“Crikey” – the very first word that sprang to my mind on the day we learned we were to be ‘Approved’ to foster. I grinned at Mary my wife, she grinned back at me. And then we both took a deep breath. Yes, it was of course what we had been aiming at over recent weeks. But when you hear that decision it puts all the training, discussions and, frankly, quite a few of the laughs we have had along the way into focus.
We left clutching our copy of Rainbow’s newsletter. We really enjoyed looking through that – especially at the amazing experience the annual awards looked like being. It stopped us thinking about the prospect of the phone ringing about a placement! And we didn’t exactly know when that would be.
A week passed. We heard nothing. Then in just the second week after being approved we got a call out of the blue. “He’s a twelve -year-old boy.” And he would be arriving later that evening.
So many emotions and thoughts went through our minds. My wife immediately sat down. I, for some reason, resorted to stroking my chin. Strange really you never know how you’re going to react. Then we looked at each other: “well, its what we wanted “ I said – more to fill the silence. “of course”. Mary replied” But you can’t help thinking is this really what we wanted what happens if he doesn’t like us, our home or how we’ve prepared his room. He might refuse to stay, he might be so upset he won’t talk to us at all? All these thoughts were jumbled with growing excitement. After all, this was exactly what we had set out to do. And as we sat together, it was interesting how we began to remember various things from our training.
Mary said “We just have to be measured and not too excitable ourselves’. I laughed at this. “Pretty clearly we‘re both excited now and he’s not due for another four hours”. She grinned: There really is no going back now – and nowhere to hide.” “Nope”, I said, “adding in time-honoured tradition “I’m going to put the kettle on – they say a strong cuppa is good for a shock and we’ve just had a bit of one.”
Over the next couple of hours, we grew more excited and apprehensive at the same time. A difficult mix but we’d been told that is quite natural. We checked everything in the room more than once. Mary even hoovered it again. And she’d only done it that morning. “It can’t hurt! And she reminded me that the social worker had told us the boy – child MW suffered from mild asthma. To cope with her nerves, Mary then vacuumed every room in the house. All the while, the hands on the old grandfather clock my parents had given us ticked slowly on around.
Twenty to eight. The phone rang “we’ll both be with you a bit after eight” said Claire the social worker. She added: “Michael has had his tea so there’s no need to worry about food – perhaps a couple of biscuits would be a good idea and a drink.”
“Fine,” I said. Claire reassured me: “ Michael has seen your profile and he liked the look of your garden – especially the tree with the hammock.” That really pleased me. “Well done,” Mary said when the phone was put down. “I thought that hammock was an excellent idea of yours – not the sort of thing children are used to seeing these days. I’m sure he’ll be interested.”
I admitted to feeling pleased. I remembered from the Skills to Foster Training how important it was for a child to have their own room and space to be by themselves. Applies to all of us, I thought. I had taken this idea and decided the same thing would work well in our garden. It was proving to be a lovely summer and what better use for the big old oak than to get my hammock out and make it a special, unusual place for a child. “That was an inspired idea”, Mary said.
Just as I was doing a lap of honour in my head, ‘Knock, Knock’…
“Hello Michael, I’m Tom”. “And I’m Mary.” Claire, the social worker: “here’s Michael and he’s got a few things with him except he forgot his toothbrush.” “No problem,” Mary said, “we’ve got one for you just in case”
It’s hard being a foster career for the very first time. I was conscious suddenly that I was staring at Michael and he, not naturally, started staring back at me. Then he looked past me at our television set attached to the wall. It was quite a big screen.
“I like football”, “I bet it looks really good on such a big picture”. I warmed to this boy. As an ardent football fan, all that now had to be negotiated was the revelation of the team I supported. Or as some of my wittier friends always said ‘the confession’. Well, Oldham might not be in the premier division, but no one could accuse me of being a ‘glory supporter’.
“Perhaps Tom will put it on when you’ve settled in,” Claire said this as she passed Michael’s rucksack to Mary. “There’s not much, but he has a change of clothes. We’ll be in touch about making sure we can sort out anything else he might need over the next few days.”
She turned to the front door: “I’m sure you’ll settle in Michael, I have to go now Tom and Mary will help you settle in – speak soon.” With that Claire gave him a big smile and was gone.
That moment had arrived that every foster carer will recognise. Alone for that very first time with your first foster child.
Actually, before I could say anything: “Liverpool are playing, its the second half”. A gift from the Gods I though straightaway. Not that Liverpool is my team, but it was a chance to put on the TV and there in glorious technicolour, as they say, was the game in full sway. That broke the ice. Michael said he hadn’t seen TV for a while and suddenly looked crestfallen. I didn’t ask. I moved the conversation forward and indicated which chair he could sit in. In seconds he was swept up by the commentary. Claire had told us earlier that Michael’s experiences; though upsetting and unsettling, had not been too traumatic. Mostly because they had not gone on for that long. He was an only child and the family had split. His mother was not capable of caring for him because she had anxiety issues and the father had left to go back to Poland. Michael had been doing reasonably well at school so now the key thing was that he be supported to continue to make progress – as well as could be expected under the circumstances.
We could both see how carefully Rainbow had worked to find us a placement that was not too challenging. Of course, we could expect there to be some difficulties and challenges. But we both knew from our training the kinds of trauma children experience and the problems that can present. So we felt that first evening, although there was a little awkwardness, that with Rainbow close at hand this was something we could do.
Names changed to protect privacy.
Fostering with Rainbow is a rewarding journey. the enables carers to have a positive impact on a child’s life.
Children arrive in the care of a local authority for a different reasons. Sometimes, a parent may have a short-term illness. Or there may be a family crisis. Foster care is a way of providing children and young people with a supportive and nurturing home environment. Some will return to their birth families once the issue(s) the caused them to come into care have been satisfactorily resolved. For other children who may have experienced abuse, or been living in settings where domestic violence took place, fostering is the long-term option. For children who are unable to return to their birth family adoption might also be a possibility.
It’s a disturbing fact that in March 2019 there slightly over 60,000 looked-after children in England. This represented a four per cent increase from the same period in 2018. There is currently a shortage of around 8,000 foster families. Fostering with Rainbow enables foster carers to have a positive impact on a child’s life.
There are a number of different kinds of fostering: long-term foster care; short-term foster care; sibling group foster care; teenage foster care; parent and child fostering and therapeutic fostering.
You can call 0330 311 2845 to discuss what kind of fostering might suit you and your family best.
talk to us on the phone or; as many choose to, face-to-face over Skype. This is easily arranged and we can set it up for you.
In the meantime, our blog section has a lot of information about fostering, the people involved in it at Rainbow and the wider issues that impact on fostering in this country.
There is also more general information about fostering at https://www.gov.uk/becoming-foster-parent
Today, we are recommending this blog:
Keep safe during the pandemic visit the government’s website for the latest guidance – https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus
Visit our social media sites Facebook and Twitter to discover more about Rainbow Fostering.
#fostering #fostercare #fosteringagency