To become a foster carer, you are assessed over a period of months and have several checks in place such as a DBS check (Data Barring Service) as well as extensive references and to remain a foster carer, you are reviewed annually. Ours is due and I’ve been sent forms to fill in and it’s got me thinking.
A foster service such as a Local Authority (LA) or independent agency (IFA) can instigate a review at any time if they feel they need to safeguard a child in an event of an allegation, a complaint or if the household circumstances change; divorce, new baby, bereavement for example. However, in most cases, the yearly review is a time to consider the past 12 months, learn from experiences and possibly to see where things can be improved.
I’m not nervous about my review as it’s been a good year but in any formal interview, I freeze, my mouth becomes as dry as dust and I lose the ability to speak. Thank goodness Hubby will be there as nothing fazes him. The annual review works both ways; we are assessed and our performance as foster carers is scrutinised and any improvement recommendations are discussed and recorded, such as training in a specific area and we have the opportunity to feedback to our fostering service how we feel they have supported us and what they could do better.
The forms came through last week but I put them aside as the children are off school for the Easter break, however I opened them yesterday and started to complete them. There are many questions about how the previous year has been, what changes have occurred and how you as a foster carer have helped the children in your care to develop. It’s been a big year in our household as one of our children has been involved in a lengthy and very difficult court case, causing them real emotional anxiety and constant worry, affecting school and behaviour. This touched everyone in our house and we had a huge sigh of relief when it finally ended. The social workers and all the adults involved (including us) knew that the result was right for the child and he would now be able to have closure and move forward but for the child, the court’s decision was devastating. During the case and the inevitable delays the child seemed to regress, displaying very obvious distress and what outsiders could perceive as bad behaviour. We had tantrums, meltdowns, screaming sessions that would last for hours, aggression towards children in school, at home and to us and at one point, a total refusal to eat. All this caused our other foster child to become agitated and upset and she was going through her own teenage issues and looming GCSE’s.
Filling in the forms brought all this back and made me realise just how far we’ve come as a family. The tantrums and meltdowns have stopped and the child is now showing age appropriate behaviour and has accepted the court’s decision. We still have a few issues around food but I’ve yet to find a child under 10 that isn’t food faddy at some time. Writing all this down and outlining how we think we’ve helped these children reminded me why I became a foster carer in the first place. We have received a lot of specialised training in the past year and I’ve learnt how important it is to allow professionals to guide us but also to have an open mind and consider different solutions to a problem.
The forms also give me the opportunity to feedback to our fostering service and I took advantage of this. I consider myself to be with an outstanding agency and Ofsted agree. I asked for specific training in areas that I feel would best support me and the children in my care but also other foster carers. In a previous review I requested training in Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders after I had a child in my care with this condition and they provided it within six months, not just for me but offered it to all carers in the agency.
It is normal for the fostering service to send you their report on your annual performance at least two weeks before you sit down to discuss in order for you to have the opportunity to prepare and respond and ours came this week. There were no surprises or shocks and my agency recognise the huge steps the children in our care have made over the past 12 months and the part we have had to play in it.
I know we will face more issues in the future, especially with the youngest in our care as his past is complex and children react to trauma in different ways. However, as I sent off our completed forms, I find myself looking forward to the year ahead and feel able to face any challenge head on, with the support of my agency.