My plan all the way through the fostering application process had always been to keep my job whilst I was carrying out my role as a Foster Carer. It was certainly always going to be that way if I’d have had my own kids, so this seemed no different. In continuing to work, I would feel fulfilled, would contribute money into our household, and would set a good example of a strong work ethic to my family. That was the rationale.
I don’t think Capstone were ever overly delighted by my plans and decisions, but they accepted them and they respected them – and I thank them in turn for that. Their worry was that long-term I simply wouldn’t have the time to take on the variety of roles that are required of a Foster Carer with children in placement. I’m headstrong though, and I believed I’d be okay; I have a partner who is as committed to the whole process as I am, and I’ve always been able to handle a packed, active and responsibility-filled life and career. Many people cope within that kind of lifestyle every day, and lots of them continue to do it even after having kids. Why should fostering be any different?
Fostering is different though, because you’re not just playing the role of mum or dad to that child – you’ll have more jobs and career roles than you’d ever imagine when a child is in your care.
You’ll be a social worker. Yes, you’ll have a social worker assigned to you by your agency, and it’s likely that this will be the same person who guided and supported you through your application process, so you’ll know them well and will most definitely have a proactive relationship with them. You will still need to take on this role though, because that person cannot be there all the time, and it will be up to you to discover all you can about your child, seek and offer tailored support for them, and generally advocate their wellbeing in the most objective and fair way you can on a daily basis.
You’ll be a teacher. As a qualified teacher myself, I’m a big believer in the fact that a good teacher extends their care, support and influence far beyond the classroom, and therefore to teach does not mean to simply get a child through their grades. As a Foster Carer, you will be the prime provider of all sorts of education and learning, including social, emotional and personal aspects. Whether you’re actively aware or not, your children will learn from you. Oh, and if your child gets excluded from school, or simply cannot attend for whatever reason (there are lots of them), then yes you probably will have to become a traditional teacher as well! Daunting, perhaps, but at least you don’t have to deal with staffroom politics, Ofsted, or 29 other kids.
You’ll be a lawyer. Nothing possesses a person quite so much as when somebody crosses their kids. In fostering, those children in your care will at some time in their life in placement be judged, overlooked, ignored, spoken for, treated as a number, and/or used as a player in some warped game of wills by the countless people who are either directly or indirectly involved in their journey through life as a ‘looked after child’. Prepare to put some research in as you advocate for your child, and prepare to fight. This is all worst-case scenario of course, but it’s good advice nonetheless, because nobody is in a better position be a voice for and to represent the best interests of that young person than you. Put the background work in.
In carrying out each of these roles and more, you won’t be paid a top salary, you’ll unlikely ever get an award to recognise your hard work, and you’ll absolutely never get a day off, but what you will get is reward from knowing that you are making a difference, full time, to a human being’s life.
So, although I’ve made a decision to quit my job by the time the next placement joins our family (more of that in Part 2), it looks like come the start of the new year, I’ll be busier than ever.