Monday, April 30, 2018

April 18 Round Up

Not yet slowed down!
Took part in the A-Z Blog Challenge
Panto meeting
Fosterling's birthday - cinema and all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant
Went to Cliveden to take part in a murder mystery treasure hunt but poor fosterling was ill within minutes of getting there :(
Met Jo at Stabucks for a catch up. When I chat to her I miss working with her at the doctors surgery - then I remember why I chose to leave!
Some foster care training sessions
We attended a memorial football match at Bracknell Town FC
Jeff went for his annual prostrate test ....... just a blood test in case you were crossing your legs ;)
Ella had an appointment at the National Epilepsy Society, I took a half day as we felt we needed to be there. Just as well we did, took 2 hours! But we learnt a lot
Ella has finally been started on iron supplements from the GP - bearing in mind it was apparently first picked up last summer that she was anaemic. More about that in another post.
Been talking to social care to see if we can get mum a stair gate. Since that last fall it's only a matter of time before she does herself serious injury. Interestingly, when I was going through the questionnaire with the department, it reminded me just how capable mum is - still driving, active social life, and makes her own home cooked meals
Robert and Jane were in Bracknell for a couple of days, so lovely to catch up with my little bruv and his family
Have been clearing out the garage - how did we collect so much crap! But on a positive it meant I could finally store shoes out there and my studio is nearly a studio again
Jeff has been decorating like mad, and it shows. I'll just keep adding jobs to the list until he notices it's not getting any shorter :)
Joy and I got together with Anna for a Sunday afternoon - it was work based, but still nice. And I finally baked again! It's been so long.
Had 2 people from the behaviour intensive support team visit
Have seen Ella a more this month than for a long time. We've provided her with a calendar and keeping the visits short but so far so good. We even stayed long enough for a cup of tea. Might sound like not much, but trust me, it's huge. She's still on edge and having behaviour issues, but it's nowhere near the meltdown she had at Christmas
Joe and Kerrie moved into their own home. No more renting - they've joined the mortgaged rest of us. Their house looks lovely, cannot wait to visit!
And numerous foster meetings
Date 'night' with the old man


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Fostering 'Z' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



Z IS FOR:
Here we go, another difficult one. I really need to pick an easier topic! The only thing I can think of is  .....Zzzzzz - foster care can be exhausting. If you're the sort of individual that needs 8 hours sleep a night, and then you have a child that thinks 5am is a lay in, it can be a shock to the system. Our first placement was like that - within 3 days we were down the shops buying blackout blinds :)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Fostering 'Y' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



Y IS FOR:
Being able to say YES and NO - This is in relation to the demands made to you. There is a national shortage of foster carers, so the chances are that you'll get calls late at night or at weekends. Jeff and I have learned to never say yes straight away. My go-to response is 'let me talk to Jeff and I'll get back to you in the next half-hour'. This just gives a little breathing space because you want to say yes to help the child and the department. But it needs to be right for you. So a little time to think, ask for more information, is essential to ensure that it is the right placement - a good fit - it helps no-one to say yes at speed. It is okay to say no.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fostering 'X' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



X IS FOR:
eXtreme Behaviour - Be prepared for anything. Don't think that fostering lurches from one incident to the next, but it could. We have had children that have stayed without incident. We have had children wet their bed for months. Or be brought home regularly by the police. Or try and grow cannabis in their bedroom. My best friend once said to me she doesn't know how we do it. I suppose for us we didn't have an easy parenthood - SEN, adoption, ADHD, cannabis, prison. So for us, we've been there and done that. And we know our limitations, behaviour that we cannot understand / support. It's different for all foster carers, we all have different things that press our buttons. And you might be surprised at how much you can cope with when you're invested in a child.
Xenophobia - Is a fear and distrust of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange, a prejudice / dislike against people from other countries. As a foster carer you can be asked to care for local children with a different ethnic background, or children coming from abroad, such as asylum seekers and refugees. If you have a strong opinion regarding others then you would need to seriously consider your personal values against the requirements of foster carer.
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Fostering 'W' .... A - Z Blog Challenge


