This week on the podcast we’re talking about fostering.
I’m surprised by how little I’ve come across it over the years. I’ve not been particularly aware of foster carers in the community, at the school gates or among friends.
In England there are 65,000 children in care and we no longer have orphanages, so in spite of its prevalence, it seems to be a little known sector. But if it's around us every day, wouldn't it be great for us to know a little more about this aspect of parenting?
Just to be clear, t's not a promotion, fostering is a calling and you'll know if you feel the niggle. But hopefully it will help us all to know what's going on in this aspect of our community.
We’ve been going through the fostering journey ourselves and are due to be approved in September and have our first placement in October. So here’s an idea of the process:
The journey from application through to being approved generally takes about 6-9 months. During that time, we’ve been through many interviews which have covered:
Our parenting style
Our own childhood
Our relationship with each other
Our relationships with our children
and lots of questions about what we would do to:
Raise a child's self esteem (one of my fave topics)
Support a child
Encourage a child
Discipline a child
A number of our friends and family have also been interviewed including our children. So it’s a pretty thorough belt and braces process, as you would hope it would be.
We’ve also had to finish up our fixer upper home and we’ll still need to put a fence in, get some window and door locks changed and pop in some missing bannisters!
We’ve completed a Skills To Fostering course, which was all on Zoom. It was a great course, but disappointing to be on-line because it would have been a good opportunity to get to know some of the other potential foster parents in our cohort.
We’ve worked with the same social worker throughout and she’s been to visit us regularly, firstly by facetime and latterly in person. This has including observing us among our own children. That was a weird visit, but she normalised it as much as possible.
There have been a number of unusual forms to fill in too. A CV of your working life is pretty standard, but we also submitted CVs of our emotional journey through life and of our specific child-raising skills through life.
Why are children fostered?
Children are fostered for a number of different reasons. It is often because the parent(s) are struggling to cope with the child(ren), in which case they either volunteer for their child to be looked after by the local authority or that decision is made for them. If that is the case then it's a process that goes through the court and can take many months. Sometimes the child remains at home during that time and sometimes in a temporary foster placement.
The recent Covid pandemic has meant that many children who are unsafe, abused or neglected are harder to spot when they are not interacting with the community and observed by neighbours and teachers in the normal way.
Sometimes a child can be fostered by a family member, but the process is the same as the one we have been through.
The highest hope is that a child can be returned to their own family and that the family can raise their care to a suitable standard. Every effort will have been made for that to happen before the child is removed, but it is still the aim to reunite them if possible.
If that is not the case, a long term fostering solution is sought. We have a foster 'buddy' to support us and whom we can talk to. She and her husband have seen a sibling group of three right the way from very young through to leaving home and they currently have another sibling group they will see through in the same way.
Not every scenario is successful and for various reasons children may need to move on. It could be the case that the carer has a life context that means they can no longer foster or it could be that the relationship has broken down between the carer and the child. In some scenarios children can go from home to home throughout their childhood.
What's the damage?
There's much trauma that necessarily comes with being fostered. They are supported through CAMS and given an opportunity to work through their difficulties.
Neurologically it has been found that lack of attachment in formative years prevents essential neural pathways from forming. This affects their ability to form relationships and progress academically and in other areas too. However, neural plasticity demonstrates that, with the right environment and support a developing brain can heal.
This week on the podcast I have a great conversation with Steve Cresswell. He's our local fostering guru. He's been a foster carer for a number of years and now supports foster carers in the community. come and listen to our chat and hear some tough and some encouraging things about fostering.
Pop across to the podcast here
and choose 'the life of a fostered child'
Learn more about Fostering here
If you enjoy looking at the brain, relationships, enhancing life and seeing how little changes in family life can reap great rewards, you will probably love my book Parenting For Life. It's available, including postage for the special price of £14.99 here