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Helen’s Fostering Blog

When professional help is needed.

Right from the beginning of our placement it was a known fact that Beth would need counselling for the trauma she was suffering, what I wasn’t aware of was just how difficult and how long it was going to be for her to be able to access this much needed help.

When Beth first came to live with us we were already aware that she understandably required some professional help due to the circumstances surrounding the reasons that she came into care in the first place.

It was also apparent by the many the signs of trauma she was displaying.  Beth had severe anxiety about sleeping, the need to control everything, she was unable to self-regulate, she was excessively clingy, an inability to pay attention, angry outbursts, feelings of guilt, low-self-esteem, she was emotionally numb, mood swings and she had a form of self-harm in that she would bite herself.

Obviously, these many different emotions meant that Beth’s day to day life was a constant battle, on top of which she was completely unable to express her feelings verbally.  Again, for us we understood the main thing that was going to help her was time in a safe and caring environment.

We are constantly working with Beth to help her heal and “Worry Time” really helped.  We are so pleased that over the last 15 months she has been living with us she has come on so far and at times it can feel like we are living with a completely different child.  Still we are aware her past is deep rooted and there is still so much more than can be done to help her understand and deal with the things that have happened to her.

What we needed was a Professional Counsellor for us to work along side with.

This was agreed by her Social Worker and at the many LAC Review’s we’ve attended.  Beth was even asked if she would like to speak to someone and when she responded positively to this, they told her this would be organised for her.

She was ready and willing to open up to someone, our thoughts were, great let’s do this.  So, a referral was sent to CHUMS and CAMHS.

CHUMS came back quickly enough, stating that would be in touch for an initial assessment, I never heard back from them for many months and in the end, they were unable to offer Beth any relevant services.

After many months we received a phone call from CAMHS who offered us an initial assessment with Beth, I was so pleased! Unfortunately, this wasn’t a particularly good experience for Beth.   It was clear from the get-go that they were talking to Beth as if she was much older than her 10 years. I had to constantly explain to Beth what the counsellor was asking her.

The room itself was not child friendly, it was completely stark and all painted white, with just one small table, 3 chairs and a few colouring pens.  I felt terrible, I’d been telling Beth it was going to fine and I watched her shut down more as every minute ticked by.

To make matters worse whilst CAMHS acknowledged that Beth was undoubtably suffering from trauma she wasn’t showing sufficient signs that it was affecting her life at the present time, she was able to function and was being well supported by ourselves.

So, the plan was to wait until she was completely falling to pieces before they could justify helping her! I was so annoyed. 

So back to the drawing board, Beth’s Social Worker was as equally annoyed as us and was trying to overturn the decision.  As you can imagine this went on for many more months!  In the end with the help from our agency we found a private counsellor which together with our agency we were going to pay for ourselves, as at the time the Local Authority were stating they could not fund a private counsellor if CAMHS were reporting she didn’t need help right now.

I am pleased to say that at the beginning of this year Beth finally started her counselling sessions and they are now being paid for by the Local Authority and our agency.  Its early days yet but after the first initial appointment whereby

Beth was clearly anxious prior to going in, she now skips out each week, chatting away about the two dogs and cat that live at the house.

We are hopeful that Beth can finally after 3 years in care start to get the help she desperately needs. 

Helen – A Blogging Professional Foster Carer.

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Foster Children Hygiene

Helen’s Fostering Blog.

Hygiene.

Being Hygienic is something as adults we just do without thinking about, it’s easy to forget that this is something we learn from a young age.  Its not hard to imagine why a foster child who is placed with you might not be particularly hygienic or have any knowledge as to the importance of good hygiene.

Although both Beth and Harry had been in foster care for 18 months prior to living with us their hygiene was pretty much none existent and Harry at the age of 8 would frequently wet himself and would often smell of urine and faeces whereby he wasn’t cleaning himself properly after going to the bathroom.

When the children first came to live with us there were so many things we needed to help them learn and understand and hygiene was just one of those things we needed to tackle.  We were very conscious about their feelings but wanted to help them learn this basic of life skills.

We started with simply just reminding them about washing hands after using the toilet, when we asked them, they would simply just tell us they had when we knew they hadn’t, but we just kept asking and reminding them.

In the beginning I would put the children’s clean clothes out for them every morning, they would question why they needed a clean school shirt on as previously they told us they would wear the some one all week.  Even with me doing this, Harry would simply put the dirty clothes back on and the clean clothes in the dirty washing basket and tell me he’d changed into the clean ones.