As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network




W is for ....
Wages is the best I can do for W. But I don't really think of it as a wage. The majority of what we receive is an allowance. It is based on the age of the child and covers all the expenses involved with children - from clothes to food to utilities to birthdays. And then a small - and I mean small - salary is added on top for you. We have always said we foster because we want to make a difference, no matter how small. If we ever start looking at fostering from a financial point before a caring role, that's when we stop.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Fostering 'V' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



V IS FOR:
Nope - I've got nothing! Best I can think of it's it's a VERY important role :)
Monday, April 23, 2018

Fostering 'U' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network




U IS FOR:

Unannounced Visits - Each year your agency will do an unannounced visit. If you're like us it can take several visits before they find us home - that's not a problem.....refusing to answer the door would be a problem though. It's a quick check of the foster children's rooms, they don't look in any rooms that the foster children do not access, i.e. other bedrooms. They're not looking to see if the room is spotless or that the ironing is up to date, it's more of a 'does he still have a room and what state is it in'. Of course, they do also make allowances for the fact that teenage bedrooms aren't renowned for being the cleanest and tidiest :)

Fostering 'T' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



T IS FOR:
Types of Fostering - Covered throughout the A-Z.
Training - when you are first registered as foster carers you will be expected to complete the Children's Workforce Development Council Induction Standards within the first year. Also, throughout the time you remain a foster carer you should maintain Continuous Professional Development. This can be gained through training your agency puts on, whether classroom based or online. Reading, watching a relevant programme, discussion can also be used if you write a reflective account on how long the training took and what you learned.
Saturday, April 21, 2018

Fostering 'S' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



S IS FOR:
Safe Care - This has to become second nature. It can include agreements on locking the bathroom door, always knocking on a bedroom door, and not walking around the house naked! We also insist that if the foster children are playing upstairs that bedroom doors are left open. Each child is unique so you have to may have to have specific extra safe care arrangements.
Skills to Foster - This is the initial course that helps explain the realities of being a foster carer.
Special Guardianship Order - This is a court agreement if family are involved in the care of relations.
Savings - If a child becomes a longer placement it is good to show the child how to save and set up a savings account. This sometimes can be difficult if you have no access to a child's birth certificate as proof of who the account is being set up for - another reason to get that passport application going as soon as possible.
Smoking - Simply no smoking in the house.
Social Worker - Each child/sibling group will have a social worker to ensure their needs are being met.
Supervising Social Worker -You will also have your own Social Worker to help you through the ups and downs of fostering.
Supervised Access - Contact is encouraged as much as possible and you usually have to take the child to an agreed meeting place, where there will be an escort - this is not your job!
Staying Put - In the past as soon as a child reached 18 they had to leave their foster carers. However there is now the Staying Put opportunity if it is in the best interests of the child.
Friday, April 20, 2018

Fostering 'R' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



R IS FOR:
Respite - As a foster carer you can offer to do respite for children. Not all carers are able to offer full time care, but there are alternatives which are also needed. Respite is an example of this type of carer. For foster carers sometimes they need to be somewhere and cannot take the children - usually a pre-booked holiday organised before the child came to visit.
Review - Reviews are a regular occurrence, they can include meetings with your SSW, a LAC review, PEP. When children are newly placed they can be quite frequent.
Record keeping - As mentioned before record everything! It could make the difference in a court case, an allegation, or just sometimes to read back and see just how far the child has come.
Religion - If a child follows a religion then as foster carers you are expected to help the child practice his religion, whether it's attending mass, dietary, etc.
Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fostering 'Q' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



Q IS FOR:

Qualifications - To be a foster carer you do not need any specific qualifications, but, in our borough at least, if you do have a childcare qualification, then you get a weekly skills allowance.
Quotes - I know, best i can do for Q!


