Foster care and being assessed as a single mum

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Foster care and being assessed as a single mum

Foster care and the assessment experience

Foster care the assessment experience

My name is Liz and foster care is something I had always had at the back of my mind. But, as it must before many people, I always seemed to be too busy to take the first steps. As a single mother with just one son who has now left home, I decided to take the bull by the horns and seriously look into becoming a foster mum. I suppose the idea had always appealed as I had spent a number of years working as a juvenile probation officer. This had made me realise that many youngsters go of the rails because they just never got the interest, support and care most more fortunate children take for granted. So I had the experience of working with 12-18-year-olds in custody. And that can be tough – especially as they can be impulsive and test boundaries nearly all of the time. Foster care is a setting where I felt I could contribute a lot of the skills that made me ‘me’ if you know what I mean.

I get on very well with my ex and he used to come and see his son regularly at the two-bedroomed (plus converted loft) home we used to share. The time came when it was only me living there, and so with two spare rooms going, I decided to ring Rainbow Fostering. It can be hard choosing an agency. To be honest  all of them have good websites. What made the difference  – at least as far as initial first impressions go – was they had been rated ‘Outstanding in all areas’ in their last official inspection. Because of my background,  I know how hard it can be to get a top rating. From the start, I found they made the process of becoming a foster carer straightforward. I felt my faith was justified as everyone; right from that initial point of contact was just so friendly and understanding. It made the difference. I think there must be a lot of people out there considering foster care as a career, but who never quite pluck up the nerve to make that first approach. And if they do, it’s just so important how that first contact is handled. Rainbow did me proud, so I decided to share my initial experiences to give hope and encouragement to others contemplating fostering – so they’ll know what to expect.

Foster care applicants all have a first home visit.

After making that very first call and speaking to a really friendly chap called Guy, I was told that the agency would arrange for an initial visit to my home. What I really liked was that Guy said it would almost certainly be him who would make the visit. He said the agency usually tried to work things so that it would be the first person to deal with an applicant who would meet them at their home. Nice, I thought. This was because having been on the phone with him for about forty minutes, I felt he had got to know something about me, and I had been able to put a face and personality to the agency. 

When the day of the visit came round, I am sure I felt less nervous because  I had spoken with Guy already. Anyway, he turned out to be a really friendly and knowledgable chap. And he very quickly put me at my ease making it quite natural for me to talk about my life, my hopes and expectations of fostering. We talked at length about my reasons for wanting to foster. He could tell that now my son had left home, it had been natural for me to be thinking how I could do something useful with my professional skills. As well as my skills as a mother. 

Guy told me all about the various checks and references that were part of the process. He said that Rainbow was extremely proactive when it came to things like DBS checks. This meant that the agency took a certain amount of pride in getting people ‘Approved ‘to foster in around sixteen weeks. After my application to foster was accepted, the next stage was to attend the ‘Skills to Foster’ course held at Rainbow’s offices. This raised more questions and provided fascinating insights into what fostering was all about. And how very different it was depending on the kind of fostering you chose to do. Not long after that, I was visited by Veena one of the Assessing Social Workers from Rainbow. She explained she would be helping me complete all the stages of my application to foster through to my Form F and being prepared for Panel. She was then able to help me with all the question that had occurred to me in the intervening period since my home visit. Take it from me, there are always a lot more questions when you start seriously to think about the kind of fostering you might want to do. 

Because the ‘Skills to Foster’ course had gone into some detail about the kinds of complex needs many children who come into care have I wanted to learn more about therapeutic fostering. Veena was very helpful: she explained that this was often a popular choice for applicants who already had; as I did, professional experience working with young people. Over the next few weeks, as the paperwork was completed, I had the chance to come along to a Rainbow coffee morning and meet some real live foster carers!  I found this extremely valuable. I learnt so much about the day-to-day business of being a foster carer. It was very reassuring to know that everyone faces challenges but that all the carers felt they were part of something bigger: a genuine community all doing their best in different ways to help and support vulnerable children. And that there was always support available – no matter what the problem or when it might arise. 

 The Form F.

