie. I wasn't sure if she knew all the details, but I filled her in anyway. She seemed to understand and agree with what I shared in coming to the decision we made. She briefly explained her role, that she was there for us and we could ring her anytime. She admitted that in a way she was relieved that we hadn't taken this girl, as she was worried that it might have been too difficult for a first foster child. Well, at least we showed willing. I asked her whether she thought that there were many children at present waiting to be placed, and she thought there was. I told her that we would be keen to have two siblings if there were any, as our room is large and we would like the chance to help family members to stay together.
So after an hour she left and we arranged to meet again next week. These visits would become less frequent once we settle down with a placement, but at the beginning they try to support us as much as they can. We will also be attending a support group, where we can talk with other foster carers and will be receiving training to better equip us. This can lead to further optional training which will result in qualifications.
In the meantime, many of our families and friends have been keen to know how we are getting on, but we do have to be careful in what we disclose. Confidentiality is obviously important, yet telling them enough so that they can support us is valid. This was one of the things we discussed during the application process- our personal support network. We also belong to a caring church community, which is a great strength to us during such a time and our faith in God gives us strength and faith to do this.
A Good Bye Note From A Foster Carer
After 5 weeks it's time to say goodbye! Thank you for the fun you brought to our home. We all knew that you needed a family who would welcome younger children of your age- ours was into the teenage years. Sorry you had to go, but you were so brave and calm. We had to do it now before it became too hard to let you go. We hope that you received lots of love and security through your time with us that you will take with you wherever you go in life. Your new family are very blessed to have you.
A Continuing Story Of The Foster Carer
Want to know what happened next?
Unfortunately for us, the social services wouldn't allow us to carry on with long-term foster care for a while. Although we put the interests of our own (teenage) family first as well as the child himself when we decided to let our 6 year old boy go, they were not happy and clearly proved that although it has to be written on paper that we can at any time let a placement go with notice, they penalized us for doing so. At the end of the day, we could only feel that the upholding of the foster care system is more important than the welfare of the child or foster carer. If they had taken the care to visit the child as they should have, they would have seen that moving him on was not because we couldn't cope, but rather because it was better for him to be in a home with other children nearer to his own age, rather than teenagers. Our time with him was very successful, but no-one was interested in that.
Three months later, even though we appealed their decision and won a Panel Hearing, we still haven't been allocated any children. We have two spare rooms waiting. Where are the children? Won't be able to wait much longer......