How do you deal with the difficult time when a long term placement moves on? It could be adoption, back to family or a number of other reasons that a young person leaves your care. I won’t lie, it’s difficult, and it doesn’t get any easier as time goes on, you just deal with it better. Don’t get me wrong, in the world of fostering and foster care you will also have placements where you are not so disappointed to see them move on. Older placements are, sometimes, so entrenched in learned behaviour that it is very difficult to work with them. Sometimes, if there is family contact, this can make a placement more complex and complicated, especially if the parent or family did not agree with the decision to place the young person in care. A good relationship with family is an essential part of fostering as, if the young person sees a positive relationship between parents and carers, this can lead to a more positive placement. But a poor relationship with parents can mar a placement pretty quickly.
An unhappy and obstructive parent will use several methods to voice their unhappiness including allegations and disrupting contacts. Contacts with parents are normally held in the carer’s home or at a contact centre. They are normally chaired by a contact supervisor. My past experience has always been to leave the contact centre for the duration of the contact to enable a more relaxed environment, obviously this is not possible if the contact is at your home and there is no supervisor other than you. Even in this situation I will try to give the parent and child a bit of space for them to enjoy together. However I have experienced contacts where a parent’s behaviour can lead to issues and problems for the young person. An example is a young person in foster care that had fortnightly contact with a parent, including an overnight stay.
The young person had worn some brand new trainers which we had purchased for them but returned to us with an old battered pair. The parent had decided that they wanted the trainers and said that the young person didn’t deserve them anyway. Despite a lot of pressure from us, the young person’s Social worker and the Supervising Social worker the parent refused to return them and we had to buy the young person another pair.
Allegations are always a difficult subject for foster carers. However they have to be seen for what they are. In my fostering career I have been subjected to two allegations which were both found to be untrue and were simply placement’s parents being disruptive. As a foster carer you are expected to provide, quite rightly, a high level of care to the young person or people with you. It is common for your care to greatly exceed the level of care a parent has provided to the young person in care. You also provide clean clothes, activities and other ‘treats’ for the young person. Parents can become envious of the fact that you can provide so much when they weren’t able to due to financial restrictions of lack of want to do it. In order to make the carer look negative the parent will make an allegation about your level of care or some form of low level abuse. For the foster carer this can be quite stressful as an investigation will always be held, quite rightly, and your practice will be looked into. This is where good record keeping and communication will be your friend.