Thursday, 25 April 2013

Back to panel

Our social worker Jane came to see us for a couple of hours this morning. She comes about every six weeks to do what's called a Supervision meeting - basically checking up on us to see how we're getting on, to see how Jack-Jack's progressing and to listen to any of our concerns.

Six weeks seems to be a turning point for us - by this point we're generally feeling pretty worn down, under-valued and fairly negative about "the system", with a long list of issues to raise. We have a great chat and a bit of a moan over a cup of tea, and when Jane leaves we feel rejuvenated again. We've definitely had a fair few wobbles over the last couple of months and have wondered whether this is really for us, but Jane is so encouraging, takes us seriously and reminds us how much Jack-Jack is thriving in our care.

Jack-Jack really is doing fantastically well. He's had a huge growth spurt, walks pushing a baby walker, eats us out of house and home and his night time sleep and naps are improving. Rather than being in his own little world and just screaming when he needed something, he's now making strides in wanting to interact with us - he wants to play, he reaches out to be picked up, and he's starting to gesture to things that he wants. Over the last few days he's also started calling both of us "mumumumumum" (very embarrassing when he did this in front of the social worker this morning, but he also refers to our dog Lady as this as well as various household objects so it doesn't mean anything!) He just seems so much more settled and happier overall and now does these infectious belly laughs when being chased or tickled rather than just smiling.

Jane supports our decision to take a second placement, but as we're only officially approved for "one child (two if siblings)", we apparently have to go back to Panel to have this amended. All foster carers in our LA have to have an annual review and go back to Panel every year anyway, but as our annual review isn't due until December, Jane is going to do an early one for us next month, after which she'll write her report and set a Panel date. We're not sure whether we have to attend or not, hopefully it's a formality as both Jane and her manager think we're doing great! We're allowed to take a placement in the mean time under a temporary extension to our approval - Jane is going to inform the duty team asap (she may have actually done this today), and we could get a call any day now...

Saturday, 13 April 2013


We've yet to find a way of saying "That's not appropriate to discuss with you" that doesn't either sound a bit rude or make the other person feel bad for asking, but we had an encounter recently that has made us wonder whether other people actually feel the same way as we do about the importance of privacy and confidentiality in fostering.

We were at the station with Jack-Jack in the buggy, and a lady with a baby of a similar age came up to us and asked what make it was. We chatted briefly about the buggy, and then out of the blue she volunteered the information that the baby with her was a foster child. "Oh right, we're also foster carers," Esmeralda said, smiling down at Jack-Jack. We never normally tell anyone we're foster carers unless it's specifically come up in conversation or we're asked directly (and sometimes not even then depending on the situation), but the lady's next question was just asking which agency we were with, which was fine. We told her, and found out that she was with a different one. She seemed pleasant enough, but the rest of the conversation completely floored us:
Lady: "So are you going to adopt him?"
Esmeralda (red flags up, looking up at the train times): "We're not sure."
Lady: "Oh, what's going to happen to him then?"
Esmeralda (wondering what to say, checking whether Jack-Jack is listening): "We're not sure."
Lady (oblivious): "We're concurrent planning with this one. It's not definite - his mum's a drug addict and his dad's in prison and they're contesting it, but we've been told there's no way his mum is ever having him back. We've got a new one arriving any day now too."

We are always very careful what we talk about in front of Jack-Jack with regard to his parents, contact, his future etc. but even aside from that, we wouldn't have had the above conversation with one of our friends, let alone someone we don't know. Not even our close family know anything about Jack-Jack's history. The lady's little one was listening intently and there were lots of other people on the platform milling around. We've been asked whether we're going to adopt Jack-Jack and what's going to happen to him plenty of times, but to have been asked this by another foster carer, a complete stranger, who then volunteered information that should be confidential about her own foster child made us feel really uncomfortable for quite a while afterwards.

Saturday, 6 April 2013


Jack-Jack really loves being outside in nature. Nothing calms him down quite like a walk along the canal, or through the park, and he quite often drops off to sleep out in the fresh air as long as we're on the move. We're at Center Parcs this weekend, and it's been lovely going on long walks together with Jack-Jack in the carrier, pointing out the various birds and other wildlife, and watching him gazing up into the trees. He's mesmerised by water too and can spend ages staring at anything where the water is fast flowing, like a canal lock, weir or waterfall.

The sun came out today, so we thought that this afternoon would be a perfect opportunity to let Jack-Jack experience nature close-up - we plopped him on the grass behind our villa, stopped worrying about what he might put in his mouth and just let him crawl around as he pleased. He soon learned that pine cones, pine needles, twigs and stones aren't that tasty, and focussed on chasing after some passing ducks. When he got bored with that, he sat down and thoughtfully pulled up clump after clump of grass, feeling it between his fingers, tasting the obligatory handful or two, and letting it blow away on the wind. The sun was getting lower in the sky, there was a sparkle on the water of the nearby brook and it was magical to watch Jack-Jack taking it all in.

Esmeralda and I spent this evening working on our CWDC workbook. It's something that every foster carer has to complete within the first 12 months, and aims to provide evidence of competency and understanding of the skills, standards, legislation, knowledge etc. involved in fostering. It's interesting, but is quite a long piece of work, especially alongside caring for a baby 24/7 and doing the daily recordings! We have a support worker helping us to complete it, and she came round on Thursday to see how we were getting on and check that we're on the right track. She answered all our questions and is coming back in 3 weeks, so we thought we'd use the down time this weekend to make some headway. Our social worker would be proud!