Thursday, 30 May 2013


It's overwhelming sometimes when we think about the responsibility we have to preserve Jack-Jack's early memories. I had a panic the other day when I realised that all the photographs we'd ever taken of him were on my phone, so I carefully backed them all up to the computer, and then bought a USB stick online that we can fill with photos and put in his memory box. We tend to take at least one photo every day so after nearly 5 months we have taken quite a few!

If/when he moves on from us, his memory box will go with him, and the bits and pieces inside will be used to create an age appropriate Lifestory book and letters to read as he grows up to help him understand what's happened to him and why. We put in things like tickets, drawings, leaflets and photos from places we've been, major events in his life or things he's seen. Jack-Jack's also includes the outfit he was wearing when he arrived at our house, and a couple of pieces of clothing that his mum has bought for him that he's grown out of.

We do the required daily recordings, but also write a more detailed log of what's happened during the day, including whether he's slept well, any outings we've been on, anything he's attempted for the first time, funny things he's done and any milestones he's reached. We started doing this early on when Jack-Jack first arrived with us, as we wrote everything down to try and get him into a good routine, and just never stopped! Today for example he picked up a beaker of water, tipped it up for the first time and drank (right after we told our friends who were visiting that he couldn't do it yet - he either watched their nearly-2-year-old and copied her, or perhaps just wanted to steal her drink!) I'm sure these detailed notes will also make their way into his file somehow for him to read in the future, whether we include them in his memory box or give them to his social worker.

Memories are so important - I can't count the number of times in my life I've asked my own mother to look through old family photos with me, to tell me about the day I was born, how much I weighed, what my first word was, how old I was when I started walking, what my favourite food was when weaning, or when I cut my first tooth. I can't imagine not having that - if my parents didn't know these things because they weren't there, and they weren't recorded anywhere for me. Of course this isn't always possible - sometimes the facts have genuinely been lost along the way - but Esmeralda and I have the opportunity to document Jack-Jack's life with us, however long that may be, and I would rather fill up 6 memory sticks of photographs and write 30 pages about his "firsts" than risk him not having these precious memories to look back on when he grows up.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Baby Show, CWDC and are we really just "other" to the children we foster?

Esmeralda and I have finally finished our CWDC! This is the workbook/portfolio that all foster carers have to complete in the first year, detailing evidence that we have and are applying the knowledge and skills crucial to foster care. It's the sort of thing that is very exciting when you hear about it during training, but very boring once actually started. It was quite a slog to get through the last third or so, but we wanted to get it finished in advance of our (early) annual review which is happening on Thursday with our social worker Jane.

We went to the Baby Show at the NEC on Saturday. It was just an excuse for a day out really as we didn't need to buy anything (although that said we did come back with a buggy laden down with shopping bags) and it was heavily geared towards expectant or new parents, but Jack-Jack really enjoyed trying out all the toys and we got lots of freebies. Jack-Jack especially liked the Little Tikes stay and play area, but his favourite part of the whole day was the free helium balloon he got from the Vtech stand - it kept him amused all the way home!

We have noticed that although it's quite common to see "parent/carer" on posters, websites and other information, when it comes to filling out forms relating to a child it's a different story. Writing in a free text box is fine, but wherever it's necessary to choose your relationship to a child from a drop down list online, the choices seem to be restricted to: mother, father, grandparent or other relative, friend or other. I've recently taken to emailing companies asking them to add "foster carer" or even just "carer" to the list, to be more inclusive and give carers some visibility, but have yet to receive a positive reply.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Shared responsibility

One of the frustrations we've found of caring for a child who's not our own is how many other people's advice we have to take. It's essentially to cover our backs, as if a social worker or health visitor mentioned something to us, we used our judgement and chose not to follow it up and Jack-Jack then became seriously ill or injured, we could be liable. A good example of this is the fact that we've taken Jack-Jack to the GP five times since he started living with us, and he's been to the out of hours GP twice. Thinking of the reasons, if he was our own child we'd have made perhaps one of these visits at a push. It's almost embarrassing - we know the GP isn't going to do anything for run of the mill things like D&V or chicken pox, and we find ourselves apologising as we go in and saying things like "We know there's nothing you can do, but his social worker wanted us to bring him." When he's had to miss contact due to illness, it's almost like he's an employee needing to get a fit note to cover his absence!

During his 9-12 month check, the health visitor was shocked that we don't take him to any toddler groups, wrote lots of notes in her notepad and suggested that we start going. This isn't really a suggestion. Whilst she was here, we explained our reasoning for not going (the timing of local groups doesn't fit in easily with contact, Jack-Jack is too tired to do anything other than contact on those days, we give him other valuable experiences on days we have together like going to soft play, on the train, to restaurants, swimming etc.) but she didn't agree with us. The notes are sent to his social worker stating what has been suggested to us, so we don't really have a choice. If he was our child, we could listen to the suggestions and advice, and make our own decisions on what was best for both Jack-Jack, and us as a family.

Whilst Jack-Jack is the only child in our family this is sometimes frustrating, but manageable. Once we start adding another foster child or two (and then later on birth/adopted children) into the mix, we can imagine the number of hoops we need to jump through might start to get rather more complicated. Another child adds not only their opinion to take into account, but another social worker, another health visitor, sessional workers, independent reviewing officer, court-appointed guardian etc. and I'm sure you can't always please everyone!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Could you foster?

We realised recently that it's almost one year to the day since we first called our local authority to enquire about fostering. Within two weeks we had had our first home visit, started the Skills to Foster course shortly after that, and our journey as foster carers had begun. If someone had told us back then that we'd be placed with a baby and be 4 months into our first placement by now, I don't think we'd have believed them. Fostering definitely has its frustrations and challenges, but we wouldn't change anything about our life right now, except perhaps to add more children to the family!

Foster Care fortnight is coming up - this year it's Monday 13th - Sunday 26th May. There are various campaigns going on all around the country (Esmeralda has even recorded a piece about our experiences for a local radio station!) to highlight the need for around 9000 more carers nationwide to provide loving homes for children and young people.

Whether or not you have children already, whether you're single or in a couple, if you're considering becoming a foster carer it would be a great opportunity to contact your local authority or other agency and find out some more information. There's no obligation to continue at any stage of the process if you decide that fostering is not for you.

Jack-Jack is doing great - he had his first dentist appointment (he charmed all the reception staff, grinned his toothiest grin at the dentist and then got a Mickey Mouse sticker) and we had the health visitor round to do his 9-12 month check this week. She was really pleased with his progress. He's growing and developing well, and the only slight concern is around his communication so we've been referred to speech and language therapy. It's hard to believe that his 1st birthday is just around the corner - but we're having great fun thinking of suitable presents!