When being a foster carer makes sense

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When being a foster carer makes sense….

“I have been asked to share an achievement of the boy we share our lives with.
This little lad has come so far in the two years he has been
with us. Every day he is faced with challenges and struggles with every day basic activities that other children and adults take for granted. However he is a child that has the biggest smile i have ever seen and even on bad days he has it in him to give you a huge cuddle.
There are so many personal targets he has reached, small to some but huge to us. But i think his reading has surprised everyone. He can now independently read and has gone up to level 6 on his Biff and Chip reading books. Jumping 3 levels in the last 6 months, which is amazing. Some will say but he is 10 years old and it is a Biff and Chip book, BUT this is a child with a multitude of physical and mental disabilities who they never thought would be able to read.
He has no medal or certificate but we are amazed to just see him reading.””

This week we have been remembering Why we do what we do…

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When being a foster carer starts to make sense.body-image-teenage-boys

I was shopping at Tesco’s and became aware of a very tall young man in his twenties bending down to try to pacify a young girl who clearly didn’t want to be there. He was attentive and patient and when he looked up he clearly recognised me and came over and said “do you remember me you fostered me for two months when I was fifteen” The penny dropped and this patient and attentive young man was the lad I collected from the police station over ten years previously. He had been arrested for getting involved in a fight over something that had been said about his Mother who had spent her life battling the demons of alcohol. He was tall then and I remember how he could occupy the whole of the sofa when he was watching the TV and at fifteen it would have been easy to have been intimidated by his size.

As with many young people in his situation with dysfunctional parents his only way of dealing with rejection and pain was to lash out. When I collected him as an emergency placement it took us over numbers so the plan was always for him to move on within a few days. As often happened there was no alternative place for him and the few days turned into a few weeks. He behaved impeccably was well mannered and the whole family felt warmth towards this gentle giant of a boy. Both our own, and the other children in placement took him to their hearts and made sure that he stayed out of trouble.

I was now standing in front of a charming and polite young man who asked about all of the other seven children who had lived in the house when he was living with us and he introduced me to his five year old daughter. I was amazed that he remembered everyone’s name as I had forgotten his, in my defence we did foster 62 children so one or two names escaped me.

He did eventually move on to another foster family which didn’t go well and I was aware that he went to foster home after foster home and then sadly onto to a secure unit. That was pretty much the last I heard about him until this day in Tesco. I said he looked well and he told me that he was working was married and he was feeling good about his life. He then knocked me cold when he said that the eight weeks he spent with my family were probably the best eight weeks of his childhood. He was always a charmer but I felt that he really meant what he said and it made me feel that being a foster carer could, at times like this, be the best job in the world.
Terry Casey

Fostering Stocktake: An opportunity for real change?

Fostering Stocktake: An opportunity for real change?

 

Fostering Stocktake: An opportunity for real change?

Fostering Stocktake: An opportunity for real change?

The Homefinding & Fostering Agency, as one of the first independent fostering agencies to be established, welcomes the review of fostering in England by Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers, which was published this week. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/independent-review-of-foster-care-published

The report came with 36 recommendations, covering the breadth of fostering services, including effectiveness, finance, commissioning, recruitment, matching, contact and permanence.  One of the strongest messages to emerge was for children and young people to be able to belong to foster families, through love and attachment. Whilst this might sound obvious some of the experiences highlighted through the interviews conducted showed otherwise. It is time for children and young people to be cared for by foster parents, including when they live with friends and family, and no longer be seen as placements made with foster carers.  A step back in time perhaps, but now with the application of all the knowledge and expertise we have gained over the past three decades in how to keep children safer and how to support foster families better.

 

Having been on the DfE’s advisory group as part of this review process I am aware that none of the recommendations were been reached without a lot of deliberation and validating with stakeholders, particularly children and young people themselves.  Opportunities to ensure that the £1.7b spend on fostering is delivering its best value now exist and also there is again scope to look at why 24% of the children and young people in foster care are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds.  This is a continued massive overrepresentation when compared to census statistics.

