Capstone Foster Care Blog

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

 


When Holly came to us she was always a bit worried when our two birth kids would clear off on their scooters or bikes and wait for us to catch up. The anxiety was real for her. The distance could mean calamity. They might fall, lose sight or somehow become unsafe and in her mind it would take too long to make them safe. This similarly happened with another of our foster kids. For her it was actually far more pronounced and involved her staying very close to us for ages during walks and excursions.

We explained to Holly that it was ok that the kids were a few hundred feet in front of us. We told her that we knew that they would stay on the well ridden track we had walked so many times. We reassured and said that they would always come back if they needed us and that actually they would only go as far as they felt safe from us. She assessed this explanation and accepted it. She rode within twenty feet the first few times and little by little she expanded the gap.

On Christmas day she was presented with a brand new bike from us. It was lovely and fitted her a dream. On boxing day we got some exercise before gorging ourselves again and went down the cycle track which we frequent. This time all the children whipped off as soon as we got on the straight and before we knew it Holly was a speck in the distance. That distance felt so allegorical of how kids we look after feel safe. The more time she has spent with us she safer she feels. The safer she feels the greater the orbit of adventure she has.

I can remember leaving home when I was 20. I packed up my car in London and headed for the west country. I had never lived anywhere else but I wasn’t too worried. Why? Because I knew I could come home. It was the greatest distance of adventure I had ever done but I felt safe doing it because I knew my mum and dad were there.

Maybe this is a helpful image for you. How far do the kids you care for orbit? Can they play in the street or go out feeling safe? Are you even their point of safety yet? I remember being taught that children who are traumatised can need literally one to one structured close activity with their carer during the early stages of placement. Such is their ‘distance of safety’. Maybe this is your story too? My hope is that you will notice their field of trust and adventure widening as they feel safe with you and that one day you will have the joy of hearing about their adventures when they return back to you as they explore the world knowing that you are there.

James


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