We have a vacancy at the moment, and over the last couple of weeks we've received a call from the duty team most days.
The children they're calling us about may still be living at home and their case is going to court soon so a placement is being sought in preparation, they may have been removed as an emergency and a bed is needed for the same night, or they may be in another foster placement which isn't working and they need to be moved. One call we had recently was for an asylum-seeking child who doesn't speak any English. How frightened and confused he must be.
Two children would have been perfect fits for us if we didn't already have Peter, but his autism and multiple therapies make it more complicated, especially if a child has challenging behaviour or a high level of contact. All children in care are high needs in different ways, so meeting everyone's individual needs is even more important than with your own birth children.
Of course we feel for every single child and it's hard to say no, even when the child is clearly the wrong fit for our family. We've said no so many times recently that the irrational guilt has started to build up - Was that a good enough reason? (Yes - anything which avoids a future disruption for the child is a good enough reason.) Could we have just said yes and made it work? (Possibly, but would that be fair to either Peter or the new child?) Are we just making excuses because we're waiting for the 'ideal' child? (No - we couldn't describe the ideal child if we were asked - we're open-minded and consider each referral separately.)
It sometimes feels like the duty team are so called because it's our duty to take every child they call us about - they're certainly persuasive!