 

Foster carers do something unique and wonderful and this should be celebrated more than it is, because they change the lives of children and young people for the better. The report concludes that they do not need a professional label to do this, but do need to be treated with a higher level of professionalism than they are currently.  Few of us involved in social care do this just because it is a job, we care passionately about the lives of children and young people, but we do forget that we go home at the end of a working day, whilst foster carers continue to deliver what they do best, 24 hours a day.  It really is therefore time we fully entrust them, and support them, to do their best and to make more of the delegated authority afforded them.

 

Recommendations from the review about the removal of the independent reviewing officer role and a reduction in numbers of social workers in certain circumstances have rightly already promoted some alternative viewpoints, and ongoing consultation and evidence gathering by the DfE will inevitably inform any decisions that are made. It is therefore crucially important that these debates continue to include views and experiences of children and young people, and foster carers themselves.

 

Having worked with children and young people needing permeance throughout my whole career, I am particularly keen to see permanent fostering arrangements strengthened.  I would like to see changes to policy, regulations and systemic issues, that currently undermine the very essence of permanence really meaning permanent, so that when children and young people need to be in foster care permanently their foster carers can act as their parents.

 

For a long time now fostering has felt side-lined in comparison to adoption, despite the vast majority of looked after children and young people being in foster care.  Therefore this review, alongside the findings of the Education Select Committee inquiry  bring about the opportunity for conversations around real change to begin, and to take hold.

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmeduc/340/34002.htm

As a sector we need to be truly open to examining all the aspects raised by it in order to understand and then achieve what is really best for children and young people in foster care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fostering at Christmas

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It’s that time of year again when everything around us is full of Christmas and festive cheer, with images of happy families everywhere. It is magical and we thrive off it on the most part. Of course the reality is that doing the work that we do in fostering we know these images are not representative of all families nor the 700,000 children classed as vulnerable in England. We also know all too well that over the holiday period some of these children will leave their homes and be placed in foster care.landscape-1481201002-bpy

Foster care, at Christmas more than ever, is an essential service, whether for children already in care or for those entering care. Regardless of what has happened to them in life, children will miss parents, siblings and other loved ones a little more over the holidays because they too are continually exposed too the same images of joy and giving that we are.

Foster carers and their families therefore do something incredible. They make children feel special and that they belong by including them in whatever festivities they are themselves involved in. Across our fostering agency Christmas spans all religions and cultures, because ultimately it is a time to celebrate being part of a family, an foster families really are special.

Whether children are with us for a short time or staying until they’re adults, what they will ultimately remember is not how many gifts they received but how their foster families made them feel. Feeling safe, feeling like they are part of the family and most importantly feeling that they matter.

Whatever you are doing to celebrate Christmas this year please remember those less fortunate, especially children in care.

If you think you could be a foster carer by next Christmas please text ICAN to 66777

Please also consider supporting the Book Trust charity. For every £10 donated a child in care will receive a gift of a book this Christmas. https://secure.booktrust.org.uk/donation/

Wishing you and your families a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.

Satwinder SandhuSatwinder (2) a

Operations Director
Homefinding and Fostering

Foster Care Fortnight 2017

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The spotlight is on fostering for two weeks as it seeks to highlight the amazing work foster carers do every day. The fostering network aims for everyone in the UK to understand what fostering is and to know what a vital role all foster carers play in providing stability to societies most vulnerable children. Here are a few words from our Operations Director:

It is the start of Foster Care Fortnight  so The Fostering Network are highly active and visible.  Below are links to the press release made and coverage over the fortnight.  Social Media is using the hashtag #FCF17 this year.

https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/news/2017/charity-calls-7000-more-foster-families-particularly-teens-and-siblings

https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/get-involved/foster-care-fortnight/foster-care-fortnight-fostering-services

 

It is also Mental Health Awareness Week #MHAW2017 which is a great fit with the work we do in fostering.  Again it is well worth checking out the link below to the Mental Health Foundation.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

There are some great resources available for both campaigns so please do share this information with your fellow foster carers, young people and professional contacts and help spread the word.

