I don’t like surprises.
I like routine, and plans, and knowing what’s going on. I’m rarely comfortable with positive surprises, so ones that aren’t designed for 100% joy are even lower on my wish list.
When fostering, part of the ongoing support and assessment you get from your agency is that three or four times a year, they will show up unannounced at your home, purely to check on things.
Last week, we had our first visit. The house was a bomb site, my husband was in the shower (singing loudly), and I had fallen asleep on the sofa on top of the last piece of my Dominoes margherita.
I’ve always said to friends and family that if they ever ‘drop in’ at our home, then they will have to take the state of my house, my mood and my hair with all the glory in which they present themselves. Such people know and unconditionally love you, but Social Workers, or indeed any stranger in your home, will understandably be a little more judgemental.
95% of this unannounced visit, like everything else that your agency will do, will be supportive; advice on how to keep things safe and secure, ideas for ways to interact with your kids in the family home, information for any support you may need generally in the future, etc. 5% though, has to be reserved for the fact that they really do need to scrutinise what’s going on in your home at any given point. This may seem intrusive, but it really is necessary. Anything could be going on behind closed doors in any household, so in the case where an agency has actively handed over children to a new family, it’s only right that checks are made to test out that everybody is who they say they are, and that everybody is being kept as safe, happy and healthy as they have the right to be.
I’d like to think that our home is a safe, happy and healthy one, and that children in particular feel welcomed and loved when they come through our front door. When that unannounced visit happens, however, it’s like waiting your turn in line at airport security – you know, the scanner thing that you need to walk through as they check your hand luggage for knives. You of course know that there’s nothing in your bag that could possibly convict you of a crime, and you’re even more certain that you’re not wearing 10 tonnes of explosives or harbouring illegal substances, but you still feel guilty – and you look even worse. That’s what it’s like when the Social Worker turns up unexpectedly; absolutely everything is as it normally is, yet you feel guilty as hell.
If you’re not comfortable with that analogy then try this – running into your ex! That scenario will never happen when you look amazing and you have everything together; it will happen when you’ve had three hours of sleep, are wearing an outfit you could have feasibly woken up in, and your hair hasn’t been washed or brushed for a week. Sod’s Law means that when the Social Worker turns up unannounced, you’ll look like death, your house will look even worse, and the kids will be behaving in the worst possible manner for the occasion.
I sincerely wish this blog could offer up some kind of advice or tips for anticipating or dealing with these visits, but it can’t. You just have to deal with them. But remember, if your agency had any concerns that you were doing anything less than a fantastic and selfless thing, then they would never have selected you in the first place.