Eastern Fostering Services Blog
The Experience of Going Through The Fostering Process - Eastern Fostering Services
Home sweet home
Last week I went on a home visit to a lady who had enquired about fostering through our agency. She’d been on our website, liked what she’d seen and dropped us an email. I’d been the one to call her and answer her questions. I’d been the one to book in a suitable time to visit her at home to talk in more depth. And, along with my colleague, I’d been the one to go to her lovely home. For an hour and a half we chatted and she asked us lots of questions, which we answered honestly. We gave her a realistic picture of what she might expect from fostering. We also asked her lots of questions about her family, their experiences and motivations. We’re not sure if she’ll apply to foster with us but we left her with an application form and lots to think about.
The tables have turned
The following day I had a little visit of my own.
Our home visit was booked in for 1.30pm. My husband, Jim, rocked up at 1.28pm. He is the master of cutting it fine. But wait. Was I nervous? Did this walking aimlessly up and down the hallway qualify as pacing? Yep, I was definitely verging on the anxious. I picked up the list of questions that Ben and Theo, my two sons, had helped me put together the night before.
“What if the child doesn’t like us?” Theo, aged six, had asked with a look of great consternation.
“What if they can’t understand what we’re saying? How are we going to communicate?” asked Ben, aged nine, clearly thinking about the nature of child we’d like to welcome into our family.
You see, we feel we’d like to welcome an unaccompanied asylum seeking child and this comes with a list of very specific questions as well as the more generic ones.
“What if they’re not nice to us?”
“Will we have to change the house?”
“What school will they go to?”
Once the boys had asked their various questions I had one for them: “How might a child feel, coming into a strange, new family?”
“Terrified,” suggested Theo. “Very anxious,” said Ben. “They might be trembly.” “Their heart would feel like a stone.”
It was fast becoming a competition.
Time to see what Jim wanted to know.
In other words, how long will it take to be approved? How does the referral process work? How long before a child is placed with us? What is the matching process? What support is there? In short, all the questions I had breezily answered at the home visit the day before.
The reality hits home
Sitting at our dining room table with our cups of tea, listening as the home visitor, Elle, answered Jim’s questions, I was struck by the oddness of it all. I started to ask a few questions of my own. Let’s be clear, I wasn’t asking questions as some sort of gesture to prove that I didn’t think I knew it all, or as a mere show of solidarity to Jim, who knows relatively little about the technicalities of fostering. The only way I can describe what happened is to say that the answers to all those questions suddenly morphed from something flat and one dimensional, something that trips off the tongue to something concrete and tangible and very much 3D. Suddenly, it was about our boys, our home, our routine, our sanctuary. And I was both disturbed and reassured to feel just how much difference that made.
Of course, we also had some additional questions around how I can foster and continue to work at the agency. I’ve said before that the agency is small, energetic, creative and willing to think outside the box. There should be no reason why I can’t continue to work there. But we have to make sure there is no conflict of interest. Elle is keen to set out ways to make sure that our information is kept private at work. And of course I’ll have to stop being on Panel. Lots to think about and work out. But we know it’s all possible if everyone is willing.
Warts and all
So, if we go ahead, it looks like we’ll have an independent form F assessor to take us through the assessment process. I listened as Elle explained that she’d probably make about eight visits and would interview us separately and together. She explained the background checks that are needed and the work that will go into presenting us as a family to panel using the infamous form F. I could tell Jim was thinking, ‘eight sessions! My life’s really not that interesting.’ I know from experience that that’s what they all say!
But I was thinking something different. It’s funny because I thought I might feel a bit odd about sharing my life, warts and all, to a group of people I’ve worked with for two years. I’ve read many a form F and I know that a good one leaves no stone unturned. But I also know that our panel is made up of people who are human, who are warm, who are real and who want real families to look after these children. So what I was thinking was that there is no other group of people I would trust more with my warts. So to speak.
At EFS, we aim for around three to four months from application to approval at panel. So we could be approved and ready to go by February. Then it will be a question of waiting for the right match. As I said, we’re looking to welcome a very specific child into our family. It is crucial for that child and for our birth children that we give the arrangement the best possible chance for success. Because Ben and Theo are relatively young, we will most likely need to be patient for that child to come along. It could be a long wait. There was a twinkle in Elle’s eye when she placed the application form on the table.
