Being newly approved at Panel and then having a child placed with you long-term is unusual, but UKF Foster Carers, Yvonne & Malcolm, have done just that! Their Supervising Social Worker asked them about their journey so far….. and here it is:
Who will ever forget the 23rd of March 2020? The day Boris told us we must all stay at home. I had just changed jobs 10 days before and was now a relief member of staff for a care organisation supporting adults with learning disabilities. Because of lockdown, I wasn’t offered much work as the company I worked for understandably only wanted to use permanent staff in order to reduce the risk for everyone. So, I had plenty of time on my hands and was busy doing nothing most days.
My husband and I had often spoken about fostering and felt it was something we both wanted to do when we had the space to do it. We live in a 3 bedroomed council house and until March, when Malcolm’s younger son moved out, all rooms had been occupied.
While watching TV one evening in May, an advert came on about the Fostering Fortnight campaign. Malcolm and I both looked at each other and said at the same time, “we have space to foster now, let’s do it!” That same evening, we started to do some research into different kinds of fostering and what the application process involved. We were surprised to learn that there were independent fostering agencies, having only previously been aware of local authorities fostering. We made a few tentative enquiries with different agencies and our local authority and booked our first virtual interview with UK Fostering and Tim appeared on our screen. He made us feel that we may be good prospective foster carers and invited us to apply. And so, the process began…..it was the lengthiest job interview ever! I’m sure our assessing social worker knew more about us than we knew ourselves! We actually quite enjoyed the process and completely understood why it had to be so in depth.
The 18th of November finally came, and we were delighted to have passed Panel. We were Approved for 0-18yrs, long or short term. We felt so honoured to be trusted to care for someone else’s child, and to hopefully make it better for them. Then the logistics of how to do that became reality…how should we decorate the bedroom, should we buy a cot and a bed in case we have a baby placement, should we buy clothes in a range of sizes in case we have a child arrive in an emergency with nothing? Then there was Christmas just around the corner, what if we had a child placed just before Christmas with no gifts and all non-essential shops closed, what would we do? A million thoughts were racing round our heads!
Then, on the 14th of December, we had a call from our supervising social worker…. she had a referral for us for a long term placement! We had a mixture of emotions, happy that our fostering journey was about to become reality, and sad that there was a need for any child not to be with their birth family. This was to be a planned placement and we would be lucky enough to meet the child a few times before she came to live with us. Our supervising social worker and the child’s social worker were both amazing sources of support for us and the child, and we all worked well together.
On our initial introduction, we travelled to the child’s local area and met her in a communal area for a hot drink and a chat. She had recently celebrated her birthday and so we found out what kinds of things she liked and bought her a small gift and wrapped it in personalised wrapping paper in that theme. This was something I had liked to do for my grandchildren, and I hoped she would like it as much as they had. She was absolutely amazed at this and it made quite an impact on her, she said it made her feel special, which of course, she is! We continued with our introductory meetings, and in the meantime, I was trying to think of how to make her move to our house a positive experience.
On the 8th of February, our foster daughter arrived with her social worker. We were determined to make her feel as much at home as possible, so we had printed a photo of her out, framed it and had it placed with other family photos, we had a welcome sign on our front door, we had added her name and birthdate to our family birthday plaque and had a balloon arrangement in her bedroom with a personalised message welcoming her to her forever home. It seemed to do the trick and by the time her social worker left, she was in the kitchen helping herself to food and a drink!
I cannot imagine how it must feel for a youngster to be dropped off with almost complete strangers in their home and be expected to just settle with them for the remainder of your childhood, but if we have made that process just a tiny bit easier for one child in the care system, then we have achieved what we set out to do. Now to continue that for the rest of her life……
By Yvonne & Malcolm