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DT's journey as a foster carer - Being Matched

19th October, 2021

DT has been blogging her whole journey, from deciding to become a foster carer, right up to being approved and beyond. You can find DT's previous blog here.

The thing about fostering is that you never know how your life is going to change when you pick up a call from your social worker. That happened to me on the 8th July 2021, when I was asked if I was interested in being put forward to care for a 14 year young man who was living in residential care, but would love to live on a farm.

The role of my supervising social worker is to make sure that I’m aware of any potential challenges with a possible match before Capstone respond to the local authority, so we talked through these points.

I listened carefully and my first thoughts were that we that we had so much in common and I really wanted to get to know this young person, B more. I was sent through the referral so I could make an informed decision.

Within an hour, I’d received 45 pages of information about B. This is never easy to read, and things are always complicated. In this case, there were many broken down placements and I thought, how would I be any different from those other foster carers? My desire to foster had to be tempered with the young person’s needs. He couldn’t just come to me and then be sent back because I didn’t think things through carefully enough.

I went through the referral information thoroughly, making notes of all the things I needed clarification on and where there was good synergy already. I really had to be sensible and think about the fact that I am a newly approved foster carer. It must be more about me as a person and my ability to care for them rather than the fact that I have a farm type of set up. There is a lot of information in a referral but the standard format is:

  • the child’s wishes are listed
  • how they came into care
  • what sort of care order they are on
  • what the plans are for the future
  • certain behaviours that might cause concerns

It seems harsh in some ways to describe a child in these terms. I had the assessment done recently for me to be able to foster and I know how I felt about what was written about me. But in truth you are the one to welcome them into your home. The social workers are all going to leave you at some point, although there is always the out of hours service and when you shut that front door. B needs me to be the best version of me and make this work. The reality is that he was a stranger on a piece of paper, and I would be asked to make life changing decision based on that.

I thought of the disappointment I had experienced from the young lady a few weeks before where I had been turned down due to being a new foster carer. Nothing had changed. I still hadn’t had a placement. Would I emotionally invest again and then hear the same words at the end? But I am that sort of person that always gives 110% in these circumstances, and so I replied to Sharon at placements with my list of questions for the local authority.

Then came the wait. I knew that my profile had been sent, and I had to wait 4 days to find out if the local authority wanted to see my Form F. It is a very open document about who you are and, in my case, there were events from my past that were tricky, so I was delighted when I heard that the local authority liked it and I was told they wanted to meet me virtually on 15th July.

Family finding meetings are attended by the child’s social worker, the local authority’s placement team, Capstone’s placement team and your supervising social worker.

It is like an interview in some ways but in other ways it’s more like a chat and is very friendly. I made sure I was well prepared as I knew that had helped me before and also helped to get rid of the nerves.

Despite my preparation, I felt that the meeting didn’t start too well. I had done extensive research into the local schools and the academic results for the looked after children were higher than with B’s current school. I was trying to say that he would be going to a good school but instead it looked negative on his current school which his social worker was hugely positive about. I felt like I sounded like a businesswoman not a foster carer with my figures and statistics. I took a deep breath and then followed through with the other thing that I had researched which was how my local education authority has changed their approach to teaching and it was more therapeutically based. I provided details of their initiatives and I felt the local authority warmed to me a little, but I still felt I was on the back foot.

You must remember during these meetings that they saw something in you in the first place from your Form F. Yes, there are tough questions, but they are always polite and kind. I knew it was about getting the best solution for B. I suspected that where I lived would be a barrier. I wasn’t in the area where they wanted to place him. I was three counties away and there would be logistical issues to deal with. I thought to myself “this match is so good; a few miles cannot stop him getting his wishes”. We talked about ways to overcome this. My favourite moment was when the local authority family finder put her hands in the air, cheered and said “what child ever says they want to live on a farm and we actually find them one.”

Because B was in a residential home, the local authority really wanted me to talk to some of the other professionals in his life, so it was agreed I would speak to the manager of the children’s home and his CAMHS therapist.

The residential home manager was wonderful and we chatted for two hours. After hearing how B had blossomed at the residential home, any concerns that there were before disappeared. They were going to be very supportive in the transition and I knew I would need that. The CAMHS therapist wasn’t as keen as she rightly had concerns about the out of area aspects of the move, but I appreciated how much she thought of B.

Another meeting was held and they asked my nephew, P to join the meeting as they knew I would need a good support network due to the behaviours B exhibited. I thought long and hard about how I could deal with this distance issue, and I put myself forward to do half the travelling which was very well received.

I thought the meeting went well but then I was devasted to hear “if you are not right for B, I just want to thank you for all the time and we will be in contact within the next few days”.

I took that to mean that it was all over. I called Sharon from placements who said that it wasn’t a bad thing but, in my mind, it felt like it was going to be a no. I called my niece and we sat in the lounge eating lots of ice-cream to console myself. I turned off my phone and sulked.

Three hours later, when I surfaced from the sofa, I checked my emails and there it was, the most wonderful email I had ever received in my life.

The local authority wanted to provisionally ask me to offer a home for B, subject to a home visit and selection meeting.

I called up the stairs to my niece to come down straight away. She was worried that I had hurt myself as I was sobbing my eyes out. I read her the email and asked, had I misunderstood it? Which of course, I hadn’t. My niece asked me why I was crying? But it meant more to me than anything in my whole life. I never doubted that I wanted to do this, but I had doubted as to whether I would be allowed to.

The two people from the local authority came the next day to visit the house and they loved it. We had such a lovely chat for hours about lots of things to do with fostering, not just about B. I knew that I would be able to work with the child’s social worker to support B and the warmth that I had seen on the virtual meetings was there.

Meanwhile, my family put together another album to introduce ourselves. It was about our likes and dislikes and then we did the same about all the animals, Their likes tended to be “eating grass”. I wanted this to be the first thing B saw about us, so he got the real sense of who we were and that we had a sense of humour. It took about five hours as I really wanted to find the best photos.

Watch this space as DT continues to blog about her journey to being a foster carer, including the settling in process for her first placement. If you feel inspired to find out more about becoming a foster carer, don't hesitate to get in touch.

 

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