The aim of the next two weeks is to raise awareness of the wonderful and often thankless work our fostering families do every day.  Enabling them to continue offering a safe place, security and love to some of the most vulnerable children and young people.  Enabling them to reach their potential.kids_backs_mbw

It is also to highlight the real need for more families to make that leap and become foster carers.  We are not claiming it is easy, but we as an agency are with you every step of the way.  Throughout the assessment process, offering support and training so that you make a real difference a child out there.

Consider fostering.

01622 765646 and talk to one of our foster carers about what it is like to be a foster carer.

” I couldn’t do that!”

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It continues to be a struggle getting enough people to consider fostering. It is definitely a difficult job and one that requires an awful lot of sacrifice, patience and hundreds of different skills.
A lot of people often say that they would like to foster but they don’t think they could. When our carers tell friends and acquaintances that they are foster carers, they often get the same response.

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Here is some of the responses our carers have told us that received when they revealed they were foster carers.

” I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t be able to give them back”!
Do they really think it’s always that easy for us? It sounds like they are insinuating we’re cold hearted, drives me mad .

” it takes special people to Foster, I couldn’t do it”.
This shows appreciation for the passion we have for our job.
Although I wish people would be more positive about it.

The reply I usually get when I tell people I am a foster carer is either
” I couldn’t do that” Or ” I take my hat off to you”.
Most people seem to assume we are looking after the devil’s children.

The response I get most is, what a wonderful person I am, often followed by, I couldn’t do that!! Or, occasionally, I would like to do that.
I assure them I am certainly not a wonderful person, but I am committed and care, I also have a sense of humour, essential if one is to succeed and survive!!
At the moment I am being challenged and struggling to find my sense of humour, at times.
I hate it when people say that’s a great job but I bet you get paid loads of money !
When you tell people your foster parents the first thing out of their mouths is “ohhhh I bet your earning loads of money”
It’s not done for money it’s done for love ❤️

We get told “we admire what you do, it’s an amazing job you are doing, we wish we could do it.”

I mostly find it gets respect and they say that they couldn’t do it.

What we sometimes forget is that we desperately need more people to realise that these are children.  In need of somewhere to live at an already difficult time of their lives.  To have the support of someone that are committed to making things better, at least for a short while.

What would be great if carers were simply asked “how could I do that?”

Consider fostering.
Find out more on 01622 765646

“Surviving teenagers!”

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Surviving teenage years
You’ve lived through 2 a.m. feedings, toddler temper tantrums, and the back-to-school blues. So why does the word “teenager” cause so much worry?
I love having teenagers. I love learning about their world. They make me laugh and they teach me something new. Every day. I will hate the day when I don’t know the songs that are played on the radio. When I can’t understand what they are saying. Every stage of being a parent comes with challenges and rewards. Parenting teenagers is no different.
But is it really a time to completely despair? There are lots of guides out there telling us how to survive the teenage years. It makes it sound so negative.  On adverts, teenagers are portrayed as trouble. There are always news stories about telling us about “gangs” of teenagers. Reporting on Teenagers anti-social behaviour. I know from experience the negativity that surrounds teenagers. Particularly teenage boys.
I remember when my sons were in their mid-teens, the attitude of the other adults around them was often hostile and suspicious. Our sons would come along with us on family days out with their younger sisters. But when parents with young children saw them  playing in a park, they were often accused of being too big, too rough, too noisy.
People made judgements and assumptions simply because they were the enemy. The teenage boy.
They are both adults now. They are great company and contributing positively to society.  Most of the time!