My Assessing Social Worker Veena was a great help with this. Anyone considering fostering has to be prepared for the thoroughness and detail that the form F involves. None of us has had lives without incidents or problems that have to be faced. Some of these can be very personal and bring back memories of tough times. Some of the recollections of the break-up of my marriage returned – and that I found upsetting. But I always understood that Rainbow; like all fostering providers, needed to have a detailed understanding of the person I was – and the life experiences that had made me into who I was. After all, I would be taking on one of the greatest responsibilities it’s possible to have: the trust and welfare of a child who may have been let down by everything – as well as the people closest to them in their lives. What I would say about the Form F is that it means you have to stop and take stock of all the major formative influences in your life – good and bad – and how you’ve been affected by them. Not many people get to do that. Quite cathartic. 

Panel. 

The dreaded day! Well, the idea of venturing into a room full of strangers is always going to be intimidating. That’s only natural. Despite the Chairman of the Panel doing his best to put me at my ease, I still felt nervous. What helped is that I had been allowed to bring my sister along. And that had been a great support – just knowing she was sat there in the building ready to drive me home – whatever the result. Veena was also a great help and support to me. But there’s no getting away from it, it is strange having people you have met only five minutes earlier knowing all you about and then asking about some of the most detailed aspects of your life. And along with your motivations to foster. The whole experience, though initially daunting, was, I have to say, a very positive one. I could tell that all the Panel members were one hundred per cent interested in me as a person.  I felt they were on my side and wanted me to do well. 

They were a mixed bunch – there was even someone who had grown up in foster care. The most nerve-wracking part of the day was the twenty minutes or so I had to wait for them to reach their decision. I thought about all the answers I felt I could have given better. But who doesn’t think like that? I just concentrated on a few of the questions that I thought I had handled well. And then I recalled the broad smile of encouragement given me by Veena as I left the room. I still felt quite overwhelmed when I was asked back into the room and told I had been ‘Approved’ to foster. What a moment! And then without my noticing, there was my sister giving my arm a squeeze as Veena went off to get me a cup of tea. I expect she is quite used to seeing people looking shocked at such moments. And it was no different with me. They do say sweet tea is good for shock, and I for one wouldn’t argue with that. 

Names changed to protect privacy.

Recruitment.

We can assure anyone with an interest in fostering that our process for recruiting and assessing new carers remains as active and efficient as ever. We are continuing to guide and support applicants who want to foster children in need of a stable and loving family home. And we are looking to recruit in Hampshire, London, Birmingham and Manchester. Throughout the process, you will have regular contact both from a social worker assigned to you, and a member of our administrative support team. 

Foster care assessment. 

Because we cannot visit you as we normally would, we have developed a system to ensure your fostering assessment can proceed. This will be from your initial enquiry, your first conversation with your Supervising Social Worker to the day of your Fostering Panel. As we are living through unprecedented circumstances, the government has temporarily amended some of the usual processes required to become a foster carer. This is because the pandemic may result in the need for even more foster homes for vulnerable children. You can call us on 020 8427 3355. We also have a National Line 0330 311 2845 you can use. Alternatively, you can leave your contact details on our website.  This will enable you to tell us the best time for us to call you. We will send you information explaining how easily we can manage your application online using a Skype call. And, you can call us to discuss any aspect of this process which we promise is easy and straightforward.

So, whether you have been considering fostering for some time or have only recently been attracted by the idea, we want to hear from you. You are assured of a welcoming, friendly and supportive service fro Rainbow Fostering. We committee to give you the best preparation for the challenges and rewards of fostering a child. And you will always be given plenty of opportunities to build your fostering knowledge and skills so you can provide great foster placements for children.

Being rated ‘Outstanding in all areas’ by Ofsted is a clear sign of our day-to-day unswerving commitment to our foster carers and the children and young people they work so hard for. It is our hope we can offer you a long and successful fostering career. For more information about Ofsted visit – https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofsted

The next step in your fostering journey could involve your friends!

People who have been considering fostering sometimes have friends or acquaintances who are might be interested in becoming carers. We would be delighted if you could put them in touch with Rainbow as there is an acute shortage of fostering households in the UK. If you refer someone to us who becomes ‘Approved’ to foster with Rainbow, we will pay you a bonus of £500 when they accept their first placement from us.

Remember this is #FosterCareFortnight please lend your support in any way that you can! 

For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus and how to stay alert,  stay safe, save lives and protect the NHS visit – 

https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus

We would always recommend that any applicant seriously considering becoming a foster carer visits our FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) page on our website to be found at –  

http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/frequent-asked-questions/

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