Capstone Foster Care Blog


The weather is dropping light hints that we may be ready for something of a summer season, and the kids are dropping much heavier hints that they are absolutely ready for a ‘schools out’ season.

The children are elated, the teachers are even happier still, and the parents and foster carers…? Well, they’d be lying if they said they weren’t to some extent dreading it.

Parents love their kids, of course, and relish any opportunity to spend time with them; watching them grow, develop and have fun. At this time of year, social media posts of fun family photographs get tagged with #MakingMemories and other such inspirational comments, but six weeks is a bloody long time, and even the most patient of parents needs a day off from this most precious of periods. Raising kids is one thing, but keeping them entertained is another thing entirely.

As foster parent, the pressure can be even more intense, as there is unlikely to be the kind of relationship in place where you feel you can just let your kids ‘get on’ with stuff. On one hand, you always feel a little guilty that the child in your care may have suffered neglect at times like this, and therefore ‘deserves’ to be showered with activities, events and trips out every day of the week. Entertaining or spoiling them isn’t your responsibility, though; helping them feel safe, loved and independent is.

Additionally, if the placement is very new, there will be that natural feeling that you really want the child in your care to settle with you and for them to like you, trust you and want to be with you. With those things in your thoughts, you will in fact drive yourself both crazy and into debt if you decide to journey along a path of constant entertainment planning for said child, whereby every day is a diarised list of things to do, places to go and people to see.

Whatever the parental status, and whatever the child’s situation, six week stimulation is unsustainable. With this in mind, I only have one piece of real advice for anyone with kids as we hit the school holidays this summer…

…don’t be afraid to let your children be bored!

I’m not going to get all psychological about this statement and philosophise you with studies or theories – although they are both out there! I simply state it as advice because I personally believe it to be good sense for two key reasons:

  1. The more activities, events, parties, trips and holidays you try to cram into a set period of time will each start to lose effect because the child in question will have nothing to compare them to. They will come to expect these constant ‘highs’ and this will make any downtime they unavoidably have to go through unbearable for you as they just won’t cope! They will learn to expect the buzz and thrill of constant activity and will lose the concept of free or regular time – and the skills they need to build to be resourceful, creative and independent.
  1. As an adult, you get bored. It sounds harsh, but it’s important that kids can build resilience early on to accept and deal with that feeling of boredom at least at some point in their childhood, because let’s face it, when they grow up and start work, the minute they decide they are thoroughly uninspired at their desk one day, nobody is necessarily going to whisk them off to DisneyLand.

I’m not saying leave your kids in a darkened room somewhere with no interaction or stimulus of any kind during the next six weeks, but instead what I mean is to remember that kids have a capacity to entertain themselves, and it’s both a life skill and a necessity for them to adapt to such scenarios. Let them make the decision to play out with friends and make up games and adventures; let them take the initiative to sit with toys they already have and make creative use of them; let them get involved with something that may help you out around the house or with work – it’s all positive interaction.

These coming six weeks are classed as a break, and you should benefit from that too, wherever possible.

In fostering, you’ll always be learning about the wider world of social care.  This is a great thing, as such knowledge is invaluable in terms of best advocating for any child in your care.

One of the things I learned about a while back was something called a Section 20 referral.  So, what does this phrase refer to?

A ‘Section 20’ referral is when a parent (or parents) voluntarily place their child into the care of Social Services.  I didn’t actually know you could do this, but like I said – always learning.

A parent cannot simply drop their child off at Social Services and that’s the end of it – responsibility absolved.  I have several friends who would definitely take that opportunity if it was on offer!  Instead, a parent must approach Social Services and give them grounds for accepting the fact that they can no longer – either temporarily or longer term – care for their child and subsequently need help.  This might be for a number of reasons on the part of the parent, such as that of a medical condition (physical or mental), issues of drug or alcohol misuse, or that of being unable to provide a safe, stable and secure home for the child to thrive within.  It’s not an exhaustive list.

