Foster carer Petal is one of our carers who is happy to share her experience of the very first time she welcomed a child into her home. So in her own words…
I can remember the day of my Panel and being told by Rainbow Fostering’s Agency Decision Maker that I had been ‘Approved to Foster’. Frightening, thrilling and exciting all at the same time. As the news began to slowly sink in, I felt so pleased that all my hard work and the tremendous support given me at every stage had paid off. And I have to admit, there were a few tears to wipe away!
When I left the agency, I was given a copy of their recent newsletter to take away. Reading that later, really made me feel I had made exactly the right choice of fostering agency. There was so much going on. So many events and I could see that the annual foster carers awards was certainly an event to look forward to.
Over the next few weeks, I was on tenterhooks every time the phone rang. The team at Rainbow were very reassuring as it’s easy to get a bit frustrated. They told me it was important my first placement was a positive experience so care was being taken. They recommended that I take advantage of the foster care training sessions being held online and read the content that was being posted very regularly on the website. They also gave me a reading list to build my knowledge. And it was great to meet foster carers in the training sessions and hear their views and ideas.
During the assessment process, I’d had detailed discussions about my fostering preferences and the kinds of children to foster that would be a good match for my skills and life experience. The team at Rainbow gave me complete confidence that they would work to get the best match possible.
The phone rang in the early evening. I was on my way back from the supermarket. I must admit my heart was pounding. I had been sent the profile of a nine-year-old girl earlier that day. it seemed a perfect fit so I had accepted the placement offer straightaway. The agency said they would be in touch iff the placement looked likely to go ahead. They know at Rainbow that those few hours waiting to hear can be stressful – especially so for a newly qualified foster carer. The support they gave was tremendous. I had a couple of calls in the afternoon just giving me an update. And here I was now, pulled over on these of the road being told that everything was going ahead and I could expect my foster child to be arriving in at around 8 that evening. I was told earlier on in the day what CL liked in the way of food. That was why I had gone shopping as I thought even if the placement didn’t go ahead it would d be good to have in the house. When I got home I went to the spare room to make a check that everything was just right. I had bought a bedside lamp at the weekend as I think a nice soft light can be warm and welcoming. Actually, I didn’t need to check anything. As most foster carers know, part of the endless round of checking is a useful distraction therapy until that knock on the door finally comes! A foster carer had told me that it can be a good idea to have the television on very quietly abs this can add a little to the feeling of ‘homeliness’.
Anyway, a bit after eight there was the ‘knock’ and I opened my door to a crestfallen nine-year-old and her social worker. As they came into my living room I could see how ill at ease she was. Her social worker had three carrier bags – the sum total of the girl’s possessions. I was glad I had stocked up on certain things like toothpaste, toothbrushes and a new sponge. It seemed so sad that such a young child had so little and I noticed she was starting to look tearful. This was when her social worker made all the difference. She suggested it would be a good idea to think about having something to eat as she knew the little girl was hungry. That first awkward meal comprised of fish fingers, chips and baked beans. Once she had starting eating, her mood seemed to lighten and she began taking in her surroundings. Apart from what was in her bags, she had been clutching a soft toy in the way a much younger child would. That was touching. I noticed she had put this down on the chair next to her and it seemed to me to be just the smallest signal she was beginning to relax. Her social worker stayed for a while and we managed to get a conversation going about favourite TV programmes. She liked cookery programmes that featured celebrities and that was a gift. I had recorded a series of ‘Bake Off’ so was able to put that on after she had eaten. That seemed to relax her even more and when her social worker – having promised to call the next day – left she didn’t seem too stressed as her attention was on the programme. It gave us something to talk about and I promised we would get the ingredients to make and decorate our own cake. That really sparked her interest and she began telling me that her favourite pastime at school was art. I said we could ice a cake using different colours and then she gave me a smile. When she did that, I was suddenly aware of the tension I had been under but it went at that moment. All foster carers will recognise that first moment – be it a comment, smile or even a gesture – just something that signals a child feels they can maybe relax slightly. And it is from that point everything is built on. Fortunately, she is settled at school and has some friends and favourite activities.
Over those first few weeks, there were no real dramas and I have to say that the support from Rainbow has been all that I as a foster carer could have wished for. It made such a difference. And has made me feel that her welfare is something we are all sharing – so I never feel alone. I know this has made my confidence grow. Everything was progressing well and then, quite suddenly, the world changed for us all. The ‘lockdown’. Over the weeks because the social workers and her school have been in daily contact and I can see there has been a silver lining to the cloud. I know what she is doing in her online school activities and the whole experience has enabled us to get to know each other. As I am a single foster carer there have only been the two of us in the house. At times the experience has felt a bit intense but it has created all kinds of opportunities for us to engage. I found an old wallpaper sample book in the loft and we have used this for a number of art projects. She painted an amazing Rainbow which now adorns our window. When things are shared they are remembered. I will always remember those evenings we stood together ‘clapping’ our NHS heroes. I’m sure it made her; as it did me, feel we were all part of something much bigger. And noisier! we had neighbours banging saucepans and blowing whistles which is something we will always remember.
Rainbow’s matching procedure has proven to be as good as I was assured it would be. CL will, hopefully, be with me on a long-term basis. That is what we are all aiming for. It has been a delight for me to see her coming out of her shell and, yes, I can see our shared lockdown experience has altered us both. There have been times I have felt the strain, but I have been able to engage with plenty of online training provided by Rainbow. I really feel I have had the opportunity to add to my knowledge of fostering while I’m actually doing it for real. This is something I feel strongly about because my goal is to become as professional in my approach as possible. I do see it as a professional career which requires a whole raft of different skills. And Rainbow, I know are there to support my ambition. I know I am still very new to fostering – it’s still my first year! There are the ‘nuts and bolts’ of fostering to be observed: I have to make sure all my daily logs are up-to-date. And I have to regularly update my Training, Support & Development Standards workbook – required to be completed in the first year induction as an ‘Approved’ foster carer. But for any issues or queries I have, the support I receive is always everything I could possibly ask for.
I am now looking forward to attending the first Rainbow Annual Foster Carer’s Awards in November – I am very much hoping it will be possible for this event to go ahead. Last years looked amazing and the team kindly shared this link with me.
Rainbow Fostering is recruiting new applicants in Hampshire, London, Birmingham & Manchester.
It’s easy to to find out if a career in fostering might suit you and your family: simply give us a call today on 020 8427. You can also use our National Line 0330 311 2845. We’d love to hear from you especially as there is a shortfall of 8,100 foster families across the country.
We are currently arranging Skype online applications – so if you’re ready you can apply right now. One of our team will be more than happy to guide you through this – it’s very straightforward! There are a few pre-conditions: you will need to be more than 21 years old, be a full-time resident in the UK or have indefinite leave to remain, have a spare bedroom, reasonable spoken and written English – as well as the time, interest and availability to dedicate yourself to caring for a foster child or young person.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to pose considerable risk. For the latest guidance on how to stay alert, stay safe, save lives and protect your family visit – https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus
Our FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) page on our website provides a lot of background to the questions we are most often asked. It can be found at: http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/frequent-asked-questions/