On Thursday I received a call at 4:30pm from Rosie, my social worker, asking if I would consider a baby, likely to come into care the next day. She ran through the basics; a 4 week old male baby whose older siblings were in care or already adopted and the baby had some health issues but she didn’t have the details. As I’m trained in caring for children with disabilities I felt comfortable saying yes at this stage and she emailed through the referral so I could look through the information. She knew I’d want to check with Hubby and she clarified that the case was being heard in court at 9am tomorrow morning.
Knowing I had to make a quick decision, I rang Hubby, discussed it and unsurprisingly he agreed. I confirmed with Rosie that we were on board and she could put us forward to the Local Authority so they could make a decision as to who would be the best carers, should the baby come into care. As we normally take teenagers or children with physical and mental health disabilities we are not geared up for babies but have emergency procedures in place and I pressed the GO button. This means calling the Hotline Support Team; commonly known as my family and friends.
First I called my brother’s wife who has a loft full of various baby equipment and she ran through what she had; cot, Moses basket, blankets and baby clothes. Thank you Sis in Law! Next I called my friend who has two little ones of her own and called in the baby car seat, sterilizer and pram I’d lent her that she was no longer using. After speaking to my friend, I rang my Mum who has a spare room full of my fostering paraphernalia and she said she would sort through the plastic tubs and organise what I needed for a 4 week old. Having two foster children means my spare rooms are occupied by children rather than the usual clutter found in most spare rooms and my ‘put upon’ mum sweetly gives up space for me to store essentials. Having had children of all ages stay with me, I have a useful age appropriate and gender storage system that would put an Executive PA to shame.
In between these calls I was juggling texts from M about her end of term school event and why her friend Claire is allowed to stay out until 10pm but she isn’t. I have a check list that I work from that was given to me years ago by a very experienced foster carer. Babies and children can come to your home at anytime day or night and it’s useful to give a family member, spouse or friend a list so they can run out to a 24 hour supermarket in case you need something in an emergency.
My Hotline Support in place, I then discussed the possible placement with M and J, explaining that we didn’t know if the baby was coming but asked how they felt about it. M barely looked up from her Iphone and asked if she could still go to Amy’s party and J showed a little more interest in so much as he was pleased it was a boy. They asked the baby’s name and I explained I didn’t know and I would be told once the court case had been heard. I told them he was mixed race and had some health difficulties. Neither of them seemed bothered but I knew if we got the little blue bundle J would be queuing for cuddles, coming second to M.
My mum called back saying all was in place and she would bring things over once we got the go ahead from the social worker. My agency requires that babies must sleep in the same room as the carer or carers until they are 18 months old so I moved a few pieces of light furniture and cleaned the space for the cot. All that was left was the waiting and the next day I didn’t stray too far from the phone. The call didn’t come and by lunchtime I knew the blue bundle wasn’t coming to me and stood down the Hotline Team. Rosie called me to say due to circumstances regarding the family; a decision was made to move the baby out of the area.
Although the baby didn’t come to me, I knew that with the support of my family and friends, I would have had everything in place in the matter of hours. When I did my training, I learnt one of the most important aspects of being a foster carer was the support network around you and time and time again, I’ve realised how true it is.
I’ve called my sister in law a couple of times in the middle of the night to run out to a local 24 hour Tesco to buy underwear or clothes for children who came to me wearing pyjamas or the clothes they stood in and my dad recently put up shelves over J’s bed so he could display his miniature car collection. Several family members have agreed to be DBS checked so they can babysit in order for me to have an evening out with hubby and there are many more examples of them rallying around. The most important things they do for us and any Looked After Children in our care is include them in family celebrations, spoiling them on their birthday or at Christmas and generally treating them as part of the family.
Hubby and I might be the foster carers but it takes a team of caring people around us to support our Looked After Children.