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DT's journey as a foster carer - Settling In

26th October, 2021

This series of blogs written by DT, a newly approved foster carer, offers a first-hand account of the process (and emotions) involved in becoming a foster carer. You can read DT’s previous blog about being matched here

On 29th July the selection meeting took place and I was formally selected to care for B.

We started the transition planning meeting. It was strange that B still didn’t know that I existed at this point, and yet within two hours the social worker would visit him and give him the news and show him the photos we had prepared the day before.

The next hour was a blur and I think I just nodded with everything that was suggested. I was issued with a schedule, where and when I would meet B, for how long and what I would do. My life for the next three weeks had been mapped out. I was still wrapped up in the enormity of it all and I wondered what this young man would think about me.

The social worker took a word version of the album we had prepared as he liked it and I got an email to say that B was excited. The next day, I added the address to my sat nav and it would be a 3 hour round trip for 30 mins to introduce myself. I was asked to take my dog Daisy as pets can help to break down barriers.

I turned up and this taller than expected young man with his Gecko in his hand greeted me. My first words were not that memorable - “you’re tall and can I use the loo”. He kindly showed me to the toilet, then I showed him a video of our home and then we played basketball outside. We chatted. It was hard as we were two strangers that knew that we had been “matched”, and he would be coming to live with me. How easily we forget how difficult that must have been for him to fathom. He had only known of my existence 11 hours before. Thankfully, I had played basketball to a good standard many years before and I didn’t let myself down. Unlike my dog Daisy who had sneaked into the kitchen and ate one of the staff’s bagels!

I was meant to stay for half an hour, but I stayed for well over an hour. I drove back on autopilot as I couldn’t quite appreciate what had just happened.

Two days later, I took B to McDonalds. He was terrible at directions, and I clearly had no idea, but we got there eventually and chatted.

I then had to meet B at an educational farm where he goes once a week to work. I arrived and I was handed an alpaca to walk, and we spent an hour in a field chatting. Then I went home again. B kept saying to me that transition “sucks” and he wanted to come now.

B then visited the house with one of his current carers. He wasn’t going to meet everyone at first as he didn’t need to be overwhelmed. He stayed for pizza, saw all the animals, and left after two hours.

The great thing about how the transition was done was that B had a day in-between to process what he’d done the day before. It was quite a schedule, but it could be changed, and I also started to chat with B on text most days. I would send photos of the animals and he would respond. We even did some mathematics questions as he had told me he was good at maths.

Another couple of days passed and B came for another sleep-over. I thought let’s do something fun and so I took him along with my nephew to indoor sky diving. They loved it.

The first weekend, he stayed from Friday night and we all went out to Nandos where B met my niece and her partner who also stays at my house sometimes. We laughed so much that night. The weekend was going well until the early morning Sunday and B was being sick. This highlighted how different caring for a foster child is, as you must follow safer caring guidelines and not nurse them in their bedroom but bring them downstairs to care for them. I just wanted to give him a reassuring hug and let him know he would feel better soon, but that probably was the last thing he wanted. Instead, from 4am in the morning until 7pm that night I sat with my nephew in the lounge with B, getting him drinks and watching the TV in silence with subtitles just so we didn’t disturb him. My dog knew he wasn’t well, and B just cuddled him for hours.

I think in that one day, I knew that I had already felt so much for this young man and that I would try my very best for him day after day.

I needed that transition in truth and it made me realise just how much I admired foster carers that take in an emergency placement. My journey had been very planned with lots of time to ask questions and B had been given the time to get a sense of what I was like.

On the day before B was due to move in, we had another meeting where certain details were discussed about his education and the support I would get from the children’s home.

And on the 19th August, I became a foster carer. We went with the van and picked up all his belongings. It took ages to get home due to the traffic. We then had to have a placement meeting on Teams with B’s social worker and my supervising social worker, just checking that he was happy. B really didn’t want to chat, but it was soon over and we set up his room. I went to bed, knowing that every reason why I wanted to be a foster carer would be challenged and that there would be many difficult days and many wonderful days ahead, but I was now responsible for a young person’s life.

B was with me for 3 days until he went away for a planned holiday with the children’s home. Those 4 days seemed really odd and although I was glad he was having fun, I really missed him. I got his room painted whilst he was away, so it was how he wanted it to be. This is the first step you can do to make them feel like they belong. The first day he was back we went to various shops and got the duvets, curtains, and rugs he wanted. We got a few pictures to put on his wall and by the end of the day this was unmistakably now B’s room.

I had applied to be a foster carer on the 17th August 2020 and it had taken a year to get a young person to move in. COVID had made it slower, but that time had flown by. I felt ready for the next stage in my life.

I am still amazed how a 14-year-old takes this all in his stride - moving in with 3 strangers. He is truly a remarkable young man!

Stay tuned as DT continues to blog about her journey as a foster carer, including the benefits of pets/animals for children in care. If you feel inspired to find out more about becoming a foster carer, don't hesitate to get in touch.

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