Today we went to what is know as fostering panel. A board of professionals that reviews your last year as a foster Carer and decided to whether to approve you for another year. I always get so nervous before these panels. Not because I feel we have done anything wrong or are not good enough but because it matters, it really matters.
It really matters that I get to be a Foster Carer for another year. That I get to be part of a profession that can make such a difference in the life of a child.
It matters because I now get to continue working for a company I am so proud to be part of.
But mostly It matters that I know that the children I care for, the children I love get to stay safe and secure with our family.
Being a Foster Carer matters to me, it’s not just a job. I’m proud to say it part of who I am.
My daughter was in her sociology class last week when the subject turned to fostering and adoption. She was sitting there listening to the views of others when one boys opinion really annoyed her, it seemed that to him fostering and adoption is “pretend parenting.”
Well I’m certainly not going to argue with the viewpoint of a 15 year old because as we all know at this age they are always right, but I would ask him to think about this.
Is it pretend when I walk the bedroom floor for hours soothing a teething baby?
Is it pretend as I wait patiently and worryingly outside the hospital theatre’s door?
Is it pretend when I hold them tight when they wake from nightmares?
Is it make believe the pride I have in all their achievements?
The worry I feel when they are sick?
The missing I feel when they are not with me?
Is it pretend when my heart fills with love for them?
I don’t really expect most 15 year old’s to understand but so many times I come across adults who just don’t get the love I feel for my fostered children. They see them as a means to an end or just part of my job. In fact the current government seems to view fostering as second class parenting but that’s for another post.
It just drives me mad that people view it this way, as it’s so far from the truth.
You see the moment I open my home up to child I also open my heart to them.
Slowly we both get to learn about each other.
I get to watch them as they come to understand that this is their home too.
I want them to know they are so loved, that they are so cherished and that they are so wanted.
I want them to put their stamp on their bedroom, knowing that it is their’s for as long as they want it.
To sleep without fear of moving on or not being safe.
I want them to know that they are now part of the tribe, that no matter what they do there is no giving up.
We fight for family in this home.
We fight for dreams to be realised.
There is no pretend is this family, just pure real true love.
A families love.
Monday is the start of the Fostering Network’s Foster Care Fortnight. This years message is Time to Foster, Time to Care. They want to spread the message that for many prospective foster carers NOW is the time to care and NOW is the time to foster. Please go take a look over on the Fostering network’s website and if you have ever considered fostering now is the time to do it.
There are so many children out there waiting for families to reach past pretend and to embrace them in real family love.
Becoming a foster carer was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
There are some experiences that will live with you forever and for me Tuesday will be one of those. My beautiful daughter won an award from the Fostering Network for an outstanding contribution by Sons and Daughters. As you can imagine I was one proud mom and was so excited to go to London to watch her receive this award.
Words cannot describe how wonderful the night was, from the moment we reached the BMA House we were so welcomed. In fact many people came up to us and to say hello as they recognised us from the film we had recorded, Brodie’s story.
The evening started with a tea party, in a room that was dressed beautifully, we were greeted warmly by one of The Fostering Network trustees Daisy, a truly lovely lady who has such passion for Fostering. We were then seated with another Sons and daughters winner and his family and a lovely gentleman who was there to support the Fostering Network. We were also lucky enough to share a table with the beautiful Holly Willoughby and her equally as stunning mum. We also had the incredible honour to meet HRH The Duchess of Cambridge who sat and chatted to us all.
How do I explain how amazing the evening was, Holly was truly lovely, really friendly and so genuine and HRH The Duchess of Cambridge was so beautiful, she was warm and interested in what we did. Brodie loved it and I was in complete awe. To sit round the table with these wonderful ladies was a real honour. I think I may have burst with maternal pride, my girl rocks.
After the tea party we all moved into the hall for the awards ceremony. The Sons and daughters awards were the first ones to be given. We then got to watch the video that we recorded a few weeks ago, sharing our story and our beautiful daughter. The video was so wonderful and so emotional, I will cherish it forever.
Seeing Brodie up there on the stage receiving her award from the Children’s minister in England Edward Timpson MP, was incredible, to say I am proud of her doesn’t come close. Fostering isn’t easy and you really have to work as a family to make each placement successful. Brodie is an integral part of making us work. She opens her home and her heart to children who need a home, who need a family. Her motto is , “Our home, your home”. You can read the reason she was give this award here.
The whole evening was marvellous, the celebration of some amazing people all involved somehow with fostering. From fantastic Foster carers to some amazing fostered children who in spite of their struggles had achieved some incredible things. The atmosphere was inspiring it was a true honour to be there.
Brodie, myself and my husband had a memory making evening, we got to speak to some wonderful people and will hold dear so many moments from the night.
My husband was in awe of Holly, Brodie loved the fact that Holly admired her converse and for me just getting to talk about why I love fostering was wonderful.
I want to say a big thank you to the wonderful team at The Fostering Network, you are an incredible bunch who work so hard to represent fostering and supporting the awesome work of foster carers. Last nights celebration was for you all too as you are all stars.
Thank you for a wonderful evening, thank you Holly for loving my girls shoes and her plaits and thank you HRH The Duchess of Cambridge for giving us a memory to cherish and for wearing the same colour dress as me. ( see I do have some dress sense).
I also want to say thank you to my amazing foster son, you are such a gift to us all and we are so lucky to have you as part of our family, today and always.
Yes, fostering is a job but it so much more, it’s the opportunity to change lives.
I am so grateful that I get to do this everyday. Is not always easy but it is always so worthwhile.
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.
The conference was open to anyone work worked within the field including, foster carers, social workers, senior management and policy makers.
The theme of the conference was the “Future of Foster Care” and each speaker brought their own interpretation of what this means from their own perspectives and fields.
I cannot fit into one post all that I took away from this conference but what I do really want to share firstly is what I felt was at the heart of the day.
Regardless of which field the speakers came from the core overview was that the needs of the child should always be in the forefront of every decision made and every piece of policy written.
No matter how many professionals involved in a child’s life we should always remember we are the “team around the child”.
The need for a child to be listened to and their views taken into consideration at all times was paramount.
This point was reiterated when we heard from three care leavers who bravely and elegantly shared their care experiences with us.
Each one spoke about the loss of control of their own lives being a hard thing to accept. Whilst they accepted that some decisions needed to be taken by professionals the desire to be consulted, informed was extremely important to them.
They just wanted to be heard.
One explained that for him this was especially important regarding contact and information regarding his birth family. He understood that seeing his birth mother was not a positive thing for him but he still wanted to know about her and who she was.
‘By understanding my mom’s journey I was able to move forward with my own’.
As foster carers we are the ones there with the children every day. This conference was a great reminder that we really need listen to the children but also how important it is for us to advocate for the children with other professionals.
We are their voices and their advocates and this is something we need to be extremely pro-active in doing.
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.