Capstone Foster Care Blog

Wow. This is the 50th one of these! Thanks for those that read regularly and our hope is that you can take something away from each one.

Recently I was asked what foster carers could do inside their organisation to retain other carers. I had never really thought about the question. I guess the pastoral care of other carers is left to social workers and managers in fostering situations and it is always sad when we hear of people leaving. I guess it happens for a number of reasons however I think I have heard too many times that people did not feel supported or their situation was too difficult. I hope like us you are supported well in your situation however I know that it is not the case for everybody. I’m sure you know people who have waited for a young person for ages without explanation as the importance of good matching. Maybe you know people who have had allegations against them, and left apparently out to dry. Maybe over time some of the people you know are just too fatigued or don’t feel like they are cut out for the work.

Regardless of the reason why, I am becoming increasingly aware of the power of other carers’ voices. Social workers and other key network figures are often great and can fulfil all kinds of practical needs and maybe even be a shoulder to cry on. There is however something special about having dialogue with someone who has walked the same path whether it be a carer or someone who has been through care and come out the other side. I remember a dear friend who had a calamitous upbringing and went through loads of pain and it was her who bought me through the lowest points with Alice a few years ago. When she said “I know” I knew that she knew! It wasn’t from a text book or from afar. She had really felt it and that made all the difference when it came to persevering.

So, the question is: How much time and dialogue do you have with other carers. Are you a positive influence starting from a place of strength and advice or have your chats become a bitch and a moan? Do you strategise to meet with other carers so that you can support and grow or does the very thought of it fill you with dread at the prospect of one more thing to do.

Wherever you are on that scale, I would remind you that one day your arm or your voice could be the difference between make or break for someone. Of course behind of all of this is that young person who needs stability and perseverance as we all know. For these reasons I would encourage you to network and have strong relationships with other families and carers because you never know when you might save or need saving.

James.

 


Jo and Ste were recently approved as foster carers. Jo has written the below for anyone who is thinking about what the assessment and approval process of becoming a foster carer is like…

Jo and Ste web

My husband and I have recently been approved as foster carers through Capstone Foster Care.

I could list tens of different emotions we enjoyed and endured throughout the assessment stages, but my offerings here focus on the wake-up calls prospective foster carers face in this process.

  1. Not everyone will be supportive of your choice and actions

Whilst I view fostering as kind, brave and ultimately selfless, not everyone shares this positivity. There will always be someone on your radar who does not fully support your choice. In my case, it was my own mum (in the beginning), but whilst this was upsetting, it wasn’t half as annoying as the people I barely knew who were more than happy to seek me out in Tesco and demand “Why don’t you just have your own kids?”

  1. You’ll hear a lot of misconceptions and face some really ill-chosen words to support them

Many people confuse fostering with adoption, so this is a misconception I’ve had to explain frequently. You’ll also be helpfully informed on a regular basis that “all foster kids are troubled” (usually as you watch your critic’s own precious angel scream blue murder over a lost biscuit) and it will irk you that you have to deal with poorly worded questions such as “When do you get to give them back?” It’s great when questions come from those who genuinely take interest, but sadly, there are a lot of people out there who just want gossip.

  1. Your fertility will be questioned

When you’ve had enough of everyone else questioning your fertility and your plans to have your own children, unfortunately in the case of your social worker and the assessment panel, this is a legitimate topic of conversation. Don’t even get me started on how much I take offence to the phrase ‘childlessness’, but overall, I understand the conversation. This hurts to talk about and it’s uncomfortable to sit through, but then again, so is childbirth!

  1. You’ll get upset/annoyed at least once during the process

Getting upset/annoyed is pretty much a regular occurrence for me anyway, but this was heightened during the fostering assessment process. You’ll become frustrated with people’s attitudes (see previous point), you’ll disagree with your loved ones (see next point), and you’ll have to answer questions/talk about issues that ordinarily you’d save to offload on your best mate after a glass of wine and a bucketful of tears. There are some things you’d rather not talk about at all, but this doesn’t help your case, so prepare to toughen up to this.

  1. Arguments will be caused

My husband and I are incredibly different in our parenting styles. He deals with conflict calmly, whereas I am a little more intense, shall we say! On several occasions, we found ourselves disagreeing over responses to our social worker’s questions. These interviews are not the best time to rip apart the issues and delve into your differences, but that’s what you’ll feel like doing. I stand by this being a perfectly natural thing to do though, as I just do not believe couples who say they never disagree – especially when talking about family!

