Monday, 31 December 2012

First call

We've had our first call!

The landline phone rang and I picked it up with my heart beating about a million beats per minute. It was a lovely lady from the fostering duty team, calling about a referral for a sibling group of three little ones all under 3 years old who may be coming into care on Wednesday. I tried to remember all the questions I was supposed to ask from the training, and for some reason the only paper I could find at short notice was a tiny post-it pad, but the conversation went very well and I said I'd talk to Esmeralda and ring them back.

We had a chat about it, and although all three sound ideal for our family and we feel very positive about them, logistically our house isn't set up for three children so young. We could probably manage for a weekend as we have a travel cot, but they were talking about a minimum of 2-3 months. Sadly we don't really have the space, (or enough pairs of hands!) and it doesn't seem fair to place three children with us if we can't give them all the individual attention they need.

I rang the duty team back and offered to take two of the children, if they were going to have to split the sibling group up. She's going to talk to their social worker and ring us back to let us know, hopefully today.

Bless them, they can have no idea how much their life is about to change.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Still waiting

Still no call.

Christmas was lovely, we had Esmeralda's mother to stay and saw all of my family. We got on with our plans, and kept forgetting that we could have a child placed with us any minute (although of course we're still jumping every time the phone rings!)

I know on the whole scale of things we haven't been waiting that long, but it's been long enough to have spent too long dwelling on every possible outcome - good or bad! We had a chat about it today, and it turns out we've both been having exactly the same worries - we can't do it, what if we've made the wrong decision, what if it all goes wrong... we've also both been wondering whether Jane has actually even told the duty team about us!

I'm sure once we get started it will all be fine, it's just the fear of the unknown!

Saturday, 22 December 2012


Our social care worker came to visit us on Friday, to go through some paperwork with us and drop off an enormous folder of various policies and procedures for us to read through over Christmas.

Fostering involves a LOT of paperwork.
  • To start with, we had to complete an initial application form to apply to become foster carers.
  • We then had to return a form, once invited to attend the Skills to Foster training, to confirm that we still wanted to go.
  • We completed activities and case studies every week for six weeks, plus filled in our 217-page workbook.
  • At the end of the training, we filled in a form about our experiences and what we'd learned.
  • We filled in a form about Lady - what training she's had, where she sleeps, when she's exercised etc.
  • We drew an eco map detailing our support network.
  • We wrote out our family trees.
  • We wrote a detailed description of our local area.
  • We then spent three months with Jane visiting our home every couple of weeks, talking through  and completing what was to become our "Form F" - this ended up being 91 pages without the references (as we weren't allowed to see them - there were two employer references, one past partner reference, two personal references and two family references, and each of those involved the person filling in a form, speaking to Jane on the phone, and then signing off a summary of the discussion.)
  • We filled in an enhanced CRB form, which involved looking up every address we've lived at since birth - for me that was 25 different addresses!
  • We completed a "Safer Caring" policy for our home.
  • We chased our medical reports from our GP.
  • We wrote to our landlords to request a letter confirming they weren't intending to sell the house from under us.
  • We filled in a form to confirm our bank details for fostering allowance payments.
  • We created various spreadsheets to track purchases we've made, detailing our set-up costs.
  • We read through and made notes on two full drafts of the Form F before it was submitted to Panel.
Since we've been approved, we've had to fill in a child-friendly profile sheet about us and our house (including photos!) and we've been sent a form to fill in about our experiences of the assessment process and Panel. We also have to send a template letter to our insurance company to let them know we are now foster carers.

We have to have a meeting with Jane to sign various agreements and charters.

Once a foster placement arrives, the paperwork steps up another notch. For every child or baby who lives with us, for however long that might be, we will need to complete (this is not an exhaustive list):
  • A placement plan - this is several pages long and contains all the child's details, times of agreed contact with birth family, likes/dislikes, medications, education etc.
  • Care plan
  • Child-specific Safer Caring policy
  • Daily recording sheets detailing anything significant the child has done, achieved or said that day, or any behaviours they've had.
  • Fortnightly expenditure forms.
  • Birthday/festival/holiday allowance forms.
  • Accident reports.
We will have various meetings, supervision sessions and reviews that we need to prepare for.

During the first year that we foster, we have to complete the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) induction standards for foster care. This is a 25-page workbook that we fill in with our Social Care Worker - it's essentially to provide evidence of our skills, knowledge and achievement relating to caring for looked after children and is based on a national minimum benchmark.

We also have to file an annual tax return as we're classed as self-employed.

It looks crazy seeing it all written down!

Coming from working in a fairly "paperless" office where the vast majority of data is held electronically, the amount of paperwork we've come across in the last 6 months of this process has been quite shocking!

Esmeralda thinks the Council should have a policy like Velvet toilet tissue, where they plant three trees for every one that's cut down and turned into forms... Now, where's that comment card..?

Thursday, 20 December 2012


I spoke to our social care worker yesterday, and she's coming round tomorrow to go through some paperwork with us. She said on the phone that it was very unlikely now that we would have a child with us for Christmas

We feel very torn - on the one hand we are really looking forward to welcoming a child into our home and giving them lots of love, positive attention and new experiences, but on the other hand for a child to come to us they will at the very least have suffered a major upheaval. In an ideal world no child should ever have to leave their family and there would be no need for foster carers.

