Foster Care Fortnight website special
Throughout the two weeks of Foster Care Fortnight we shall be bringing you special content - from case studies and interviews to helpful courses. All content will be uploaded to this very page, so keep your eyes peeled for new pieces.
The Fostering Journey - A real life account from one of our foster carers
Fostering is something I had always wanted to do when my birth children left school, although lots of people foster who have young children still in education, so it is a personal choice.
I had 5 children under 7 and all of them had sporting activities out of school, so I was a very busy Mum, and wanted to give any children I cared for the same commitment my birth children had.
Before having my own children I worked in a nursery and also as a Nanny, so my working life to date has been spent looking after children. A family friend fostered many years ago and I decided it was something I would love to do once my own children were a little older.
Sadly, I unfortunately lost my husband and it was around 12 months later that my Daughter suggested I look into fostering, she found out about the open evenings, and came with me for moral support as I was extremely nervous. I don`t know why I was apprehensive as it was very informal and I came away confident to go ahead and submit my fostering application.
One of the first things I did during the process was attend a ‘Skills to Foster’ training course, which gives you all the information you need, and the opportunity to meet people who are already fostering. I was then assigned a supervising social worker who visits you at home every few weeks and helps you through the application process; your social worker will become your first port of call and will be a great support to you during your approval process, and after.
Although I am a single carer they are looking for all types of families, to care for children of all ages. I foster babies and some I have started to care for who are just days old and had them in placement for almost a year. They really do become part of your family, and feel very special to you because although they are not yours, you soon love them like your own. Watching them grow, and preparing them to move on to the next chapter of their lives, is hard work emotionally but very rewarding.
I have made some amazing friends through fostering - some are other foster carers that I meet up with on a regular basis, and we are there to support each other, and others are adopters, which we welcome into our home while they get to know their special little one.
Most children have continuous contact with birth family, that usually takes place in contact centre. The amount of contact varies, for me it has been up to 5 days a week usually for an hour and a half each time. Birth parents are also invited to most medical appointments the child may have. You will also be asked to attend LAC reviews, (these are meetings where everyone connected with the child attends including Health Visitors, teachers, support workers etc. You will be asked to update everyone on the child’s day to day life, medical appointments etc. you will also be updated on the care plan for the child, and for any issues to be discussed.
Some children return home and others are adopted; some will remain in foster care long term.
The fostering team will match a child to a foster carer, and make sure the placement suits everyone.
If a child is being adopted, their adoptive parents will visit the child in your home, over a short period of time called `introductions`. This is a great time for them to get to know everything about the child's care and routine, and also for you to get to know the people who are going to become the forever family of the little one you may have cared for from birth.
It’s lovely to see new families formed and for other children returning home to birth families after they've had the help and support they need.
As a foster carer for Blackpool, you will be offered lots of training to enable you to understand what is required of a foster carer generally but also more specific course covering topics such as caring for the most vulnerable children who may require a little more time, attention and effort to settle down. Regular support groups where you will meet other foster carers are held too. Help is on hand 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Fostering is such a rewarding thing to do, and I know my children and I have thoroughly enjoyed opening our home and our hearts to some wonderful young children. It’s never easy the first few days after a child has left you, but you soon get busy with the next placement, and most of the time families will keep you updated on how the child has settled with them.
Apart from having my own children and seeing them become wonderful parents to my grandchildren, fostering truly is the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
A day in the life of a fostering social worker
When people ask me what my job is, I tell them that one of the most important parts of my role is to find the right people who can care for children who are unable to live with their families for many different reasons, ranging from a mum who might need to go into hospital for a week and does not have anyone who can care for her children to a more serious case where a child may have been harmed by a parent .
Once someone has come forward to foster, my job is to carry out a number of checks such a DBS clearance, health, personal and professional references and assess the person’s suitability to care for a child. This process usually takes between 4-6 months, depending on circumstances, but within this time my job is to build a good relationship with the foster carers, their children, their grandchildren and even their pets, so they all feel well prepared and supported to care for some of the most vulnerable children in society.
Foster carers must to be approved and registered by our Fostering Panel and Head of Service, so as a fostering social worker part of my role is to accompany and represent the applicants at the fostering panel and ensure that the decision makers have all of the information they need to decide if the applicants are suitable to foster.
Once a carer is approved and ready to accept their first child, my job is to make sure it is a good match between a child and the foster family. To be able to do this, you really have to understand what the child’s needs are and how different families will meet those needs. What might work for one child may not work for another. You only have to think about how your own family can differ from other families you may know and how children are all individuals and respond in different ways.
Getting a good match can sometimes be very difficult, particularly if it is an emergency situation and not a great deal of information is known a child when they first come into care. It’s often the little things that can make such a difference to helping a child settle in such as making sure they have their favourite teddy, familiar foods, asking if they want night light as well as the bigger and most important task of making sure they can keep in touch with people who are important to them.
Foster carers do the most amazing job, caring for children day-in- day-out who are experiencing great turmoil and distress. Some days are full of sunshine and other days are not quite so easy to cope with. To support foster families to care for children to the best of their ability, not only will you need a good understanding of the needs of children and all of the theory that underpins your work with children and families, you will also need to be able to understand a foster carers frustrations, the range of emotions they can experience and the things that can sometimes overwhelm them. Supporting carers through the tough times, helping them to develop effective strategies and respond to children who are really struggling and coming out the other side is one of the most satisfying parts of this job and the thing that keeps you going when the pressure is on.
Foster carers sometimes get frustrated at “the system” and decisions that are made by others can sometimes be a hard thing to accept. Fortunately most of the time everyone involved in a child’s care plan is able to work through any issues that come up and find a resolution. As a fostering social worker, my job is to help that process along and be a liaison between the foster family and all of the key professionals involved, ensuring excellent communication at all times.
Supporting foster families does not stop with visiting within their home to offer regular support and supervision; it also includes delivering training sessions, supporting carers to access multi-disciplinary training courses, attending local support groups or linking carers up with a fostering buddy so they can get support from another foster family.
As a fostering social worker we also help to plan regular forums, which is a fantastic opportunity for carers to meet up, raise agenda items and hear from guest speakers from other areas of the council such as leisure, health or legal.
In addition to the forums, we hold an annual celebration evening for all of our foster carers hosted by the Mayor and Mayoress of Blackpool, which is a wonderful acknowledgement of all the fantastic foster families out there and includes a celebration dinner, entertainment and a lighting of Blackpool Tower as a big thank you to our carers.
By being part of the fostering team in Blackpool, you become part of a great community of people, all working hard to promote children’s best interests. The work can be sometimes difficult, but always rewarding. Anyone who is connected with fostering should definitely think about working for Blackpool. I wouldn’t work anywhere else!
*Please note - all imagery used is stock photography to protect the identities of our foster carers and children.