Before you’re approved as a foster carer: 10 wake up calls

Jo and Ste were recently approved as foster carers. Jo has written the below for anyone who is thinking about what the assessment and approval process of becoming a foster carer is like…

Jo and Ste web

My husband and I have recently been approved as foster carers through Capstone Foster Care.

I could list tens of different emotions we enjoyed and endured throughout the assessment stages, but my offerings here focus on the wake-up calls prospective foster carers face in this process.

  1. Not everyone will be supportive of your choice and actions

Whilst I view fostering as kind, brave and ultimately selfless, not everyone shares this positivity. There will always be someone on your radar who does not fully support your choice. In my case, it was my own mum (in the beginning), but whilst this was upsetting, it wasn’t half as annoying as the people I barely knew who were more than happy to seek me out in Tesco and demand “Why don’t you just have your own kids?”

  1. You’ll hear a lot of misconceptions and face some really ill-chosen words to support them

Many people confuse fostering with adoption, so this is a misconception I’ve had to explain frequently. You’ll also be helpfully informed on a regular basis that “all foster kids are troubled” (usually as you watch your critic’s own precious angel scream blue murder over a lost biscuit) and it will irk you that you have to deal with poorly worded questions such as “When do you get to give them back?” It’s great when questions come from those who genuinely take interest, but sadly, there are a lot of people out there who just want gossip.

  1. Your fertility will be questioned

When you’ve had enough of everyone else questioning your fertility and your plans to have your own children, unfortunately in the case of your social worker and the assessment panel, this is a legitimate topic of conversation. Don’t even get me started on how much I take offence to the phrase ‘childlessness’, but overall, I understand the conversation. This hurts to talk about and it’s uncomfortable to sit through, but then again, so is childbirth!

  1. You’ll get upset/annoyed at least once during the process

Getting upset/annoyed is pretty much a regular occurrence for me anyway, but this was heightened during the fostering assessment process. You’ll become frustrated with people’s attitudes (see previous point), you’ll disagree with your loved ones (see next point), and you’ll have to answer questions/talk about issues that ordinarily you’d save to offload on your best mate after a glass of wine and a bucketful of tears. There are some things you’d rather not talk about at all, but this doesn’t help your case, so prepare to toughen up to this.

  1. Arguments will be caused

My husband and I are incredibly different in our parenting styles. He deals with conflict calmly, whereas I am a little more intense, shall we say! On several occasions, we found ourselves disagreeing over responses to our social worker’s questions. These interviews are not the best time to rip apart the issues and delve into your differences, but that’s what you’ll feel like doing. I stand by this being a perfectly natural thing to do though, as I just do not believe couples who say they never disagree – especially when talking about family!

  1. Your home will need to be adapted in some way

I would like to think that I have a warm, welcoming and safe home, but I still tortured myself for a week after I’d realised I’d left the top off a bottle of antiseptic in the bathroom when our social worker had visited. She probably didn’t even see it, but part of her job was indeed to (sensitively) highlight issues. Amid the changes that are helpfully suggested to you (a sturdy lock on the bathroom door, a key rack by the front door, CO2 monitors on each floor), you’ll start believing that everything in your home needs changing. (It really doesn’t).

  1. You’ll be hit with some truths

Capstone have surprised me greatly in their approach to dealing with potential new carers. Yes they support and encourage, but they also give the honest answers and key information regarding things you may not really want to think about – placement breakdown, allegations, paperwork and the stress of dealing with agencies who you may find more hindrance than help. You may not want to hear this kind of stuff, but for the sake of being prepared and resilient as a foster carer, you really need to.

  1. You’ll find out exactly what people think of you

Once you have been approved by the panel, your social worker will give you access to the references they collected on your behalf. We enjoyed reading over these as we celebrated, as it was lovely to read about the faith that all those who knew us best had in us. It’s a little cringe-worthy too, though, when you collate the fact that nearly all of them have spectacularly hit upon your flaws. Mine included endless references to the fact that I speak my mind, challenge authority and have high expectations. In other words, I’m a nightmare.

  1. The process is worth taking time

Our assessment process took just under 12 months. Where others may view this as lengthy, I was glad of the timeframe. It gave me confidence that Capstone were being thorough in their assessment and were investing proper time and resource to prepare us for this life-changing event. There are so many agencies looking for carers, and those worth their salt know that for the benefit and stability of the children in their care, fast tracking is never an option.

  1. You’ll be surprised how many people out there are fostering!

For every one person who doesn’t offer the support for your choice that you’d like or expect, there will be countless people who are delighted for you, bestow praise and offer support. Some of these people will even tell you that they know someone who is also fostering! Not only is this lovely to hear, but it will remind you that your access to a support network is getting bigger by the day. Personally, I know I’ll benefit greatly from this future support!

If you’ve read this and you’re still interested in fostering, then I know you’re the right person for this process. Embrace the challenges, because resilience is a fantastic quality in any foster carer.

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