The most important Job you will ever do.

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Halfway through foster care fortnight, our managing director, Terry reflects on his time as a foster carer.

Being part of a family that looks after other people’s children has been the most important and worthwhile job I have ever had. Rose (my wife) and I had looked after over sixty children in our thirteen years of fostering. The feeling that we were making children safe, for however short or long a time, never failed to give us enormous pride and satisfaction.
We did every type of fostering from emergency short term to longer term. We looked after mothers with their babies, unaccompanied children from Africa and we loved every bit of it. We didn’t restrict ourselves to any narrow age range and, for a while rarely said no to any referrals. We certainly didn’t get put off because they were teenagers or a big sibling group. Every child bought their own challenges and rewards.
As we grew in experience and confidence, we loved the excitement of being emergency foster carers. I spent a number of Friday evenings at the local police station and got to know the duty sargeants quite well. The job was to get the kids out of the cells and to make them feel like children again. We were a strong family ourselves and there was never a time that we felt at risk from any of the children that we looked after.
There were aspects of fostering that never failed to puzzle us especially when some of the children that we had worked so hard to make them feel good about themselves went back into the family environment that had put them into care in the first place. We eventually accepted that sometimes the children went home, and for the best. We all had to learn to come to terms with the situation and it strengthened our determination to work as closely with the birth families as possible.

What we found were the mums and dads of the children we fostered who had been in the care system themselves and they had as many unfulfilled needs as the children. It certainly wasn’t our place to judge. As we looked after children who lived close to our home, we needed to develop the skills and understanding that meant the mums and dads did not feel threatened or patronised by us.
When we first fostered in 1986, it was a different time. There was no children act restricting the number of children placed. We once had a sibling group of seven and often had over three children to look after. We fostered in an age when the foster family would get £12.50 per week per child and the carers had no influence on what would ultimately happen to the children. We fostered in an age when the children didn’t have a care plan, they would drift through the system and the children placed into residential care, were then deemed “naughty”
So much has changed since then, looking after children is now a respected profession with foster carer fees reflecting the vital importance of the job. On going and rewarding training programs are provided, enriching carers ability to understand children’s behaviours, deal with challenges and, ultimately, maximise the potential of the young people in their care.
But one thing remains the same. Fostering a child, a vulnerable child, or a young person on the brink of adulthood, gives you the opportunity to make a significant change in the outcome of their lives, and Influence their life choices.
The challenges remain the same.
The rewards unparalleled.
Fostering is one of the best and worthwhile jobs you could ever do.

Safe. Secure. Supported

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As part of our ongoing commitment to go that extra mile for our children and young people we are always asking for feedback. We ask social workers to provide us with comments on our staff, our communication and the quality of our foster carers. We ask the foster carers to be honest about the training and support packages we provide, and what we can do to improve. We ask the young people and children what they think about the care they receive and what can be done to make it better.
Three key words emerged from feedback we received this past year.

Safe, secure and supported.
Safe
Adjective
protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.

A huge part of what we strive to do is about making children not just safe but to feel safe. It is important for us to provide an emotional safe place. It is the “knowing” of what we’re feeling; the ability to be able to identify our feelings and then take the ultimate risk of feeling them.
Secure
Adjective
fixed or fastened so as not to give way, become loose, or be lost.
verb
certain to remain safe and unthreatened.
For many children, Experiences of separation or neglectful or abusive parenting will cause children to remain anxious and to distrust close relationships. We need to change these expectations in the new environments of a foster family , by providing a secure base with positive relationships.
Supported
. To keep from weakening or failing; give confidence or comfort to:
To bear the weight of, To aid the cause, policy, or interests of, To have an enthusiastic interest in,
Our Social workers feel supported, our foster carers feel supported, the local authorities feel supported, as do the schools we deal with and, more importantly so do our children and young people.
We meet the challenges we face together and that is why those three words that recur in our feedback time and time again. Words that are so important to us because they mean we are building the foundations to make a real difference to young peoples lives, and fulfilling our aim of helping them reach their potential.

Pearls Of Wisdom

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In yesterday’s Prime Minister question time, David Cameron offered Jeremy Corbyn some advice his mother might give.

…she’d say put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem…

Every adult will remember something their mother used to say.  More speed less haste, if you have nothing nice to say…, don’t put your coat on now or you wont feel the benefit later.   In fact the average mother will pass on 41 pearls of wisdom.  My own mother and grandmother often had the snippets of  advice they would dish out on a regular basis, given with such authority and belief, that if I followed it, everything would turn out alright.    As we become adults we regurgitate the same advice.   Never go out with wet hair,  never swim on a full stomach, don’t run with scissors.  Some of them have their basis in fact, and for our own safety, others just become strange pieces of advice  we are expected to live by and take upon ourselves to pass on.

My grandmother would always say that you should never have more children than hands.  My mother used to tell me never to trust a man with dirty shoes.  She also once told me never to eat in the street and keep paracetamol with me just in case.  My mother also used to tell me to go and look something up if i asked a question..  I am not sure if this was because she didn’t know the answer, wanted me to discover things for myself or was too weary to explain it.  It is often all three of those things when I go and tell my  children to go and google it!  Everyone I asked when I was writing this had something they remember their parent saying.  It evokes happy memories of knowing that someone cared.

