People have a strange misconception about being a Foster Carer. What you can and cannot do, the money you earn, how you tell Foster children off and what the children are really like from a behaviour point of view. The expectation, from some, is that the young person is in care because of their own behaviour or they have some major mental health issue which means their own children can’t look after them. Now I do understand that, in some cases, the young person’s behaviour can be part of the reason they come into the care system but in the vast majority it’s down to an issue within the family home that the young person has no control over. I was looking back, recently, at the young people we had looked after over the years and not one of them came into care as a direct result of their behaviour. We had a couple where the parent or parents said that they couldn’t cope with behaviour but when you looked into it more deeply it was more a result of the parent or parent’s issues than the young people. Take the two placements with the four siblings, in one case it was due to Mum’s addictions and in the other case it was more the case that the young people’s Mum’s partner couldn’t look after children that weren’t his. So it becomes obvious that the children had no input being put in care. Other placements have been more parent related too. A teenage girl who was too young to be a mother, a University student who was scared that her parents would disown her for being pregnant out of wedlock and other parents who struggled with various addictions for drugs and alcohol. The one that upset me most, I think, was a young Mum who really wanted her children home but had a very abusive partner who couldn’t be trusted around the children. For whatever reason the Mum couldn’t get out of the relationship and therefore the children were placed in care. You could tell, by the children’s behaviour that they had been well brought up and were well behaved and knew right from wrong.
They were a pleasure to care for and it took a lot of hard work and patience for the children to finally return home by means of a family member looking after them until Mum finally left the abusive relationship. They had to live in a hotel room for a short while the partner was evicted from her home but she was just happy to be reunited with the children. It was a real test of our professionalism with that placement. We knew what was happening and what had happened in the past with the partner and to actually sit in the same room as him at meetings was difficult, especially when he started ranting about money and that they weren’t being supported financially by the Local Authority. But that’s the test of being a Foster Carer, the ability to listen rather than talk when dealing with parents. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my wrists slapped on a couple of occasions when dealing with parents. Once was in response to a very abusive email sent by a parent for no real reason at all. Rather than just forwarding it to our Supervising Social Worker I answered it and told a couple of home truths, big error. But we all make mistakes and I am the first to hold my hand up when I do something wrong, especially in the Fostering domain.