Unfortunately in reality Christmas can be a very stressful time for many families, and if we don't have a placement beforehand then I'm sure it won't be too long afterwards. We've just got to hope and pray that whether they're with us or not, our future foster children are able to make some happy memories this Christmas that they can look back on to remember the good times.

Monday, 17 December 2012


We had a call on our landline about 5pm this evening. Hardly anyone ever calls us on the landline - we glanced at each other and both of our stomachs flip-flopped into knots, and then Esmeralda picked it up. It was Jane. Both of us went a bit pale, and all I could hear was Esmeralda saying "Oh right, mmm, yes that's fine..."

She waited a beat after putting the phone down before telling me that Jane had just been calling to let us know that she'd checked the "lists" and there was no child for us today... and to tell us that our social care worker would phone us on Wednesday to arrange for our induction meeting.

I think we're going to have to get more people to phone us on our landline rather than our mobiles so that we don't have such a shock every time the landline phone rings!

Sunday, 16 December 2012


We received an email from our Social Worker (who we'll call Jane) this evening letting us know that the independent decision maker had agreed with the recommendation, so we're officially approved as foster carers! Jane has been off sick all week and has only just checked her emails, so we're not sure yet when the decision was actually made. We celebrated with a glass of champagne and commemorated the occasion with a toast and a photo (on a timer as we haven't managed to train Lady to work the camera yet) - to the start of our new lives!

Jane is going to tell the duty team tomorrow, but apparently we're on their radar already so the call could come at any time. Watch this space!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Mandatory training

I wish we'd started this blog earlier! While we're waiting for a placement I thought I'd write about our experiences of various parts of the process so far...

We chose to go with our local authority rather than an agency because LAs will always look at placing a child with their own carers before choosing an agency carer (mainly due to cost - as I understand it agencies charge the LA a placing fee as well as ongoing fees), so we are more likely to get younger children with less challenging behaviour. That's the theory anyway - as we haven't had our own children yet we have a limited skill set, and we definitely don't want to set ourselves up to fail. We were also really impressed with the training and support available.

We went on the mandatory training course in June/July - 6 weekly evening sessions of 3 hours each, covering things like working with birth families, safer caring (protecting yourself from allegations), the differences between caring for fostered children and caring for your own children, and supporting children moving on (either back to family, to a permanent home or ageing out of the care system.) There was something hugely thought provoking in every session, and the intense emotions were sometimes exhausting - Esmeralda and I both found we were tired the day after a session. There was homework each week completing a chapter of the workbook, which contained case studies, activities and exercises to do at home that really made you think about your own experiences and opinions relating to fostering. We never went through these together during the sessions, but we found them really helpful once the assessment with our Social Worker started, as we'd already talked through various points that she raised and were able to give her considered answers.

There was one particular activity we did in one of the early sessions that made a huge impact on both of us. It was really simple - everyone in the room stood in a circle and was given a name or job title (there were about 20 of us), such as child, mother, social worker, foster carer, judge, police officer, teacher etc. During the exercise we were told to think about how our characters would be feeling. The leader then read out a case study about a little girl who disclosed some abuse to her teacher. She gave the end of a ball of string to the first character mentioned in the case study, and each time characters had an interaction, the string passed to them. By the end of the case study, which was only a couple of paragraphs long, the whole room was covered in a thick web of string. It was quite shocking, and really helped show us how many people, how much emotion and how many individual actions are involved in caring for one little child, who has no control over the situation or what happens to her whatsoever.

Overall the course was great - the leaders were knowledgeable and willing to answer questions (one was a foster carer, another was a support worker) and we met some lovely people. I don't know whether it's the same everywhere, but in our LA you can just go on the course for more information whilst you decide whether it's for you or not, you don't have to be certain. I'd highly recommend it if you're considering fostering as an option.

Friday, 14 December 2012


We've been waiting over a week since panel for an independent decision maker to ratify the decision. We were told it would take 1-2 weeks so hopefully we'll hear on Monday or Tuesday, and then our first placement should follow as soon as possible after that, provided they agree with the recommendation.

The waiting at each stage of the process has been hard, especially the unknown element. We've been trying to explain it to people who ask how we're doing by saying that it feels like we're pregnant without a due date, but of course we don't know what age our first placement will be either, so it's not like we can really fully prepare. There's now a cot in our room and bunk beds in the spare room (our preference is 0-8 years), we've bought bits and pieces of equipment, toys and emergency clothes for various ages, and we have a high chair and a buggy downstairs. I'll mention at this point that although we will get a payment back from social services toward the larger items we need to purchase (like furniture, a steriliser, a baby monitor, car seat etc.) they don't go anywhere near covering the cost of one that you would actually buy, so you always need to supplement the cost as well as making the initial outlay. Fostering is definitely not something you go into if you're in it for the money!

Thursday, 13 December 2012


My wife and I are a same sex couple who have recently gone through the assessment process to become foster carers, and we thought we would start a blog to document the ups and downs of our journey. This will be an anonymous blog to protect our and our foster children's privacy, so we will be using Disney names (I will be Jessie, and my wife will be Esmeralda.) I know there will be friends and family reading this, so please remember not to use our real names if you do know them.

We first called our local council to enquire about fostering (after much discussion over several years) on May 14th 2012, and we went to panel on December 4th, where we were recommended for approval. It has been a very emotional and at times tough 7 months, but we learned a lot, and we know that our journey as a foster family is just beginning!