Fostering blog – Learning independence and responsibility

17 August 2017

KeysWhen a young person in care turns 16, they have a Pathway Plan laid out for them by the Local Authority. The details are discussed with the foster carer and young person. This will include an outline the Local Authority’s commitment to them in terms of where they live, and essentially what they will pay for. This is the step before Staying Put; the government’s plan to help young people who would like to stay on with their foster carer at 18 rather than move out into semi-independent or independent living. In M’s case, her Pathway Plan outlines that she will continue to stay with us until she is 18, which will be reviewed again once she decides if she is going to university or moving out to semi independence. The Plan also summarises that the Local Authority will pay for a percentage of driving lessons if M continues in Higher Education and is attending college/6th Form with good attendance.

There is a lot of talk in the fostering community about Staying Put and there will be an article about the subject to follow in the future. However, before I write it, I need to get my head around the complexities and I can’t honestly say I fully understand it yet… So watch this space. Even though M is 16, she can’t leave to be independent until she is 18 years old, and she doesn’t want to. She’s changed her mind about college and is going to stay on at 6th Form to do A Levels. I would like to say this decision is based on what is best for her education, but it’s more likely to be because Claire and Amber will be in 6th Form along with several of her class friends. M has changed schools 8 times since she was 9 years old, as a result of being moved between different foster carers. I can appreciate her need for permanence along with staying where she is and, more importantly, with people she knows.

We are well into the summer holidays now, but for those doing GCSE’s in the summer like M, it feels as if they’ve been off a long time. M has spent weeks in her room, playing music, watching YouTube videos and Snapchatting with her friends. She raises an eyebrow if I so much as knock on her door, and her routine has gone out the window. We’ve done a few things together, but really she just wants to sleep until 1am, Snapchat and listen to music. I suggested a part time job months ago, but she looked at me as if I was mad. After weeks of her treating her home like a hotel, sending me texts instead of coming downstairs and talking to me, I decided things were going to change. There was no big argument or war, no slamming doors or lecture from me.

When M asked for lifts to the local shops which are less than a 10 minute walk away I’ve been unavailable, so it’s made her get up and go out and after several days of doing none of her laundry, I suggested she bring it down and I’ll show her how to do it. I’ve shown her many times in the past, but never actually said ‘ok, you’re doing it from now on’, and days went by with still no laundry so I’d ask again every other day. M is a teenage girl who likes to change her outfits, or certainly tops, several times a day, so I knew it wouldn’t be long. She surprised me though and lasted 12 days without bringing her laundry down, and I think I even spotted her wearing the same top all day! When she did bring it down it was with an ‘I’m not talking to you face’, but I spoke to her in the same neutral way as usual when giving her instructions and asking her to go back into the laundry room to put it in the tumble dryer. She then left it in the dryer for 3 days. However, it didn’t appear neatly folded on her bed and eventually she gave up and collected it. Since then, I’ve made it clear she is now fully responsibly for her own laundry and bedding. Faced with my even tone and praise for her efforts she has had no choice but to get on with it, or wear dirty clothes.

We’ve done the same with food and cooking, banking and money, and with the saga of keys. M loses a house key on average every 3 weeks. I’ve replaced them, made spares, and she keeps losing them, or more recently forgets to take it out with her; calling or texting me to come back from wherever I am to let her in. Last week, this happened on our one night out in weeks and I refused to come back, making her wait for an hour before I finished my meal. I was berated with sarcastic texts, which I just ignored. When I got back, the sulk was legendary but again we didn’t respond. She forgot her key again this week, but I was at an appointment with Baby S and didn’t see or respond to her text and she waited outside (in the sunshine) until I returned. Yesterday M was on her way out and suddenly ran back up stairs and came back waving her key at me, saying she didn’t want to sit on the step again.

We have a pathway to independence form to work through, however when I showed it to M last year she wouldn’t engage or couldn’t see the point. Standing outside, bored with no Wi-Fi with (shock and horror) only 10% battery in her phone and wearing the same t shirt 2 days in a row has done so much more towards her taking some responsibility for herself.

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