Summer is a very busy time in the fostering world. We've had a huge number of calls about placements in comparison to the average we've had since we started fostering. Summer is when most families arrange to go on holiday and foster families are no different - about half of the calls we've had have been for respite whilst the child/ren's foster carers are away. We're encouraged to take the children we foster away with us on family holidays as they're part of the family, but in some cases that's just not possible - perhaps there are issues getting a passport in time, perhaps an older child doesn't want to go, perhaps there are issues with missing contact, or perhaps the holiday was booked long before the child was placed and they can't be added in.
Summer can also be a stressful time for birth families as they are not used to having their children at home 24/7 which can exacerbate issues. We've had several calls to place school-aged children at short notice over the last few weeks.
As this busy period coincides with carers going away, the matching process for placements gets much trickier for the duty team, and we've had quite a few calls for children outside our preferred age range of 0-8 (we're approved for 0-18), or even outside our approval category of 2 unrelated children. I'm sure we'll take teenagers at some point in the future, but at the moment we don't feel ready. We've only been parenting for about 8 months, whereas a birth parent gets 13 years to prepare for those interesting teenage years!
This should all die down a bit towards the end of the summer as everyone returns from their holidays, children on respite return to their regular carers, and everyone prepares for the start of a new school year, but unfortunately it will probably get busier again shortly afterwards. Many of the referrals to social services are made by schools, so the start of the new school year is an opportunity for teachers and school nurses to keep an eye on their pupils again - perhaps a child's presentation has declined since they last saw them in July, perhaps their personality has changed significantly, or perhaps a child confides in a teacher about something worrying that happened over the summer holiday.
We've turned down a couple of open-ended school-aged placements recently as we think it wouldn't be fair on Jack-Jack for his last few weeks with us, being ferried around to activities that would interest older children, and their new school year would start around the time we need to be focussing on the introductions between Jack-Jack and his new family. We are open to taking a toddler or baby placement in the mean time though, so we'll see what happens. Around this time next month, our lives could look completely different and we might be joining the ranks of frazzled parents and carers trying to get everyone organised by 8am for the school run!