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Fostering Routines

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It’s been a nice quiet few days. James (name changed) played football on Saturday, which I went to watch, and, due to the weather, we chilled at home watching football and probably eating too much.

The nice thing about having only one child in placement is that you can focus all of your attention on the young person.

I have taken sibling groups, when I was married, of up to four and on one occasion we had a sibling group of four and another young person who we always looked after during school holidays every year. As you can imagine it was pretty chaotic with kids running everywhere and it was difficult to be able to focus on one particular child.

What made that situation worse was that one of the sibling group was 18 months old and came to us with a really bad ear infection, so sleep was at a premium as well. But you cope. No one was lost, everyone was fed, clean and dressed and they all fitted into our regime very quickly.

It’s all about organisation and working as a team. We had a routine which applied regardless of the number of children we were caring for and regardless of their age. It was almost regimental but we had to be like that.

There were rotas for everything, from washing up to bath times and when children are setting off to school or schools then it was a case of who was dropped off and who got a school bus. I can’t remember anyone ever being dropped off at the wrong school but I can recall turning up at the wrong school on a parents evening. Eventually you do get into a routine and everything works like clockwork with just the occasional hiccup.

We hadn’t heard from Mum for a few days and James’ phone was quiet other than calls from his mates. On Monday James went off to school and I was pottering around indoors doing some tidying when the Social Worker called. She told me that Mum had agreed to attend a rehab clinic in South West London and would be commencing treatment in two weeks.

It had been agreed that if she successfully completed the treatment and stayed clean for a month afterwards then the Local Authority would consider her having James back.

She said she would be in touch and we exchanged pleasantries and I finished the call. It was a strange feeling.

There hadn’t been any time scales on how long James would be with me but now there possibly was. Obviously it depended on Mum fulfilling her side of the bargain which certainly wasn’t guaranteed. I sat with a diary and worked the dates through.

It would mean James, almost certainly, would be with me for Christmas so at least I was aware of that and could plan accordingly.

I sat and considered what to tell James but decided to say nothing, for now, as Mum had a reputation for not following through on things and I didn’t want him to be let down any further on this occasion.

A Blogging Simply Fostering Foster Carer.

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Happy Days

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I can remember those first days of the school term. The excitement of seeing your mates, getting a new timetable, finding out when you had games and PE. Then there was a new form teacher and, possibly, new class mates. For James (name changed) he was starting at a new school as a Looked After Child (LAC) and without knowing anybody.

This is a huge task after everything else he has been through. He was up at a decent time and said he hadn’t slept very well. He had breakfast and he was jabbering away about a dream he had and what were we having for dinner that night.

We had a final check that he had everything that he needed. I reminded him about our conversation regarding not offering up any information about being a LAC although it was nothing to be ashamed of. Tell people that he just moved to the area.

We left in plenty of time and arrived early. So I took him into the school office where we were introduced to everyone and I left him there.

On arriving home it seemed very quiet. I tidied up, washed up, put some washing on and sat down with a coffee. I then emailed his Social Worker just to update her on the morning’s events. So what to do now?

The phone rang a couple of times during the day and I answered immediately, worried that something had happened. But it was marketing calls and I just disconnected. I updated my fostering diary and checked to make sure I was up to date with everything.

The clock soon ticked around to 3pm and I set off early in order to get a parking space. I parked up opposite the gate and waited for James to come out. The kids started coming out and I was delighted to see James come out with two other boys, chatting and laughing. He saw me, waved to his new friends and jumped in the car. I then received an update on his day, the teachers, the other kids and how much he enjoyed his day.

I headed off and instead of driving home I took James for a Nandos as a kind of ‘well done’ treat.

Once we got home he got changed and showed me his contact book which stated that he had had a good day and had no homework.

He got his gear ready for the next day and we settled down for some TV. I had a call from his Social Worker stating that Mum had kicked off about not being kept in the loop about his school and demanding to know where the school was.

Just as we finished that conversation James’ phone started buzzing, he looked at it and said that it was his Mum and ignored it. For the next hour or so it buzzed and buzzed as she tried to get through, but he kept ignoring it.

I told him that I would speak to his Social Worker the following day and take her advice. He went off to bed at 10pm and was out like a light. It had been a long day but he seemed happy about most of it and seemed positive.

A Blogging Foster Carer’s Diary.

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Agency Recruitment

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I spoke to James’ (name changed) Social Worker today and we had a long and detailed chat regarding the situation of his Mum asking him for money.

She had already spoken to his Mum to tell her to stop but, obviously, Mum was taking no notice. The Social Worker has said that we will call James tonight to discuss the situation and find a way forward.

Had a nice chilled today, went to the gym, did some shopping and grabbed a coffee and watched the world go by. I think it’s really important to grab some relaxation while you can, when fostering. It’s easy to get caught up in the events that happen every day and to forget yourself.

Your own health, physical and mental, is very important and you must ensure that you have time for yourself. When I was married we would take ourselves off for a spa day at the end of each placement just to recharge our batteries and clear our heads.

When I first started fostering alone it was very easy to forget about myself and end up stressed and unhappy so I’ve learnt to ‘self-help’ and focus on myself when time allows. Because of the nature of fostering and the fact that it is really a 24/7 profession it can be easy to get burnt out.

I have seen many carers leaving after a couple of years because of this, which is a shame, given how there is such a lack of carers at the moment. I’m hoping that the current situation, with Covid, can actually encourage those who have become unemployed to consider a career in fostering. But it has to be sold in a different way.

It has to be presented as a career in which you need many different skills and a good amount of life experience.

My own local authority sells it as ‘have you got a spare room?’ and I actually cringe every time I see one of their posters. Basically it’s saying that that’s the only criteria you need to become a Carer. It brings me back to the days when you were not considered a ‘professional’ and weren’t invited to ‘professionals’ meetings. Fostering needs to be presented as a career in a similar vein to other careers.

You go through a lot of training to become a Carer and you have to use a lot of skills in order to carry out your everyday duties.

If I ran a Fostering Agency or I was involved in Carer recruitment now would be the time for a concerted effort to get the word out there.

James came home and was in a good mood. I told him that his Social Worker was going to call and he rolled his eyes. She rang, as promised, and they spoke for about 30 minutes. I left them to it.

When the conversation was finished he handed the phone to me and the Social Worker told me that they had agreed that she would tell Mum that there were certain times when she could contact James and that he would not take calls from her outside these times and that her number would be blocked between these times.

I spoke to James and he was very happy about this as the whole situation was stressing him out.

A Simply Fostering Blogging Foster Carer.