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The Countryside Carer
Too many tears and not enough knives
As someone who has been a teacher for thirteen years I know, well enough, that if a big safeguarding concern is going to happen, it will happen on a Friday afternoon just before school ends. It sends everyone into a panic, you can’t get hold of the people you want to and the looming parent collecting the child adds to the pressure pot. I thought that, over the years, I had got used to the last-minute phone calls and human chess to try and resolve the problem. That is until I was on the other side of that problem. I was no longer the one making calls to a Social Worker, contacting the M.A.S.H team (and sometimes police), or quickly submitting a referral and then going home to a takeaway and a glass of wine. Suddenly I was on the other side of that coin. I couldn’t ‘go home’ to escape, because they were now in my home.
The first weekend of fostering is one that is impossible to truly explain. It felt like a bomb had gone off in my house and scattered my family, along with our new additions, into tiny corners that I couldn’t reach. I found myself suddenly doubting my relationships with my birth children as well as trying to form ones with my foster children. I won’t lie, it was absolutely nothing like I had expected. And I felt like a failure. Nothing particularly poignant or disastrous happened at all, which is why I never picked up the phone to call our out of hours Social Worker; I mean, what was I going to say ‘I’m sorry but I’m not sure I can do this and to top it off I’ve suddenly realised we don’t have enough cutlery in the house”? In hindsight, knowing what I know now, picking up the phone and saying I’m struggling is EXACTLY what I should have done. And EXACTLY what Nexus would encourage. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
That weekend there were tears, from everyone. Whether they be hidden or conspicuous they were there, in abundance. And although I’m absolutely no expert, I’m going to say that’s OK. The change is overwhelming. The lead up is long and let’s be honest, no-one who isn’t utterly dedicated to supporting children can become a Foster Carer. We are invested, passionate and eager to begin, but fundamentally we are inexperienced and naive.
If I was to pass on any piece of advice to Foster Carers, whether they be brand new or old hats, it would be to pick up the phone. Make that call. Ask for help, because there are people at the end of the phone just as dedicated as you ready to give it. Oh, and if anyone is in need of cutlery, I have now got plenty to spare, just give me a shout.