I think the point is, the things we say to the children in our care, are heard, albeit selectively.  But they are often remembered and stay with them as guidance in everyday scenarios or more difficult situations.  Don’t litter, do your best, always stand up for what you believe in.  Adults who had been looked after will often remember something was said to them and keep it with them so dont underestimate how important those bits of advice are.  They might make the difference to a child’s life, or a decision they make as a teenager or how successful they become as parents themselves.

Whatever advice it is, whether you are prime minister or not, we all need those bits of motherly wisdom.  Sometimes.

New Year Resolutions

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This week at Homefinding is meant to have started with Bleak Monday or Blue Monday.  A day when we abandon our resolutions and we are supposed to believe it is the most depressing day of the year.  I am not sure how much of these studies can be believed or how much weight they deserve to be given.  It is also the day most new year resolutions start to wane.

New Years resolutions often focus on our appearance, our health or career .  However, it would appear that none of these things will necessarily lead you to feeling the time you have spent has been fulfilled.  They key to our happiness seems to be all connected to other people.  The people we spend our time with, the relationships we make and investing a lasting commitment to those people.

Our foster families often forge relationships with each other and the children they look after and their families, fulfilling and rewarding relationships that last a lifetime.

Fostering broadens your horizons,  and it opens you up to a whole bigger world.  All too often the world we live in stretches from our home, our local supermarket, to our children’s schools and we don’t often deviate very far.

When you are part of a fostering family, you get to meet a whole range of other people you normally wouldn’t meet. People who’s start in life vary from your own.  Children from other cultures and backgrounds.  Fostering families meet other fostering families, and share experiences.  You get to work in partnership with other professionals in schools, hospitals, all striving for the best outcomes.  Opening your eyes up to just how many adults are involved in keeping vulnerable children safe.

All of this isn’t without its challenges but at the same time it is incredibly worthwhile.  So at a time when gym membership starts to look like a poor investment or the diet and dry January aren’t workingout as you had hoped, it might be a good opportunity to think about making a change in your life that lasts.  Applying to foster might be a change that you can make and one that propels you in to next year and the next.

Making changes for the better not only for yourself but others.

Statement of Purpose

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This week at Homefinding has been a productive one as well as a reflective one.  A lot of the time we go through life with one week rolling into the next, and before you know it the seasons have passed, the John Lewis Christmas ad is back on the telly and another year is about to finish.  This week at homefinding we, as a staff group have really stopped to think about what we do in our working life and why.

The end result of this, and the best part of the last year has been poured into our new statement of purpose.  The new document created by Satwinder, our director of operations, really reflects our way of doing things.

“We will create a legacy we can all be proud of. Where we elect to initiate change, we will endeavor to leave things better than we found them.”

You can find it under the about us tab on the website.

So, If you are interested in fostering, then please read it.

If you have been fostering for a while, then please read it.

Because there are times when we all need a reminder as to why we do things, and how we should strive to do things.

 

 

This week at Homefinding

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This week at Homefinding has been kick started with staff panel training.

Being on a panel or at panel are terms we assume everyone understands.  But of course, until you have been in that situation, it may mean nothing to you.

Being at panel is just about the final hurdle before becoming approved as a foster carer.  I imagine it is right up there as a nerve wracking experience.  As in, as bad as your driving test, but not quite as bad as major surgery.

The panel itself comprises of a number of professional individuals, who are foster carers, or social workers or been in foster care themselves.  They can also include health and education professionals.  They are all there with the same aim of making sure that the decision to approve you and your family as foster carers is the right one.  They are presented with all the information about you as a family in advance and they have the opportunity to talk to the social worker who collated all that information during your assessment.  They then meet you before making their recommendations and you beginning your fostering career.

Most people understand how important it is to get that decision right, and although it is a daunting experience, we try our best for you to be relaxed and the feedback we get is generally that it is not as bad as they imagined.

I have trawled the internet for peoples experiences of being at panel and found very little.  It is something we assume everybody understands.  And although we are certainly welcmoming and pleasant, I think it must feel like a job interview or a trip to the dentist.  I may hold a   We have holding a panel for new applicants here next week.  Maybe I shall ask some unsuspecting applicants to write next weeks blog.  No pressure! As if the process wasn’t daunting enough.  I will certainly get some feedback from them and their experience.

so watch this space.

 

 

Summer of Fun!

It was a busy summer both in and out the office.

Our two summer events were a great success!  The first one was a beautiful sunny day in the kent countryside making T shirts.  Lots of creative talents were put to use.  Not least by some of the carers!

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Our second event of pizza was thoroughly enjoyed by all that attended and the pizzas were delicious.  I am sure we will repeat both events and would love to hear from you if there is anything else you would like to do!

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This week at Homefinding

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This week at Homefinding, we are feeling the autumnal chill and long summer days are fast becoming a distant memory.