  1. Your home will need to be adapted in some way

I would like to think that I have a warm, welcoming and safe home, but I still tortured myself for a week after I’d realised I’d left the top off a bottle of antiseptic in the bathroom when our social worker had visited. She probably didn’t even see it, but part of her job was indeed to (sensitively) highlight issues. Amid the changes that are helpfully suggested to you (a sturdy lock on the bathroom door, a key rack by the front door, CO2 monitors on each floor), you’ll start believing that everything in your home needs changing. (It really doesn’t).

  1. You’ll be hit with some truths

Capstone have surprised me greatly in their approach to dealing with potential new carers. Yes they support and encourage, but they also give the honest answers and key information regarding things you may not really want to think about – placement breakdown, allegations, paperwork and the stress of dealing with agencies who you may find more hindrance than help. You may not want to hear this kind of stuff, but for the sake of being prepared and resilient as a foster carer, you really need to.

  1. You’ll find out exactly what people think of you

Once you have been approved by the panel, your social worker will give you access to the references they collected on your behalf. We enjoyed reading over these as we celebrated, as it was lovely to read about the faith that all those who knew us best had in us. It’s a little cringe-worthy too, though, when you collate the fact that nearly all of them have spectacularly hit upon your flaws. Mine included endless references to the fact that I speak my mind, challenge authority and have high expectations. In other words, I’m a nightmare.

  1. The process is worth taking time

Our assessment process took just under 12 months. Where others may view this as lengthy, I was glad of the timeframe. It gave me confidence that Capstone were being thorough in their assessment and were investing proper time and resource to prepare us for this life-changing event. There are so many agencies looking for carers, and those worth their salt know that for the benefit and stability of the children in their care, fast tracking is never an option.

  1. You’ll be surprised how many people out there are fostering!

For every one person who doesn’t offer the support for your choice that you’d like or expect, there will be countless people who are delighted for you, bestow praise and offer support. Some of these people will even tell you that they know someone who is also fostering! Not only is this lovely to hear, but it will remind you that your access to a support network is getting bigger by the day. Personally, I know I’ll benefit greatly from this future support!

If you’ve read this and you’re still interested in fostering, then I know you’re the right person for this process. Embrace the challenges, because resilience is a fantastic quality in any foster carer.


We were having tea the other night and all chatting over each other like normal. Dinner is a vibrant affair in our house. It’s one area of parenting we feel we have gotten right. The table is sacrosanct when we come to feed. It’s where stories are shared and emotions are spilled over the most wonderful common third activity…. Food!

Between the main and pudding Holly turned to me with quite a lot of anguish in her face. I asked what the matter was and she queried whether there was anyone else who thought as slowly as she did and whether they also could not get their mouths to say the words that their brains fired at them. It was a sweet and delicate moment. Whilst we were all going about dinner it had occurred to her that her lack of being able to join in to the same extent made her feel sad. Also, somehow, she felt alone since she was not sure if there was anyone else in the world who seemed to be slowed down like she felt.

Of course I reassured her and told her that there were actually plenty of people in the world who could not think or speak at a hundred miles an hour. This placated her a bit and then I saw the opportunity. I reminded her that actually there are millions of people who could think fast but their thoughts were not productive, healthy or useful and often when they did speak they just spewed out whatever their brain had just been processing. I reminded Holly that actually being a quick thinker did not mean you were any more special and being able to speak or react quickly did not mean you had anything to say. We talked about the way it feels for her to think and speak and over the chat we managed to both confirm that actually when Holly does speak she really means what she says because the words are so elusive. I told her that even if she ever bought just this one thing she was a gift to the world and she smiled having readjusted to what was actually important in life.

I wonder as I write whether you have ever had the option to speak to your children about their previous lives being a prism which means they can bring something positive to the world which other kids from other situations can’t. I read today about a care leaver who goes around the country doing motivational speaking and encourages reform, understanding and education to teams who deal with foster kids. The most powerful words and testimony are from those who have been through something and this is something I will be encouraging Holly to understand. No ones story makes them invalid to society. In fact, given the right standing it can improve it.

I would encourage you to reflect on this for your kids. How can you view and articulate their stories in such a way that you can facilitate a way for us all to benefit. You never know, it could give them meaning and focus as well as being a reminder that all of their stories are important.

James