So we were down to two young people. Not very long ago we had five. The house appeared very quiet and everyone had a lot more room and the atmosphere was more relaxed. However there was an ‘elephant in the room’ which was the fact that Mum wasn’t bothered about the upheaval she was causing the children and was just wanting to have control over the children. It was difficult to remember that Mum actually wanted the children in care in the first place and that she could quite easily work alongside Social Services in having the children returned. We were aware of the fact that Mum would be planning the return of the next young person, who was 14. The Social Worker and her Manager had pleaded with Mum to have a planned return in order to limit the upset and confusion caused by her actions with the eldest two but Mum seemed to not want that. We had spoken to both girls about what had happened and that we wanted any return home to be planned and properly organised and they agreed. However they both thought it was positive that Mum wanted them back and my guess was that, secretly, they didn’t really care about how they got home, they just wanted to be there. It was hard not to be a little paranoid regarding the girls but we wanted them to carry on with school and having a social life without us looking over their shoulders. Of course, we had also agreed not to have any more placements and it was rather frustrating given that we had the time, and capacity for one more young person. So we had time to ourselves and made the most of it as we knew, eventually, our circumstances would change, as they always do when you are a Foster Carer. That is one of the most difficult parts of being a Foster Carer; your circumstances can change in the blink of an eye both personally and financially. We were lucky that we both had other work to fall back on so the financial impact of a reduction in placements didn’t really affect us as we had alternative incomes. However I am aware of other Foster Carers who weren’t as lucky as we were and have been unable to cope with losing your income at such short notice.

I can recall conversations about providing empty Foster Carers with some of retainer but I could never see that going forward as the money to pay empty carers would have to come from somewhere. This problem affects single carers more than couples as one of a couple can work while the other can focus on Foster Care duties. As a single carer you have to have an income as you still have bills to pay and a house to run. Given the national shortage of carers it seems unusual for Foster Carers to be empty but it does happen. An alternative, for a single carer is to have temporary work on hand so you can step away when a placement does arrive. I have known Foster Carers who go into Social Care work when they are empty and that seems to work well for them. Many Social Care agencies have a need for Personal Assistants for young people who are in further education and this makes use of a Foster Carer’s experience and skills.  We were aware of the fact that our agency, at the time, had lots of single placements that they wanted to take but couldn’t as they were aware of the agreement in place. Frustrating but understandable.

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