I often hear myself and others say, ” I will do that after the summer holidays” so now is the time we often clear out shoe cupboards and tidy the baking cupboards or craft boxes.  It is the time that we take stock of where we are. This seems to be true even if we don’t have children at school.  It is noticeable by how quiet the shops and play centers are.  It is like a new year in a way.  And maybe it could be a time to consider doing something new.  Whether as an existing carer, to endeavor to attend more training or equip a young person with a new skill.  It could be that you are not already fostering and this is the time you stop thinking about it and start that journey to doing something incredibly worthwhile.

I think this summer in 2015  is one that will be remembered for a variety of things in a world wide sense.  There have been some upsetting scenes in the media with regards to the thousands of Syrians moving through Europe, as well as the disruption to the ports of Dover and Calais.  This has increased the pressure on finding fostering families in the Kent area .

The number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the care of KCC has increased from 220 in March last year to 368 in March this year and 730 by September 4th.  That is a scary statistic, and the children from the UK  needing to be looked after by families also continues to rise.  So if you are not fostering, or if you know someone that would be good at it, then consider taking that plunge.  Very few people regret it, and before you know it, you will be saying ” I will do that after Christmas”

 

 

This week at homefinding

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For many, the summer holidays are upon us.  It is a busy time for some, a juggling affair keeping children busy and managing work both inside and outside the home.  There is pressure to have an idyllic time and create memories of long sunny days, picnics, water fights and laughter.

The reality is quite different for some. rather it is long days dodging the showers, battling boredom and trying to please everyone.  There are lots of guides out there how to survive the holidays and some people plan every day whilst others prefer to “wing it.”  For all families, it is the same challenge. It is about making the best of those days out of school, and it is all about what is right for you, and the children in your care.

Fostering is often about making similar judgements every day  about making the best of situations, whether it be disappointment around christmases and birthdays or missed contacts, frustrations taken out at school or even at home.  It is often wise to have a back up plan.  A trip to the park or an ice cream on the way home only goes a tiny way to ease the disappointment but it shows that at least you care about their hurt.

That is why it is so important as a carer to be flexible, to always be learning and to be ready for anything.  It is also why having a network of support and other carers in that network helps.  It gives you different strategies, ways of looking at situations.  SO  It might be a trivial comparison, but in the summer holidays if you have planned a picnic in the park and the heavens open, then have a back up plan.

and enjoy your summer holidays.

 

This week at Homefinding

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Do you know someone involved in fostering that has gone that bit extra?  Gone above and beyond what was expected?

As of today, the nominations are open for the fostering excellence awards, run and hosted by the fostering network.   And there is a lot of excellence in fostering.  I am sure we could all think of a moment when we have seen someone do that bit extra.  Spent that time thinking about what is best for the vulnerable child or young adult on the cusp of making a choice that could change the direction of their lives.

In the many years I have been involved with fostering, I can think of dozens of examples of families and invidiuals offering more than is expected.  We have carers who travel the country to see the children they once looked after, having made a connection that is never broken.  It is not unusual to hear tales of how they use their personal connections to get care leavers they know,  jobs, or act as guarantors on flats. They turn up with hot meals and gladly do loads of washing long after the children have become young adults and move on.  They become birthing partners and godparents, surrogate grandparents.  Sources of support and advice. And then they share the pictures of these young people graduating,and raising their own families. There is the fostering family who offer up their summer home to the mother of the children they looked after.  Giving her and her children a free holiday every year after she successfully turned her life around.  That is just one example.

But as a carer you have to be patient.  The rewards are sometimes a long time coming, because fostering is a long game.

When I was 16, my family looked after a boy the same age as me.  He had been having physical fights with his step father, not been attending school and been involved with a spell of burglaries.  Actually, he had burgled every house on his mothers street in one weekend. He was resentful of our family rules, and uncomfortable with the routines including curfews and sitting to the table to eat.  He was rude, taught us all some new words and failed to ever properly make a connection with any one in the house.  But he stuck it out, and so did we.  He didn’t burgle any of our neighbours, and he lived with us for about 18 months, He reluctantly attended college and saved up for a moped.  So when he moved on to his own flat, he had got an apprenticeship. ” Glad to be going ,” he said, ” fed up with not being able to do anything.”   It was without a backward glance he got out of my dads car. and it was with mixed emotions we watched him walk away.

Gone.  that chunk of his life we had shared. Dismissed with a shrug and a slam of a car door.

So when, 15 years later, in a supermarket, my dad was stopped by a man he only vaguely recognised, the biggest reward was about to come. The man was anonymous in his appearance. and holding the hand of a tiny minature version of himself.  He introduced himself and you never forget anyone that shares your home, or their story.  No matter how brief.

“I was happy when I lived with you, you know. I didn’t forget what you did to me.”

My parents had made a difference to that persons life and to the choices they made as an adult.  It might have been well hidden at the time but they never stopped believing that one day he could be the best he could be.  Their patience and unwavering commitment to him had paid off.  They gave extra in that they didn’t give up.

 

Do you know someone that has gone that bit extra?