Wednesday, 6 May 2009

What it means to be a Foster Carer

I have been a foster carer since 2003, originally we fostered teenagers usually with the usual problems, drug taking being the most common, non attending school, absconding and generally being a pain in the proverbial butt :-) The reasons for children coming into care are as varied as the children but most of the teenagers we had were in care because they wanted to be, basically there had been no boundaries at home and when they became teens parents couldn't manage them often lashing out, teens then reported this to school or direct to social services and parents would then hold hands up in air and say we cant cope you have em. In other words fix them then we will have them back. None of these teens ever returned home and most of them had their continuing rebellion enabled by social services, as a foster carer we put in boundaries but also as carers don't really have any power of consequence, you cant for instance stop their pocket money and grounding them is pointless as they just walk out the door and you cant stop them.

Anyway after about 3yr of teen and a particular incident involving a 10yr olds unacceptable sexual behaviour we decided to change to under fives. Really not a lot of difference between a toddler having a tantrum and a teenager having one :-) To become Foster Carers we had to undergo a years scrutiny into every aspect of our life, nothing was private, family, finances, past marriages, childhood it was all assessed by a social worker who puts together a report which goes to a panel who decide whether to approve you or not. Following approval you have to continue to improve your skills with training etc. I have NVQ level 3 in children & young peoples care, have trained in numerous subjects such as health and safety, basic hygiene, safe care, record keeping, body language, listening and negotiating strategy's, first aid, behaviour management and various others which i cant even recall at the moment :-)

Never the less we as foster carers are often side lined by the so called professionals ie social workers , managers etc, parents of the children we care for particularly seem to think we aren't fit and continually try to undermine us, yes these same parents who have had their children removed because they have neglected or abused them. Not only do we care for the children's daily needs we also have to keep records of everything that happens while they are with us, we have to attend meetings relating to the children's care plans, child protection conferences etc, alas often we are treat as having little importance, information not shared with us our observations not taken seriously and even in some cases made to feel as if we are just the hired help, i guess in a way we are.

We have to engage with the parents and often they are given our address and contact details even in situations where they are actually a danger to their own children. Children continue to have contact with their parent usually daily and often supervised, the children quickly get used to being the centre of attention by a lot of people, drivers who collect them and supervisors of contact and of course all these people are experts on the child and always know more than us who have them the other 22hrs of the day do, or so they think :-)

Fostering babies is particular difficult as after putting so much effort into rearing them you then have to hand them over to adopters, your heart breaks in half as these babies don't understand what is happening and you feel as though you are abandoning them, its all for the best of course but you know that the break of their first bond is traumatic for them as well as you and the introduction and move is all done in a week.

Reading back it seems quite negative and yes dealing with the bureaucracy is but the positive thing is the children, we make a real difference to their lives, they blossom and it is amazing how they develop and catch up especially after neglect, suddenly they learn how to play and laugh and enjoy life and they embrace It with open arms, they can test you of course and will exhaust you at times but you know that it is all worhtwhile when they thanks to you can develop social skills, experience happiness and learn to attach to someone who will love them back.
Fostering also opens your eyes to a world which you find hard to believe still exists in 2009 a world where behind closed doors children are severely neglected and abused yet its a world in which we must not judge ;-)