I am sure that we all remember the feeling of uncertainty that comes when you get a call from your fostering agency to discuss a new placement. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first placement or your 41st there’s still a slight sense of anxiety. How old are the young people? How many? Are there any special dietary requirements? Why are they in care? I normally have a list of questions to ask when approached about a new placement. If you are lucky enough to foster for an agency like Fostering UK then you will have been matched to the placement before you are contacted. I have been a foster carer for local authorities (LAs) as well as independent fostering agencies (IFAs). The difference between fostering for an LA and an IFA is quite marked. In my experience the training and support with an IFA is normally better than with an LA. Obviously you still have to work in conjunction with LA Social Workers but you also have your own Supervising Social Worker (SSW) to assist you and provide support on a day to day basis. Having a good relationship with your SSW makes life so much easier. Fostering is, by large, about making relationships with all the people around you including the young person (people) and the other professionals involved.

So you have completed your assessment, what’s next? Well you go to Panel. You talk to a group of people with fostering skills and experience who would of read your form F report and will make the decision on whether you proceed or not. You will be asked some questions regarding your application and be asked to explain any possible grey areas. The panel is carried out in a friendly, relaxed fashion. Once you get the go ahead then that’s it. You can sit by your telephone and wait for the first call from the agency.

The first placement I had, in the late 90s, was a new born baby and my then wife and I collected the baby from a maternity hospital. With both of us being parents it seemed quite an easy task to provide care for this young lady. The night time feeds were the hardest part but we shared them and it never really took a toll. Our respective families thought the world of her and the most difficult part was taking her back after everyone had cuddle. There was no contact and for 12 months we thought fostering was the easiest job in the world. Then one day our SSW told us that an adoptive couple had been identified and that there would be a six week period of contact with the couple leading up to the end of the placement. Basically we were being put on notice that she would be moving on.

The 6 weeks flew by and before we knew it we were packing up baby’s belongings on a Friday night in preparation for her being collected on Saturday morning. Our SSW turned up and then the adoptive parents turned up (they were lovely by the way) and we had made it plain we didn’t want to exchange pleasantries. They loaded her and her belongings into the car and left. Our SSW asked if we were ok and then she left. The house felt really empty and we were both feeling a little bit low. On Monday we received a call from the LA asking us to take another placement and that was it, you move on, refocus and learn about another young person, their background and their family. New Social Workers to work with a new situation to be involved in. That’s how fostering works.

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