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fostering 'P' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



P IS FOR:
Panel approval - Once you have completed your Form F then you go before a panel where a decision is made. It's not as scary as it sounds! For a start, the social worker that has completed the Form F will not put you forward to panel unless she feels that you will get approval. That said, sometimes the panel will have a few questions to clarify something. But they make every effort to put you at ease - I should know I was on a panel for about 18 months :)
Parental Responsibilities - In some instances parents still have some shared responsibilities with social services to make decisions relating to the child
Passport - It is encouraged to start the passport application process as soon as a child is in care. It makes it easier if there's a school trip, or for holidays, even identification.
PEP - This is a Personal Education Plan. When a child is in the care system their education can understandably suffer. Regular meetings are held with the school and the Virtual Learning Team to help the child stay on track.
Photographs - Photographing the children can be done - I mean, how else do you record the time the child spends with you, and keeping those memories are extremely important. However, as a foster carer you are not allowed to share that child's image. So, if you notice, whenever I include a photo of a foster child on here or IG it's always their back - or a smiley face covering there head - or it's been pixelated. I do think it's important that foster care is publicised, even though other foster carers may disagree and try and get me into trouble for doing so! Because so much is not known about foster care, the comment is always "Oh I couldn't do that I would get too attached!" (to which I usually reply "and you think I don't??") But there's emergency, there's respite, if it's not possible to commit to long term there's always other types of foster care that's needed.
Placement Plan - When a child moves into your home there has to be a placement meeting, usually at the social services offices, where decisions made are organised. For example, how will contact look? Time, duration, place. Ensuring you have the delegated authority form signed.
Private Agencies vs Local Authority - After you've decided you would like to be foster carers, this is the first decision you have to make. Do I want to register with a Private Agency or the Local Authority. We thought long and hard about this. What we learnt in our research was quite simple. If we choose the LA the children are not usually so complex as all needs go out 'in house' first. But the allowances were less. Rumour had it support was also not as robust. Privately the children could be more demanding, but as a private organisation the allowances were more. For us this wasn't a difficult choice. It's not about the money. It's never been about the money. Jeff says the day we put the income before the child is the day we stop fostering. He's bang on with that. I don't think the LA system is perfect, we've had some amazing support and equally some areas fall well short. And I do have an issue with some people getting more money than others. The fact that a private agency costs the LA twice as much and therefore is a much bigger drain on the department is an issue. I imagine that will sometimes impact on decisions. Yeah, I know it shouldn't but still..... And if a child is placed with a private agency why should they receive so much more of an allowance? We'd both be meeting the child's needs in an almost identical way. Can you tell it bothers me? I suppose the answer would be to try private for a while and see if the grass really is greener on the other side!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Fostering 'O' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



O IS FOR:
Overnight Stays - It is important that children in care experience normal childhood experiences and staying over at friends certainly comes into that group. Initially as a foster carer you would need to check with social services, you need to be sure that social services have no reason to deny the overnight stay. In the first few months of a new placement it is wise to continue this practice. After that, the child's social worker may agree to you making the decisions without involving them. Of course, as with any child you would then do your own checks, where are they staying, talk to the parents, etc.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Fostering 'N' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge




As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



N IS FOR:
Names - as in the children's names, see Changing a Child's Name
The Fostering Network - As they explain themselves, they are the UK's leading fostering charity. We belong through the local borough and I've often found their website useful. We also receive a quarterly magazine from them, and they penned the #proudtofoster which I think I use more than they do LOL!
Numbers - as in statistics: The picture shows information from the Fostering Network. The number of foster carers needed is scary. And the general feeling is it will get worse, but I cannot find the article I read. It was to do with less women staying at home, children living with their families longer, houses being smaller, and a lot of the fostering population is middle-aged and over so 'natural wastage' will occur. The councils seem to throw a lot of money at advertising without making a huge difference.
Sunday, April 15, 2018

BlogonX Linky List - This is Me!