And we “survived” those years. I am not saying they didn’t make stupid decisions in those years. They did. They got in trouble at school. They failed to see the importance of studying for exams. They had friends I wished they didn’t have. They lost iPhones, PE kits, had sulks and heartbreak. But I had to be resilient, have a sense of humour and not take it too personally.
They ate extraordinary amounts of food, and the smell of a boy’s bedroom will not leave me. Despite that, I embraced every part of it. But Nobody expects you to embrace it. God forbid if you enjoy it!
I now have teenage girls. They can be moody and emotional and selfish. They are frustrating and I have to take deep breaths a dozen times a day!
They are late for everything because their eyebrows don’t look quite right. And they have ruined their bedroom carpets with makeup.
They are dramatic and exhausting.
And wonderful, and refreshing and watching them blossom is a journey I wouldn’t want to miss.
When it comes to fostering, it’s no different. The older age group are often dismissed as being too difficult and too much trouble. People assume that they will come along with attitude and crime and anti-social behaviours. It is true that they might, but to think that the challenges they present are somehow greater than a baby, a toddler or a 7-year-old is widely misplaced. Don’t expect the worst.
And teenagers need someone to have their back more at this crucial time of their lives. They need to know that someone is bothered about why they haven’t answered their phone, why they are late. They need someone to pick up the pieces and want them to do well. Particularly teenagers who have probably been let down, and have problems with trusting adults in their lives. It is a time of intense growth, a confusing time.
Teenagers are rewarding, energetic, and often thoughtful.
They need a consistent calm environment to guide them to making the right decisions. To help them reach their potential and become the adults you know they could be. And when you see them become those adults. You know you have done a wonderful thing in taking that chance on letting that child into your home and your life.
Consider fostering.
Especially those often overlooked.

Fostering and Food

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Fostering and food

 

It is not unusual for foster children to have issues around food.

At the time of placement, they might not be used to regular mealtimes; they might have had a limited diet before they come to you.  Their anxiety at being separated from their family might cause a distinct lack of appetite.

I wonder just how terrifying mealtimes must have been for children coming to live in our home.  With a family of six already sat around the table, the addition of a minimum of three foster children made it quite a sight.  Add to that a variety of neighbours, friends and other children, and the social worker whose visits would always end at the start of our dinner time.  It was a huge affair.  So, when people comment they have 12 for Christmas dinner this year, I smile thinking my mum cooked for that most days.

There were a number of areas that were confusing for new comers.  We didn’t eat in front of the television.  We all helped to lay the table and to clear it away.  Spaghetti bolognaise didn’t come out of a tin.  There was enough to go around.

And the daunting social etiquette of eating in front of a huge number of people is just one aspect.

The packed lunch routine was a wondrous spectacle.  All of us at school age would, like some well-oiled production line, move along the kitchen side taking things as we went, a carefully labelled sandwich or roll (there was usually a choice of two or three varieties and some with or without butter, mayonnaise, salad,) we would all help ourselves to fruit, crisps, homemade buns or biscuits, yoghurts or cheese.  I would devour mine at school at lunchtime as intended but others might sneak theirs away. Or try to take too much or not a lot at all.  I am sure my mum was aware what we were eating or not.  You couldn’t get much past her. She took it all in her stride.

And evening meals were just as organised.  A homemade dinner and pudding would always appear at 5 on the table.  Plates for those children at after school clubs (or detentions) would be left warming in the oven.

Food was not an issue in our house for those of us who had always had it.  Food, however was sometimes an issue for those who had not. It wasn’t uncommon for a child in our care to hoard food.   The hoarding was never judged and it never phased my parents.  They would uncover packets of sweets and crisps and even tins of beans under the bed or behind a wardrobe.   And eventually as the children became reassured that the food would not run out, it would stop.  The mealtimes might have been frantic at times but they weren’t stressful.  They were regular and consistent and varied.  Nobody was expected to eat something they didn’t like but they were expected to try it to make sure they didn’t like it.  One young boy spent 7 years eating mint sauce with every single meal put in front of him.  But he ate every single meal put in front of him.  We all had the chance to contribute our favourite meal or pudding to the weekly planner and whilst there were grumblings at some of the choices.  It was largely accepted.

 

The strange relationship with food is more than not wanting to eat broccoli, it is about control and fear and survival.  It is just one part of an immense task of making children feel secure.  And food and mealtimes are just another part of fostering you must be an expert in.

My experience of… the last 17 years.

Our experience of..

Catherine and Rob.  Read about their experience of fostering.

We are in our 17th year of fostering. When I think about it I realise it is a long time, a whole lifetime really and were still not done yet.

