Emma’s Fostering Blogs are by an experienced foster carer who gives you an honest and revealing insight into the ups and downs of foster care. A great resource for other carers and those interested in becoming carers.

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Fostering Alice Blog

Tuesday

I popped into the city this morning to do a little shopping, whilst I was in the queue at John Lewis I saw some old friends Fiona and Peter. Charlie and I went to University with them over twenty years ago. I hadn’t realised that they had moved to the other side of the city to where we live. To be honest it was a blast from the past. We haven’t really seen each other over the last twenty years, I kept thinking about what they were like back then, and then thinking how different Charlie and I are to those kids we were back in college!! So much has changed, careers, moving house (several times), having families, fostering life and so on. It was good to hear about their life and how much they have been up to over the last two decades. As the queue quickly got to the tills, we decided to head to the cafe to grab a coffee.

Turns out Fiona and Peter, had been considering fostering for some time. They had no idea we had been long term foster carers for over five years. They had just finished their assessment with their local social services, and had just been given the draft copy of their Form F. It seems like a lifetime ago that Charlie and I were doing our assessment – felt like we were having our lives scrutinised! They shared how cathartic it had been for them – to see their lives on paper. We laughed about how there are never any small talk conversations with social workers – everything is written down, nothing is hidden. They are going to panel in less than a month, so we spent time sharing with them how it had been for us, trying to reassure them that their social worker must have full confidence in them to get them this far.

I remember how nervous I was before our panel. Charlie less so, he was much more philosophical about the whole thing. He is very good at thinking out loud and answering questions on the spot, he is also used to talking in front of lots of people. I on the other hand, am an internal processor and can find it difficult to articulate what I am thinking on the spot. When I speak at meetings – like LAC (Looked After Child) Reviews or education or health meetings, I am well prepared and often well rehearsed, I am living the things I am talking about. Panel is another thing altogether, whilst you can guess what might come up in questions, you really have no idea what they might pick up from your Form F.

Fiona and Peter seem much more prepared than we were. It is reassuring to hear how well their social worker has prepared them so far. As we parted company, we agreed to stay in touch. It will be good to hear how they get on next month. I have a feeling though that we wont see them much, as we both have such busy lives. I wonder when we will bump into them next and what changes will have taken place at that point!!

A Less Ordinary Fostering Family Blog.

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Alice’s Birthday

Fostering Alice Blog

Thursday.

Today is Alice’s birthday. I am sure many families have the same feeling with birthdays so close to Christmas – but what on earth is there left to get her? To be honest I do most of the birthday present shopping when I am doing the Christmas present shopping in November and December, that way its not such a stress getting it done after Christmas and I don’t have to go to the dreaded sales with the other hoards of shoppers. Anything else I want to get I usually try to get online in the Boxing Day sales – so it arrives in plenty of time.

This year Alice is mad on ‘Shopkins” – I think they were a craze last year and she is only just catching on – which isn’t a bad thing as they are definitely not as expensive as they were last year- – however still pricey for what they are. From what I can see they are tiny toys that look like items of shopping. Alice loves imaginative play, and so I don’t mind spending money on something she will actually get use of!! Along with several packs of Shopkins, we get her some new clothes in the sales and some stationary – whilst she’s not that into writing letters – she does love to make pretend “shopping lists” when playing.

This year she is at school for her birthday, sometimes this feels like a blessing – as we only have to think about breakfast and a special tea and think about a party or special event at a later time.
There have been quite a few times where it feels like she has sabotaged her own birthday with terrible behaviour and outbursts, so we approach the day cautiously. Fortunately, she woke up in a good mood an the morning went pretty well, if anything she was a little over excited – but that we can cope with – after all it is her birthday!!

Now I just need to get on and organise her party – it’s hard coming up with new ideas – things that she would like to do, are affordable and accessible for her. She often wants to so things that are just not possible. My friend had an idea to do a “baking” party. I think this may be a good idea – although a bit less of the actual baking but more like decorating cupcake type of thing would work perfectly. That way we can keep it at home and have smaller numbers. It is always better to keep things smaller for her, as she finds it so hard to keep on top of her emotions – especially with a crowd. Now to just get on and fix the date and get the invites out!!

A Less Ordinary Family Fostering Blog.

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Fostering Alice Blog

Alice – Fostering Blog

Tuesday

Today is the day I am filing my tax return. Every year I tell myself that I will not leave it to the last minute and that when I receive the notification from the Inland Revenue in April I will get it filed straight away. So far this has just been a good intention because every year when the notification comes, I put it at the bottom of the to do list and it never gets done. As soon as the new year comes, my friend who is also a foster carer calls me in a panic and asks if I have filed my return yet. So, pretty much every year we get together in January and file our returns together.

I think the problem is – it’s the thought of filing the return because the crazy thing is, that it’s not even that difficult to do, and once again we agree to file it earlier next time round. I remember the first year of filing it, it seemed like a big faff, having to register with the inland revenue – getting the log in codes and passwords, and getting the account verified. You are then asked for the name of your business – why that was so hard to decide I will never know. We simply went with our surname followed by the word ‘fostering’ – now that wasn’t so difficult.

The good thing about filling the form in on line is that they take away all the questions that are not relevant to you, so it’s actually quite simple. The most complicated thing is working out your qualifying amount for your tax – and once you’ve done that a couple of times it doesn’t feel too hard. This is split into two parts – fixed amount and weekly amount – which you add together to get the qualifying amount. The fixed amount is £10,000 per year (or if it’s not a full year it’s the number of days you have been fostering times 10,000 and then divided by 365).

The weekly amount is easier – its £200 per week for under 11’s and £250 per week for over 11’s. Then you add these two amounts together for the qualifying amount. This is always much simpler when you have been fostering for a full year with no gaps!! So for us it is pretty straightforward as we have one child in place on along term basis!! It is slightly more complicated for my friend, who fosters short term and has a separate part time job.

By the time I have deducted all my expenses and mileage etc, I do not have to pay any tax. The only payment I make is my voluntary national insurance contributions. The whole thing took less than thirty minutes to file – and that was with gathering all my payslips and looking up bank interest etc. My friend and I agree to both put a reminder in our calendars for April to get it done straight away and not leave it to the eleventh hour again!! We will see how that one works out!!

A Less Ordinary Family Fostering Blog.