I’m off in May to the BlogonX conference with my soul sister, Debbie, so I’ve joined in with their linky link to share a little about myself and learn about some of the other attendees J The questions were set …….
1.   Share a recent photo of yourself
a.     I’m usually the one behind the camera, but this selfie was taken only a few weeks ago on a weekend break to Rome with the grumpy old man.
2.   What’s your favourite pizza topping?
a.     Being half Italian I’m pretty fussy, so got to be thin crust with cheese and tomato; and if I’m really pushing the boat out, then tuna and onion
3.   You can have dinner with any three guests dead or alive- who do you choose and why?
a.     No contest, three of my sons. But one lives in Dublin, one in California and the third in Hawaii so I only see them once a year, or twice if I’m lucky.
4.   Up to now what would you consider being your biggest life achievement?
a.     Oh gosh – difficult. Professionally it would have been when I built up two day nurseries from scratch, although being a foster carer has been an amazing experience. Personally it would be being a Mum, I am beyond proud of where all the boys and Ella are now.
5.   If you woke up tomorrow as a character from any Disney film or book who would you be and why?
a.     The hardest question. Left it till last. I think Maleficent, but the new Angelina Jolie version, a badass with a good heart.
6.   What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
a.     If the alarm has woken me up then press the snooze button and go back to sleep. If I wake up naturally then it has to be a cup of tea.
7.   If you won the lottery what would be the very first thing you would buy and why?
a.     Buy my husband a De Tomaso Pantera because it’s his dream car, and unless we win the lottery that’s all it ever will be – a dream!
8.   What is your favourite quote from a movie?
a.     This was hard. But I turned it round and thought, what do I say a lot, so it’s got to be ‘Stupid is as stupid does’ from Forrest Gump.
9.   If you were a superhero what would your super power be?
a.     I would like Paige’s abilities in Charmed – to be able to move objects through space, including myself. I hate flying so I could just blink and be there. Plus of course no hours and hours literally hanging around. Oh – and no luggage allowance!
10. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
a.     When I was at primary school I told my mum I wanted to be an actress or work with children. She told me to be realistic, no-one makes a career of acting. Harsh. But working with children is definitely my calling. And, when it comes to my acting skills, she’s probably right.
11. Which emoji do you use the most?
a.     Smiley face J
12. If you could go back in time and tell yourself anything what would it be?
a.     Don’t stand on that step!
b.     Say yes when Dale asks you out
c.     Look harder for Jeff – turns out we hung around at the same places for years before our lives crossed
13. What do you currently have set as the wallpaper on your phone?
a.     Mountains, mist
14. If you could do anything in the world as a legitimate job what would you do?
a.     Full time foster carer – or crafter – or writer – or anything that works around children or creating
15. Where is your favourite place in the world?
a.     San Gennaro, a tiny village in southern Italy where my dad comes from. Italian food, mountains, peaceful, like stepping into history.
Saturday, April 14, 2018

Fostering 'M' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge



As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



M IS FOR:
Medical - See Health Assessment
Meetings - Be prepared to spend a lot of time in meetings! When you have a new placement there is a lot of meetings, and then reviews. Being available to attend these meetings is really important. Sometimes as foster carers it can feel like you're overlooked, you're not a 'professional'. But you will get to know your child better than the other professionals so you need to develop a strong voice, you are advocating for the child. Keep your radar on, as sometimes meetings can be arranged without you even being invited - if you feel you need to be there speak to your SSW and ask for an invite. And also, be aware that you can get a request at 4:00pm for a 9:00am appointment the next day! Whenever possible Jeff and I will oblige, but be ready to say "No, sorry, I cannot do that, I have plans".
Memorabilia Box - Along with the scrapbook I make we also keep little things that will trigger good memories. These can be varied and include anything from drawings, certificates, theatre tickets, birthday cards. In this one we included a Christmas tree decoration we chose especially as we had a squirrel visit the garden every day, a teddy, which was one of a pair, one we gave to the fosterling and the other to Ella, and a nodding Mr Bean. He loved our nodding flowers in the garden, and loved Mr Bean. So when we saw this how could we not add it to his box? We also include a letter for the child.
Missing from Care - If a child goes missing then the police should be phoned immediately as with any missing child. You will be given a Crime Reference Number and as soon as you have this you need to telephone social services and advise them of the situation.
Mother and Baby Care - This is another type of foster placement where you have both the baby and mother/father stay with you while the mum develops the skills needed to care for her baby.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Fostering 'L' ..... A - Z Blog Challenge



