Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Belle turns one

We had Belle's 1st birthday last week, and although she spent the majority of the day at contact with her family, we had time to help her open her presents and take some lovely birthday photos. She of course had no idea what was going on but very much enjoyed the attention and the cake!

So Belle, on the occasion of your 1st birthday, here are the things we love about you:

- Your determination. You already get cross with yourself when your body doesn't move the way you want it to yet, and you definitely don't want our help. You practise and practise, getting stronger each day, and were very pleased with yourself recently when you started to crawl.

- Your independence. You decided when you wanted your feeding tube out, we listened to you, and you've been in control of your feeding ever since. We're amazed by the way the tiny tube-fed baby with an oral aversion has embraced eating every flavour and texture that comes her way!

- Your voice. Belle, you are LOUD! Nobody really likes being shouted at, but for you we'll make an exception because we're so proud of how far you've come. You were silent when you arrived, but you are now more than able to make your needs and feelings known, with great gusto.

It might sound strange but although we'll miss her, we're really looking forward to Belle's adoption. We know she's not destined to stay a part of our family and we're looking forward to introducing her to her parents and telling them all about her. Belle's social worker is particularly fond of her, and we're confident she'll take extra time finding just the right family for her. Our part to play in her life will soon be coming to an end, but we know with the foundation we've helped to give her, she'll go from strength to strength.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Peter's new friend Nana

Esmeralda and I are booked onto a course run by Dogs for the Disabled this year, where we can learn how to train a family pet to become an autism assistance dog for Peter. The dog we already had, Lady, unfortunately is completely unsuitable - we love her very much but she's too easily excited to be the calm presence we need from an assistance dog. We've been looking in various rescues and shelters for the right dog on and off for about a year, and a couple of weeks ago we found her. She's a one year old labrador husky cross, amazing with children, very bright, still very much a big puppy but surprisingly unflappable (which is important because in our house there's certainly a lot of happy flapping!)

I'm going to call her Nana for the blog, (it would be wonderful if she learned how to make the children's beds like her namesake on Peter Pan!) we're sure she'll do well with her training, she's already an integral part of the family.

After a bit of a rocky start, she and Lady became best friends. They whine when they're separated and they play beautifully together.

Peter's reaction to Nana came as a bit of a shock to us. It took him months to even acknowledge Lady when he moved in, it was like she wasn't even there and he hasn't ever spoken to her directly. He hasn't been interested in animals whatsoever - zoos and farm parks are the worst places ever in Peter's opinion, unless they have a good playground! Imagine our surprise when after less than an hour in the house we heard hysterical laughter coming from the bathroom where Peter was eating his pudding in the bath and found Nana with her paws up on the side of the tub being fed spoonfuls of yoghurt by a giggling Peter saying "one for Peter, one for Nana"! (Not something we would normally encourage but it was so lovely we turned a blind eye.) That night, and every night since, she fell asleep at the end of his bed during his bedtime story, much to his delight. The first thing he says every morning is a cheerful "Good morning Nana!" and he's keenly interested in watching Nana's routine and the commands she's learning. We're sure this is the start of a lifelong friendship.

Thursday, 15 January 2015


I'd just like to highlight how powerless and overlooked we feel as foster carers sometimes.

Although we live with them 24 hours a day and know them best, we don't have any parental responsibility for our foster children, this is shared between their parents and their social worker. We have what's known as delegated authority, so can make day to day decisions like when they have a haircut (although not a change of style), what they have for dinner, taking them to the doctor or deciding whether they can go on a school trip. We cannot sign consent forms for medical procedures, complete a passport application, change the child's name, take them out of the country without written permission, cancel a contact session with parents (even if the child is unwell - we have been appalled at the reluctance of duty social workers to cancel the contact of vomiting or infectious children) or authorise a change of school.

Peter's school is completely wrong for him and is not meeting his needs. We've known this since before the Summer and have put the relevant wheels in motion, yet we do not have the authority to remove him, nor to look at other schools to find a suitable alternative. The more we get to know him and understand the sources of his anxieties, the more we think that home education would be a good option for him, yet foster children are not allowed to be home educated.

Unfortunately as foster carers, our opinions are often not seen as having the same weight as either parents or professionals, we seem to be in limbo land in the middle. In a meeting with Jack-Jack's social worker, the health visitor was referring questions about his development to the social worker rather than us although the meeting was taking place in our living room with both of us present! We have experienced Peter's school phoning his social worker behind our backs to check up on us, and also assuming that as carers we wouldn't care about him and his achievements in the same way as parents. When he received an award for gymnastics, all the other parents of children in his group were phoned to attend the award assembly; we were not.

We understand that social workers have a full workload and although our foster children are a priority to us, they are one of many to their social worker, and if they are safe and the placement is not at risk of breaking down there are other children and other issues that must jump to the top of the list.

Peter won't be continuing at his school long term, but a decision that would have been made the same day by parents has already taken over 4 months since we first raised concerns, and may not be concluded before the end of the academic year. These frustrating elements of fostering certainly aren't explained during the assessment process!