Louise shared with me recently about a situation which she had come across with two foster families. For one family they had been told by the local authority that they cared too much for the young person who was with them and that they ought to be more hands off and less emotionally involved. The other family were with another local authority and they had been told that they did not care enough and should be exactly the opposite of the example above!
There is, of course, much more context around these two situations however Louise knows that both the families are basically in the same place and both have the same intent and interest towards their kids. So which of these authorities is right? I have wrestled with this question and concluded that actually I think it is the wrong question to ask. The right question is more like, how come these two authorities are coming to two different conclusions?
Anyone who has been a carer for a while knows that the network around the young person they are looking after can be the make or break of a placement. If you have a particularly risk averse social worker or uncontactable manager you will really struggle. Equally if you have an advocate or team which goes the extra mile to know your kids the likelihood is that the situation will be much better read. The problem is is that we often don’t know which situation we will find ourselves in and heart ache and further trauma can be incurred if we see bad decisions being made when we desperately want to serve the kids.
Of course there is no magic wand for this but I would encourage you to try some ideas. Wherever possible try to get to know social workers and the people around your kids. Hold your ground in meetings – don’t let anyone tell you that your opinion is at the bottom of the list in terms of importance. Fight tooth and nail for what you know is right for your kids. If you know if it is right to give more of yourself emotionally don’t hold back – do it, your foster kids need to see how much you value them.
That feeling in your gut is pretty trustworthy. You spend more time with these kids than anyone else. If you really feel that something needs to be done, try and work out creative ways with your network of how you can implement it. It might be hard work but I don’t think you will regret it. Lastly, and this is an important one, try and review what goes well and what doesn’t as much. Reflect on what the network is saying and where you stand with it. Maybe there is something for you to learn and maybe there is something for others to learn. It is this stance that will eventually get more teams operating in similar ways and provide a strong place from you to operate from.