As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network



L IS FOR:
LAC Reviews - Looked after Children have regular statutory reviews. These can take a number of formats, sometimes birth parents will be present, sometimes the children may attend all or part. But the foster carer is always expected to be there. The IRO co-ordinates the meeting and ensures that the Care Plan is still fit for purpose, the child's needs are being met and if anything needs amending/adding going forward.
LADO - The LADO is the Local Area Designated Officer for Safeguarding. If an allegation is made against a person working with children (not just foster carers) then a report is sent to the LADO and he/she decides on any further course of action, if any.
Letter Box Contact - This is an arrangement that is usually made when a child moves on to adoption. Communication between the birth family and adoptive family can be overseen by a department that the letters go through. We used to use the system when Ella was little. They check both sides haven't actually given anything away about the child's new address, school etc. and the letters/photos go to a department who then forward it.
Life Story Work - While a child is in foster care social services work on a life story for them. This allows a child in later years to understand why they were looked after by social services. It also talks about their birth family so if they are adopted they have some knowledge of their early history. I enjoy the hobby of scrapbooking, so I like to make an album. Depending on the age of the child I may do a small book if it was respite for a week or two. For teens I tend to create a Photobox type album, drop the photos in and print it out as a complete album. But recently, for our first little one that went to adoption I made her a 'proper' scrapbook and you can see a few of the pages here. When we adopted Ella we had very little history so it's good to be able to provide more information.
Log Sheets - As mentioned before record keeping is essential for many reasons and one of the main ones are log sheets. As we do short term I tend to fill these in on a daily basis. Sometimes they can be really short if a child has been with you a while and settled, e.g. Breakfast, school, in on time, homework. But for children that are still settling in or anything out of the ordinary then they can be a lot, lot longer. Luckily I like to write so tend not to miss anything. Remember these records can be invaluable as they may be used in court, to look through as see the progress the child has made (when you're in the middle and living it, you don't always see the wood for the trees), or occasionally, they may be taken by social services to check if any allegation has been made about you.
Long Term Fostering - Sometimes the courts decide that a child needs to be kept in the foster care system for longer than the initial process (which alone takes a minimum of 26 weeks). This is called a long term placement and some foster carers are registered to care long term. Jeff and I never asked for that to be considered on our registration. With Ella we never knew how she would be and if we had to stop fostering we felt that would have been incredibly cruel to tell a child that they're going to stay with us for years and then six months later have to tell them they need to start again. I'm not saying breakdowns don't happen, but that's different, that's unplanned, unexpected, that's life getting in the way. But we knew that our circumstances could change so long term for us wasn't an option.
Thursday, April 12, 2018

Fostering 'K' .... A - Z Blog Challenge



As Jeff and I have been foster carers for 3 years this month it seemed the right time to have Fostering as a topic for the A-Z. We're still new enough that we're not jaded yet, but have had a pretty bumpy ride, so fairly realistic in what fostering is really about.

Further information at The Fostering Network




K IS FOR:
Kinship Care - Kinship care, also called connected persons, or family and friends care, is where children are looked after by people they already know. There are different kinds of kinship care, formal and informal. Sometimes they can be looked after children but not always. It can be a temporary or permanent arrangement. But it provides children the opportunity to be loved and cared for by people that they already have a connection with. This information was taken from Coram BAAF.