‘We can honestly say that we have been supported at every level.’
Hi my name is Paul and my family have been fostering for nearly 16 years, initially with the Local Authority and now with Compass Fostering. Over the years I have tended to foster problematic boys which I have enjoyed. It is about being able to make a difference in their lives and understanding why they behaviour the way they do. Watching them develop and grow as individuals gives you an enormous sense of satisfaction and they still come back to say hello as adults! Through my knowledge and experience over the years I now work in specialised fostering with Compass and look after young people who need more high level supervision. It’s also about being an advocate for the children you foster, for them to have someone who cares enough to fight their corner.
Every journey starts with a single step. I took mine first step into fostering 15 years ago. I am now a full-time foster carer to a young man with learning difficulties. Looking back my wife and I had talked about fostering and decided we would look into it when our youngest child reached 16 years old. We did not know what to expect but both felt we had a lot to offer a young person or siblings; a good and loving family home life.
There it was an advert saying we are looking for foster parents for two boys, siblings, aged 12 and 8. So I rang the number and enquired. It was the local authority and we were asked to attend a course over 6 weeks of 2 nightly sessions of 4 hour tuition. It gave helped us understand what was expected of foster carers and how to handle situations that might arise. Most of it was common sense but there was the information about happenings that did not occur in most parental lives.
Some things are hard to understand at first like us having a social worker then the children having a different social worker yet we all worked together. Lots of acronyms that everyone talks about. SENCO, EBD, MLD and ADHD and lots more. Section 20 or a full care order did not mean anything to us at first. Then LAC reviews every 6 months and Multi–Professsional meetings.
My advice is keep written records and inform your supervising social worker about everything, and if you’re not sure seek advice first. Don’t panic if something happens outside of your control, just contact out of hours support and inform them of the situation. Most placements are pre-planned and are done in stages, unlike emergency placements where it can be a lot quicker. When most children move in there is a period of time we have called the honeymoon period which both parties try very hard to get along together.
Before you have a placement I would ask what are the rules about pocket money, clothes allowance and savings. Contact with birth family, telephone contact and letterbox contact. Mobile phones and Internet use are hard to monitor and can cause lots of problems. We have always believed in actions carry consequences so without getting into arguments it can be discussed with the children before anything happens.
Routines are a part of every day life and we always try to establish them in a positive manner so it becomes a pleasure instead of a chore. Every school day is similar which helps in becoming acceptable norm and also stops any problems that might arise before we get to school. Activities are pre-planned and enrolment is encouraged. There are lots of small rewards for positive behaviour and any problems discussed when everyone is at base level.
We have been with Compass now for over a year and our young man is progressing and learning lots of every day chores which will help him into some kind of independence. Training is good and offered on a regular basis. There is a myth that independent companies only receive the children who are too hard to place locally, this is definitely not the case and there are not enough carers to take every placement. We can honestly say that we have been supported at every level.
On the day I rang and enquired about the siblings who needed fostering the were was an animal programme on TV and at the very end they were advertising for people to look after a three legged donkey. They received over 3,000 calls. We were fast tracked through our fostering course and went on to foster the 2 brothers who stayed with us until the oldest reached 21. They are now 23 and 27 respectfully and both working full time. After are initial meeting with the boys I asked the social worker how many calls they had received to foster the boys and you probably guessed. Just one.