In the case of our referred Section 20 child, the parents could no longer cope with the boy’s increasingly challenging behaviour.  It wasn’t down to finance, neglect, abuse or a medical condition of any kind – they simply could not deal with their son’s behaviour; whereby his aggression and life choices were having significant detrimental effects on the family’s physical and emotional well-being.  How can they look after their child if they are struggling themselves?  It’s a fair question.

The aim of a Section 20 referral is that ultimately the family will be in a position to reunite, and so you as the Foster Carer have a key role to play in changing not just a child’s life for the better, but also the lives of their whole family.  It’s up to you how you view this – a wonderful chance to save a family, or a daunting amount of responsibility?

There are many positives to taking on a Section 20 referral, but there are also a fair few negatives:

On one hand, the temporary nature of a Section 20 referral means it’s an excellent type of placement to start with or to take in between longer term placements.  On the other hand, there is nothing to stop the parents saying they never want to take their child back and they should stay with you – sad, but true.

A Section 20 referral child’s parents have made the voluntary decision to give up their child in the hope that somebody such as yourself can help them to ultimately re-build their family by supporting their child in a way they presently cannot.  Whilst it’s a wonderful thought that you could be instrumental in solving a family’s problems and ultimately reunite them one day, there is no guarantee that the parents will be able to completely accept everything you’re doing to make that happen, and could actually make things difficult for you.  I know that I would personally feel a lot of resentment if I saw someone else doing a better job of raising my own child than I could do.

With a case of a Section 20 referral, the child’s parents retain PR (parental responsibility). This is a positive thing because it means you don’t have the stress and emotion of completely uprooting the child and re-building their life from scratch, but it’s also negative when the child in question plays both sets of parental figures off against each other and feels like they can storm out and run away to go ‘back home’ every time they’re not happy with something you’ve done.

Ultimately, I don’t think I’d personally choose to take on a Section 20 referral again.  I believe in fresh starts, and I don’t think you can have that, or the chance at gaining the fullest possible bond, with a child who will possibly see you as the reason they’re not with their parents right now.

Jo's weekly blog

It’s always lovely to hear people say that you look young.

Sadly, the only time I really hear that phrase these days is when that person goes on to contextualise it by saying that I look too young to be a Foster Carer.

It’s true that we are young in the perceived view of what a Foster Carer should look like.  People associate fostering with people who have already had their careers and their own families and would now like to ‘give something back’ in their later years.  This is probably very true for a lot of Foster Carers, but as my husband and I are proving, it’s not the only case.

The reason why Capstone ask me to blog for them is because they would like for people to engage with my writing and use it as a stepping stone to perhaps looking on to find out more about becoming a Foster Carer themselves.  It’s already started working, and I get a lot of people from my own circle looking at taking the next steps after engaging with me and my writing.  Lovely!  I think it’s important then that I do put myself out there to show that there isn’t a set age for becoming a Foster Carer, and, regardless of age, if you can make it through the fostering application process, it’s because you’ve personally got something great to offer a potential child.

Think of it as a job market.  Do you hire the older applicant who is more experienced, more revered and less likely to jump ship in favour of a new direction?   Or do you hire the younger applicant, who is more relevantly qualified, has more energy and is fresh for the new challenge ahead?  It’s a tricky question to answer without meeting and getting to know the person in question, and that’s exactly the same thing in the fostering application process.  Both age-groups have things to offer, and for a child in need, that’s the most important thing,

Remember that if you are a ‘younger’ Foster Carer, there is so much you can offer and so much you will undoubtedly bring to the lives of the children and young people you will care for.  If a forward-thinking agency like Capstone selects you, they’re basing it on YOU – and I for one am delighted that for people ‘so young’, they clearly saw something in us.

I don’t know where life will take my husband and I, but I’m glad we’re giving this fostering thing a go right now – may it be something we do at many different points in our hopefully long and happy future!


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