Foster Carers Challenges

Covid 19 Lockdown

It takes a particular type of person to succeed as a foster carer – you really don’t know if it is for you unless you try. It can certainly be very rewarding, but it isn’t without challenge. I don’t regret the choice we made to pursue this lifestyle.

However, very early in our fostering career we had an unexpected placement breakdown and it nearly ended there. We seriously questioned whether we could continue. We have met some amazing people on our fostering journey and we believe that a key factor in our decision to go on was the encouragement that we received from two carers one of them was Janet.   

The last year has been extremely hard for Janet. She is a single carer who has had a sibling placement of a sister and brother (Charlotte 16 and James 15 – names changed) for almost three years. She was their first placement when they were taken into care and very soon it became clear that both children had significant special educational needs, even though only Charlotte had any specialist provision.

As James reached puberty (and incidentally a height in excess of 6 foot) his already difficult behaviour increased. He clearly acts out behaviours that he has witnessed in his early life in a family where domestic violence was a daily feature. His poor behaviour escalated initially in school, then at home. A change of school to one in the local area, which at face value was with the best of intentions to give him friends in the locality, proved catastrophic. His vulnerability means that he is “easily led” and desperate for acceptance by his peer group.

During Lockdown Janet:

  • Struggled with James who could not understand that he needed to stay home, stay safe and that this was  non-negotiable.
  • Worked hard with home-schooling. James (and Charlotte) can barely read, so finding age –appropriate activities, at a level that they could manage, was a real challenge.
  • Provided a variety of activities to engage and entertain the young people.
  • Met all of the basic needs of the two young people alongside an elderly relative who was recovering from major surgery.

As Lockdown lifted James:

  • Escalated his thieving behaviour, previously he had taken cash from school staff, to include Janet and members of her family.
  • Was stealing from local shops.
  • Had become involved in a sexual relationship with a younger child.
  • Was intimidating his older sister.
  • Was involved in substance abuse.
  • Needed to be returned home by the local police on a daily basis when he showed complete disregard of the curfew that they imposed.

28 days ago Janet made the decision, after much soul searching, that she could no longer care for James and keep him safe and she asked her Supervising Social Worker to serve notice with the Local Authority. Janet has gone above and beyond what can realistically be expected of any carer in her efforts to support this young person.

Tomorrow James’s placement with Janet will end. Her head tells her she had no other option, this is an unsafe situation for them all, particularly in the current situation. Her heart is breaking for the child who she tried so desperately to help.

It is deemed that the risk is too great for James to remain with a foster family and he will be moved to a residential home. The reality of the situation is that his now criminal behaviour, out in the community, is likely to escalate and he will become involved in the criminal justice system.  Janet is well aware of the statistics

Only 1% of the total population of England have been in foster care, but  “27% of the prison population, and half of all prisoners under 25, were in care.” .gov.uk

I have seen Janet’s bright persona eroded as she has battled to uphold her house rules, whilst becoming sleep deprived and increasingly anxious not least for her own safety and that of Charlotte. Her requests for respite ( a break ) were to no avail as few carers are willing to take the risk of having a young person such as James, with all the associated risk, move into their home even on a short term basis.

I know, from my own experience, the mixed emotions but overwhelming relief that Janet will experience tomorrow when James is driven to his new home.

I trust that her fostering friends, who have real understanding will rally round to support her and to show her the empathy which will help her to process what has happened.

I understand the grief stages that she has already started move through, in no particular order, the anger – the “ if only” / “what if”  and finally that she will reach the stage of acceptance.

Most of all , I have come to appreciate that this is Janet’s journey –  I know the resilience of this amazing woman means that she will bounce back – She won’t be alone and she will come through this with an even deeper insight into herself and a greater capacity to support others.…… I know this – because of my own journey!

Foster Carers Blogging Diary.