Stop celebrating the numbers.

As a foster carer I love reading articles regarding fostering, those that celebrate both the wonderful people that open their homes and hearts to children in need but also, and maybe more so the amazing children that come into the lives of foster carers like myself. I adore reading about their strength and courage and their innate desire to change their story.

Still there is one thing that really frustrates me about some conversations regarding fostering and this the celebration around the numbers.

Let me explain, only a week ago I read an article about a foster carer who in her life had fostered over 5000 children and whilst the couple are pretty amazing my heart breaks that over 5000 children needed a home.

5000 children worlds were turned upside down, 5000 children were walking again into an unknown out of their control.

In England alone

  • 56,160 children were living with foster families on 31 March 2019.
  • This is 72 per cent of the 78,150 children in care looked after away from home (Department for Education, 2018).

This isn’t a number we should be celebrating.

Don’t get me wrong, whilst I am so thankful and proud to work in foster care it’s one profession where I wish I was unemployed and not needed.

The other reason I struggle with numbers is that some foster carers will never have 5000 children through their doors, not because they don’t work as hard or aren’t as open, but because they foster long term. Take myself I have now fostered for over 10 years and only 4 children have come to me. This isn’t a failing on my behalf it’s because when they come to our family it’s with a plan for a long term stay and in the case of my now adopted son,forever. There are many different streams of foster care, from respite, emergency to short and long term, from a fostering perspective it’s not about the number of children we have but the lives we can impact upon.

Fostering is an incredible job and one I’m incredibly proud of doing but it is hard at times when the numbers are celebrated.

To me, those numbers are hearts, broken scared hearts that crave love and stability. They are vulnerable spirits craving somewhere to call home.

The only time will should be celebrating the numbers is when the number of children needing to be fostered is reduced and when the amount of families kept together and supported is rising. Then I promise I will be celebrating the loudest.

 

What can you tell me about…

One of the major issues still arising within foster care, is the lack of information given to carers.

A recent survey published by the Fostering Network, where Foster carers were asked “Are you given all the information you need about a fostered child before they move in, to look after them and others in the household safely?”

 

The survey highlights some concerning issues in the way information sharing is being dealt with, as only 9% actually said they were “always given the information needed” and 6% saying that “information sharing ‘never happened”. In fact 23% of the carers who took part; said “they were rarely given the information they needed.”  32% said “this mostly happened” and 31% were saying “they were sometimes given this information’.

 

As foster carers; we know how important it is that we have the information needed to safely care for the child. Whilst we accept that emergency placements happen with very little warning and information, this should be rectified as soon as possible.

As professionals we must be ensuring that we receive the information needed to keep both the child and ourselves safe. We need to know as much about the child as possible so that we can help and encourage them reach their potential.

 

This is an area where real change is needed. But is this really a piece of a much bigger puzzle? Does the real issue lie with how fosters carers are still viewed within the care system?

 

Clearer understanding must be shown of the key role foster carers have within the ‘Team around the child’, I love this quote from Debbie Booth a foster carer speaking at the Fostering Network’s conference 2007.

 

“If I am not a crucial part of the team who works around the child, then what am I?

 

If I am not paid for the time and skills I dedicate to the child I care for, does that mean that my time, those skills and that child are worthless?

 

I am regulated, monitored, assessed and standardised, reviewed and approved.

 

I write reports, attend meetings, submit forms, keep my paperwork in order, record my days, attend training, as well as wipe noses and bottoms, sing songs and read stories, and act as mother, teacher, taxi driver, counsellor, therapist, nurse, spiritual advisor, confidante, rule giver, cook, nutritionist, careers advisor, pillow, whipping boy, moderator, IT consultant, advocate, bank manager, librarian, encyclopaedia, legal advisor and just be there…

 

If I am not a professional, does that make me an amateur?”

 

The professionalism of foster carers is something that needs to be recognised and respected, not just within the care system, but across society as a whole. Though there is a great deal of room for growth, foster carers must also play our part, it’s essential we continue our development, undertaking relevant training and by treating all members of the care profession with the respect we so desire, and with time we will be recognised and respected for being the front line of care for vulnerable children.

 

 

My third blog post for Progress Care, read this and others over at Foster Care with Progress.

Fostering is a career.

I’m excited to share with you the news that I am now blogging over at the Fostering with Progress blog where for the next 6 months I will be writing a number of articles on a variety of foster care subjects.

