Capstone Foster Care Blog

It only seems like two minutes ago I was blogging about the impending dread of having to entertain the kids for the six weeks schools holidays, yet here we are, anticipating the start of the new school year in the next few days…
Are your kids ready for school? Are you ready for them to go back?
The answers to those questions may be ‘No’ and ‘Hell yes’ in that order, but do allow yourself the opportunity to think a little bit more deeply about what has been asked.
As a Foster Carer, there are some things that may be helpful for you to bear in mind as your child makes the transition to a new year-group, new class or even a new school at this time. Here are my five top tips for making sure that the start of the new school year begins as smoothly as possible at what can be a daunting time for even the most settled of children and young people:
1. Make sure you know who the designated Looked After Child (LAC) lead teacher is within the school. Every school should have one if there is a LAC on roll. This will be a regular member of staff who has additional responsibility, knowledge and authority over anything that your child may need or be faced with during the school year. Don’t be afraid to request a meeting with that staff member to ensure you are happy that they are best supporting your child – and you. Remember that the member of staff in question may never have needed to meet or work with your child previously, so it’s beneficial to all parties for you to meet now.

1. Meet with your child’s new class teacher (primary school) or Head of Year (secondary school) in the first instance. This person will be your key contact should any issues arise regarding your child, so it pays to make yourself known to that teacher and to build a good relationship with them so that everybody is ‘in the loop’ with any news, issues or developments. It would be a mistake to ‘hold out’ for the attentions of a previous class teacher or Head of Year, as they will have been given other responsibilities since your child moved on, and will no longer necessarily hold the same authority within the school for being the best advocate for your child, no matter how great they were previously. As a former teacher myself, I’ve been there. We want to stay involved and support your child, but sometimes, bureaucracy just gets in the way of that.

1. Listen to your child and observe their behaviour in the days leading up to the new school year. What are their insecurities? What are their fears? What are their triggers for certain negative reactions (if any) when they think about, talk about, or attend school? This is an unsettling period, so you may need to spend some extra time with your child to discuss or work through these issues. This will especially be the case if they don’t actively express to you that there is a problem in the first place. Trust in what you witness, and act on it.

1. In the days leading up to the new term, take any opportunity you can to ensure that your child can socialise with other children and peers. This might be at a sports club, church group, or activity centre, for example. This will build your child’s confidence within interaction, socialisation and adapting to new situations, and will show them the many positives that these skills and experiences can bring.

1. Most importantly, although you have enough stresses and financial pressures already, as all parents do, make sure that your child has the correct and full school uniform. Don’t be taking their word for it – check the school’s policy on the website if you have to. There’s nothing more unsettling than a child going through having attention drawn to something ‘different’ that could have been avoided with some careful planning and checking.

I hope that these pieces of advice help a little, or at least sound fair. Personally, I wouldn’t go back to school if you paid me, and I came from what society would deem as a ‘normal and settled’ background and family. The start of school can be such a worrying time all round, so do what you can to allay your child’s fears, and whatever you do, make sure that they don’t see that you too are worried.

I’m Gavin, one of the education team at Capstone North. I’ve recorded a short vlog about transitioning from primary school to secondary school.

Transitioning from Primary School to Secondary School

It’s been 18 months since my husband and I came towards the end of our application process to become Foster Carers. The traditional ‘end’ to this format is always an invitation to attendance at Panel, which I’ve written about in previous blogs. It’s a nerve-wracking element of the fostering process, but for me, it wasn’t the most daunting part.

I should state that this next element does not always happen as part of the fostering approval format, and it depends entirely on your individual agency, your supervising social worker and your individual application case, but in our case, shortly after we were approved, our social worker handed us an envelope that she believed we may wish to look at; just for reference. This envelope contained all the paper copies of the references that she had collated for us during our assessment process. For me, I’d never been less excited to open an envelope since collecting my mediocre A-Level results at the turn of the Millennium.

I’d like to think I’m a people-person in life and in my work, and I pride myself on my ability to generate positive relationships in the majority of situations. In work I’ve built some fantastic partnerships and networks, and away from work I have a good group of friends who span the many different parts of my life.   Other than the boyfriend I (allegedly) selfishly jilted when I was at university, I don’t think too many people dislike me that much. Having said all of this, when the time came to open that envelope full of references, I felt uneasy.

As the applicant, you select your own referees, and obviously you’re going to choose people who can say positive things about you. But, you also know that if these people are doing a good job, they’ll give a full and honest account of who you are and what you’re really like. You respect them for this, and that’s why you’ve chosen them. That familiarity is what makes it all so uneasy.

Having gone through the long and fairly intrusive process of application to become a Foster Carer, you feel vulnerable and as though you’re under a microscope; wondering if that aforementioned ex-boyfriend will somehow get in touch with the agency and reveal what a complete cow you were when you were 18. All of your emotions are heightened, and you’re over-sensitive to what everyone has to say.

When you’re faced with 10 different reference documents and all of them state how you “don’t back down from an argument” or something of equal phrasing, where you once viewed this as a strength in your advocacy for a young person who depends on you to fight their corner amid the countless agencies they’re up against, you now view it as the fact that people think you are, in truth, the complete cow that your ex-boyfriend professed you to be.

The worst thing to read from our envelope was a statement from my mother. She had said that she and my dad only got to see me once a month or so. It’s true, but I didn’t feel comfortable in reading that. 12 times a year, to see the two people I should be closer to than anyone – and they only live half an hour away. I have no idea what the ‘average’ contact is for anyone in a similar situation, but I of course read it negatively, and could almost hear my mum saying the words aloud – complete with dismayed tone of voice at her absentee daughter.

I think if I had to go through the process again, I wouldn’t open that envelope.

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