Our children were really young when we started fostering and I did wonder whether choosing this life for them was the right thing.  They have to share their home and their parents.  And when times were tough, they had to explain to their friends the sometimes difficult behaviours of the children they were living with.  But we always fostered as a family and I think short term difficulties with your own children far outweigh the long term benefits.  They become incredibly empathetic and I think they learn to mix with all type of different types of children and adults.  There aren’t many situations that arise that I don’t think they couldn’t cope with.

 

We  have had lots of different types of placements, and all of them bring their own challenges.  I think it is one of those jobs that you never get to the end of learning.  Every child is different and the skills you need are always new.  It doesn’t matter if you think you know what you are doing, that you have looked after teenagers before, or parent and child placements or children with disabilities, they will present you with something different.  Every time you think you have a new skill mastered,  you need to learn more for the placement you’ve got.  You have to have that confidence to keep going.  It helps that I also know if I asked for help it would be there.  I am not alone, there is a whole team supporting me and giving me the skills to meet every challenge.

The hardest part of fostering is the fact that it is a whole lifestyle and not just a job.  It doesn’t go away.  It is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  And that is the hardest.

The best part of fostering is that we have done lots of stuff that we might not have done with our lives otherwise.  It changes you, you want to learn all the time.  It encourages you to look at things differently and be a better person.  I find it exciting, and I love not knowing what is coming next.

I have learnt so much and how important it is to just be there.  To try and make the children feel safe, to support them.  By being there and forming those secure attachments.    And they might be 44 before they look back at their time in foster care and realise that being in foster care was good for them and you were good for them.  And you were trying to do the best for them.  And you just have to wait.

Could you foster? Your age, experience, sexuality or marital status are not a barrier to fostering.

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My experience…Parent and child Fostering

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Tom and Sharon have been fostering for 15 years.  For the last four years, they have also been offering parent and child foster placements.  It is an area of fostering we as an agency know we excel in.  Last year nearly a quarter of our new placements were parent and child.  And the demand for them is ever growing.

Sharon reflects on parent and child fostering for her and her family.

 

It is something that was suggested by my supervising social worker.  I had been fostering for a number of years and we had never thought about it before.  Just because we had never thought about it.  I had spoken to another foster carer about it  but still not really thought about it for us.  Tom was worried about having a mum in the home and wasn’t sure if it would work for us.  I think he was worried about allegations.  But we talked about it and decided it was something we would try to do.  I am glad we did.

You definitely need a strong maternal presence but Tom has walked alongside me because the whole family need to be supportive.

Our first mother and baby was a teenage mum and her baby.  She knew this was her chance to look after her baby.  She didn’t always agree with the help we offered her but she was never hostile or defensive.  She understood that we wanted to get the best outcome for her and her child.  In the end we achieved that.  That doesn’t always mean them staying together and in this case it didn’t.  Mum realised she was too young and the baby ended up being cared for by a member of her family.  But that still means it was a good outcome for everybody really. 

Mum had the opportunity to try her best whilst getting support and the baby got good continuous care.

The mums often need looking after.  Their early start in life is often difficult. They don’t  have the support from their family that mums of all ages need.  They can be rebellious and without a good start, make wrong choices.  Without proper guidance, it can often result in difficult friendships and complicated lives.

We write daily reports and I think it is important for mum to read these and see what I have observed so they know how to improve and learn. 

They are not all teen mums either.  We have looked after an older mum who agreed to come into foster care with her baby, as a last chance to look after her by herself.

The mums are often anxious.  So it is important to be non-judgemental.  We need to understand that these situations are difficult for the mums.  We need to give them confidence to believe they can do it and it is important to encourage mum to learn every aspect of caring for their baby.  The physical care isn’t often the issue, but you need to spend time giving mum help with the emotional issues surrounding it.  Watching a mum grow into her own person is emotional and rewarding because they don’t always have their own family and support. 

You have to be realistic about what they can achieve, and just show a different way.  They need a positive experience of living within a family.  Giving mum the confidence and to be strong enough to make the right choices in life.

It is a big journey for everybody.  We learn all the time.  We often think that our brains are like a treasure box of memories, with lots of ways to overcome challenges.  It is all worth it.

 

Is it something you could do? With excellent support and training we are always looking for more carers.

Call homefinding on 01622 765646