As many of you know I have been fostering now for over five years and I am extremely passionate about what I do.

Here is my first post which I am also sharing here; as I think it is interesting for all not just foster care professionals.

 

One of the most common misconception’s regarding foster caring is that it’s just like raising your own children. A agonizing stereotype I know, yet this limited perspective of what is really involved, also leaves many believing that you need to have raised your own children to be a foster carer which actually is not the case. 

Quickly I shall dispel other common pigeonholed viewpoints, yes; you can be a parent already, no you don’t need to previously have had a child of your own. Your marital status, sexuality, religious or cultural background will also not prevent you from fostering.

Fostering is a profession, it involves a skill set that extends well beyond the typical parenting prowess, yet the only real qualification you need to have is the desire to support and guide children. There are various types of fostering; including Emergency, Short- term, Long-term, leaving care, short break, parent and baby, and specialist care, yet all share an identical factor, the placement of children, whom through no fault of there own have been separated from their birth family and are often vulnerable, damaged and hurt. 

In the best cases you are dealing with bereavement, while the worst circumstances can involve abuse and, or neglect, at first this seems a rather bizarre assertion, the cold reality however, is a child who has suffered neglect / abuse, or even both, often suffer with more psychological stresses and fears.   

Unlike most caring professions, fostering gives a new meaning to the term full-time, it’s far cry from shift based employment, and you don’t get to go home and leave it all behind. Fostering isn’t easy and to be truthful it shouldn’t be, it’s a profession, which holds the wellbeing of a child in its hands. Yet as a foster carer you can lead a fulfilled career whilst making a difference in the life of a child, plus you can achieve personal development and qualifications that are suited across the care sector. Though each company is different, my agency; Progress Care; certainly encourages us to extend our skill set and education.

While money should never be the reason you become a foster carer, an income is necessary for the majority to be able to foster, the provision of a living wage enables us carers to flourish in a role that can be exhausting and challenging and yet personally for me, has been so rewarding.

You get to make a difference in the life of a child, complete job satisfaction. 

 

 

Can you care too much?

I sometimes wonder if I was born onto the wrong planet. So much of life is beyond me. I feel lost and suffocated by the expectations of this world.

I know I need to learn how to switch off. A news story can leave me in despair. A book about a charity, people in need leaves me feeling helpless.

The whole world is in need but I don’t know where to start.

I feel that I should be doing something but I haven’t a clue what. It’s this lost feeling that builds up frustration in my soul.

So many nights I have prayed to God, show me my purpose. Where do you want me? What can I do?

But I’m either not hearing the answer or it’s yet to come.

Last night I was trying to explain to my husband how I feel. He answered “you care to much” but is that possible. If we all cared enough the world wouldn’t be as it is. Children wouldn’t be dying of hunger, people wouldn’t be dying of diseases we can treat and so much more.

I was eavesdropping on a conversation the other day a woman was telling her friend about the plight of children in Africa. Then two minutes after talking about extreme poverty the conversation was on about a new dress she wanted.

How, why??

I know I’m being unfair there are so many people in this world who do care. Who have given up their luxuries, freedom lives for others. I also know I am hypercritical when I desire things I want but don’t really need.

I know the frustration is mine. I need to do, to be. Yet I don’t know where to start.

I need a sign, some direction, a mission a calling. Something that makes me understand why I am here?

Listen carefully

We all have a voice, yet before we start to speak we need to find our reason to be heard.

I remember when my children were toddlers everything was spoken at a level two decibels higher than it needed to be. I imagine these little ones looking up at adults feeling tiny and inadequate and deciding shouting was a way to be heard. Their voice trying to counteract their size. Yet the truth was as their mother I was waiting to listen to hear what they had to say.

Unlike parents the rest of the world isn’t waiting to hear or read what we have to say. Sometimes we find ourselves feeling small and inadequate and the desire to shout and scream comes upon us.

I know there have been times when I’ve wanted to just shout at the top of my voice “are you listening to me”.

Bring heard is important but being listened to is so much more. I want to be understood, accepted and respected. Screaming at people won’t bring me these things.

I have to listen too there is nothing more giving than listening to someone. Spending time hearing their hearts. Why do you think people spend so much money on psychiatry the actual unburdening of your soul is in itself therapy.

So I’m listening, I’m slowing down and giving the gift of my time, patience and understanding. I want to be able to say to the people I love ” yes I heard you.”

Take some time to listen to your loved ones today x