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.

Shop Till You Drop Blog

Fostering Blog

I’ve never shopped more than in the last couple of days.

Chef James (name changed) is on a mission to go through the cookery book and my cholesterol level is heading north. Don’t get me wrong I am glad that I have opened his eyes to a possible future career but all this cooking, on top of lockdown; have me reaching for elasticated waistbands.

We have looked some colleges, online, to see what courses are available and what the entry criteria. I’m happy to do this with James but my concern is that once he is reunited with family they will dissuade him from taking it further and he won’t have somebody to fight his corner.

Maybe I am being unfair to his family but I have experienced this on so many occasions where all the work with young people just gets pushed away by family because those nasty Foster Carers suggested it. As a Foster Carer you are simply seen as part of the ‘system’ by placement’s family.

There has been several occasions where I have attended meetings or reviews and been criticised by parents even though their child is prospering. It seems, on some occasions, that whatever positive effect you have on a Looked After Child (LAC) is lost on parents, even where the placement is of a benefit to them or requested by them.

I remember one particular placement where the parent’s mantra was that education and school was a complete waste of time and that the children could learn as much watching the TV. That attitude is hard to argue given children’s sometime blind loyalty to their parents and what their parents say. Sure enough, with those children, homework, and in some cases school attendance, was a difficult task to monitor.

Obviously, being over critical about parents is a no no in front of LACs so the task of convincing children about education can be a tough one. I’ve always believed that the best way is to show a child how education can benefit them.

So along the lines of what do you enjoy doing? Identify that, and then discuss how the child can achieve their goal.

That way family are not part of the discussion and you are not seen to be critical of them. I’ve known a number of placements who have achieved goals that they would not have done, if they hadn’t come into care.

Unfortunately there are many cases where the children get sucked into the same cycle as the parents and are lost into the whole Social Services scenario.

So Chef James is on to cakes now. So my latest trip to Sainsbury was for eggs, flour and vanilla essence. I have to say that watching him so intense and focussed is a real positive and eating the results is even a bigger positive.

However the gas bill will probably be double and the dishwasher is getting hammered so a call to the Social Worker maybe required. Happy days.

A Blogging Foster Carers Blog.

fostering football

FIFA Food and Fostering

Fostering Blog.

Parents of children in care never fail to amaze me. I am sympathetic to the reasons they have for having children taken into care.

A lot of cases are around various addictions which, I can imagine, are difficult to live with. But I’ve also looked after children from a background where the parents simply don’t care and are extremely selfish.

Take the Bryant family (name changed).

Mum decided she couldn’t cope with the 4 children she had so she approached Social Services to have the children taken into care. It turned out that Mums new partner didn’t appreciate having someone else’s kids around so they hatched a plan to have them taken into care. The children were told, as were we, that this would be just a week’s stay while Mum sorted herself out.

However when the Social Worker tried to return the children she refused to take them and the children were returned to us. They stayed with us for over 5 years! In the meantime Mum went on to have children with her new partner in the full knowledge of the children in care, who were devastated. So it pays to expect the unexpected!

James (name changed) had been a chirpy young man since the discussion around Mum and him living with family members had crashed and burned. He seemed settled in placement and was enjoying the fact of having proper meals and a structured day. We had a Zoom meeting with his form teacher who gave James some work to do which he sent via email.

To my surprise James sat did all the work with no prompting or input from me. It took about three hours for him to complete the work, scan it and return it to his teacher. As a reward we went over the local park for a kick about and get some exercise.

James had told me that he would love to visit a gym, not to work out necessarily, but just to look around and maybe watch other people. So I took him to mine, which had just reopened after lockdown, and I showed him around and showed him how the machines worked.

We then watched one of the power lifters going through her training routine and he was amazed at the weights she was lifting.

She challenged him to try to move the weight and, obviously, he couldn’t. We both teased him and then James and I left, via Sports Direct and a Hoody, and returned home.

When we returned home there was a message from my Supervising Social worker to call. So I left James to the Playstation while I made the call.

The SSW wanted to pay a visit the following week just for a natter and a catch up. We booked a day and time and I went back to James who was destroying aliens, busily, in the front room.

Annoyingly he turned down my offer of a game of FIFA as I had beaten him the evening before and he could be quite competitive. So I left him conquering the universe whilst I went to make dinner.

A Blogging Foster Carers Diary.