Having something as simple as a bath or brushing their teeth was a nightmare, and when they did they were so quick it was hard to believe they actually put much effort into it, sometimes Harry would come out with bone dry hair and insist he had indeed washed his hair.

I started to pack another set of cloths in my bag if we went out for the day, in-case Harry had an accident, when he did, he would deny anything was wrong and that he was quite happy to walk around wet.  I would near enough beg him to use the toilet prior to leaving the house and still do.

When I noticed him dancing on the spot again, I would suggest he might need the toilet and he’d simply reply “no I don’t need to go and then either run to the bathroom last minute or just not bother.  I had to stop letting him drink too much water prior to bedtime which felt mean.

After about 6 months I did take Harry to see the GP as we couldn’t rule out, he didn’t actually have a medical problem.  We were advised it was just a badly-behaved bladder and that it would take time.

So how did we reach the point 15 months down the line whereby hygiene has greatly improved… simply it took patience, time and constantly educating them about hygiene.

We started by making a point by our own good examples, constantly reminding them about their hygiene and the importance of it, we watched a few children friendly video’s on YouTube, we read them books about it.   When they would have a shower after their swimming lessons, I would talk them through about washing their hair without the shampoo going in their eyes, the importance of washing all of our bodies, as

I wasn’t able to show them at home its was easy for me to stand there with them at the public swimming pool showers, saying ‘don’t forget under your arms, the back of her neck, your tootsies’, etc.

I don’t know many parents who don’t have to remind and encourage their children to be hygienic but for some foster children its simply something they have never been taught and its therefore our job as their foster carers to help them learn this all important skill, normally with a lot of patient and a good sense of humour.

Helen – A Blogging Foster Carer.

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Baby Birth

Helen’s Fostering Blog

When Mum has another baby

Beth and Harry have 3 brothers and 1 sister.  The two eldest are also in foster care, but in separate placements and their youngest brother was adopted, whilst one of their brothers still lives with his Dad.

Beth and Harry are full siblings and only ever lived with their youngest half brother.  We have contact with all of them except for the brother who lives with his Dad.  Recently their Mum gave birth to her fourth child with a new partner and the hope is this baby will remain with Mum.

When we were informed last year that Mum was pregnant again and that the hope was, she would be able to keep this baby.  We and everyone else had many concerns as to how this news would affect both Beth and Harry.

Would they feel it was unfair that this new baby would be able to live with Mum whilst they couldn’t? Would they worry that they too would have to return home to live with Mum? Would they be concerned about the baby staying with Mum?

The time came for the children to be told about their Mum’s pregnancy, there was a few discussions that went back and fourth as to who was best to tell them, should it be us, their Social Worker or their Mum.

Whoever told them my gut feeling was that they would be pleased they would be getting a new brother or sister as they love their siblings dearly.  Their Social Worker decided that she would supervise the contact when they were told, and Mum asked if I could be present also.

I have developed a good relationship with Beth and Harry’s Mum and was pleased we were all going to be together when they were told.  As expected both Harry and Beth were pleased about their Mum’s pregnancy and she had given them a framed scanned photo, which Beth proudly took to school the very next day.

I did notice a few changes in behaviour but nothing that I was overly worried about.

Over the months that followed we spoke openly about the pending arrival of the new baby and at no point did they ask any of the questions we were expecting them to.  The only thing they appeared to asked questions about was who was the babies’ father and why couldn’t they meet this person. It was totally understandable, they still worried about their Mum previous boyfriend who had not been a particularly nice person.

At our LAC Review I asked if it was possible for the children to both be able to visit Mum at the hospital when she had the baby.

From my point of view it was important for Beth and Harry to be as much part of this special occasion as possible.  We knew that once the baby had arrived, he would be brought along to their future contact so they were going to spend time with him anyway.

There were a few different opinions on them visiting the hospital and at first the request was refused, thankfully Beth and Harry’s Social Worker agreed with us and asked again, this time they said yes.

It was totally the right decision; the children met their new baby brother yesterday and it was a special occasion for them all to be part of.  This was also an opportunity for them to meet their Mum’s new partner and the baby’s father.

He was really lovely with Beth and Harry and in all honesty it couldn’t have gone better.

I think each situation has to be assessed on its own merits, but a lot of the time, really all these children want is to be as much a part of their family as is possible. 

I took some lovely photos for them to keep and I am confident they will grow to love and have a bond with their new baby brother.

Helen – A Blogging Foster Carer