“Well?” I asked Jim when she’d gone. “Let’s go for it,” he said. Yes, let’s.
A Journey into Foster Caring - Eastern Fostering Services
The view of Narnia
This is the first post from Lucy Stevens who, along with her family, is embarking on the process of becoming a foster carer. She will be chronicling the story of her journey via this regular blog.
I’m on a journey into foster caring. This journey of mine is a little different from the norm. For me, it’s a bit like the C.S.Lewis book, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.’ For those who are unfamiliar with the story, the main character, Lucy stumbles upon a whole new world on the other side of a wardrobe she is hiding in. The world she ends up in, Narnia, is full of new, life-changing things to discover. The way is littered with potential pitfalls and dangers. Lucy enters Narnia for the first time on her own before eventually taking her family with her, in the form of her brothers and sister. Together they are shaped by the events of the story and eventually they thrive.
As I write this very first blog, I’m probably in that place that Lucy found herself in near the beginning of the book- I’m in the wardrobe, with one hand parting the row of coats, aware that the air on the other side is different: fresher, bracing, compelling. My fingers have brushed that first fir frond that tells me there is a new world to discover on the other side. You see, I’ve been working at Eastern Fostering Services (EFS), an independent fostering agency, for about two years now. During this time, I have very much been on this side of said wardrobe, but it’s been a wardrobe with a view.
A bit about me
I’m Lucy and I have two boys and a husband. In the days before this rather messy, rather boy-heavy, at times rather smelly but equally rather wonderful existence, I worked for various small businesses, helping them to grow.
Where are you going? Come back. There’s a point and I’m getting to it, I promise.
When we had the boys, my husband and I decided that I would stay at home while he worked in London. I loved every minute of this but as someone who likes to be busy, I knew that I had to use that time wisely. I started to write. Then I did a writing degree. Then I wrote some more. Once both boys went off to school, I started to run creative writing and storytelling classes for the children at their school. Soon I knew that I wanted to do this for children who didn’t necessarily have all the opportunities that these kids did. Around the same time I was asked by someone I knew (who runs EFS) if I would consider being on their Panel. I was made up. After I’d been doing this for a while, I asked if I might run some story making sessions with the agency’s looked after children. EFS is a highly creative, child-centred agency and they were delighted to have another form of direct children’s work. So effectively I had two hats: panel and direct children’s worker. After about a year, my husband decided he really didn’t want to work in London any more (who can blame him?) and opted for a PhD in plant science instead (as you do). This life-changing decision coincided with EFS asking me if I would be willing to put on one more ‘hat’. They employed me to help them recruit foster carers.
Now, EFS is a small agency and as Sister Sledge once declared: we are family. We all muck in and we all share in the ups and downs. Throughout my time at EFS, I’ve built relationships with the children, the carers and the EFS staff. I’ve felt both the elation and the heartache of these three groups. I’ve seen fostering families flourish. I’ve seen children happy and settled. I’ve listened as carers have bared their deepest fears for the children in their care. I’ve laughed with our social workers and cried with them too. I’ve seen frightened children. I’ve seen exhausted carers. I’ve seen how tough it is for everyone concerned. I’ve been furious. I’ve been sad. I’ve whooped for joy. I’ve had my face covered in shaving foam and Cheerios - don’t ask. At times I’ve been unable to think of anything else but the children we exist for. In short, I’ve fallen in love with this bold, new world.
Stepping through the wardrobe
And so I’m heading through the wardrobe into Narnia. The Stevens’ have decided to foster. Lucy made her first foray into Narnia on her own. After two years of gazing, open-mouthed between the coats, this Lucy is going with her family at her side. And you’re invited too. Every step of the way, from application to awaiting the arrival of a child (we’re hoping we get that far!) You’ll see our hopes and aspirations; share in our triumphs and our failures. We might encourage you in your journey or we might put you off, but either way we’d love to have you along for the ride. If you’re up for it?
Fostering Coffee Mornings - Eastern Fostering Services
Come and have a chat to us about fostering. Meet the team, chat to our carers, have a bit of cake! All welcome. Call 01206 299775 for more information.
Watch EFS on ITV's Lorraine Kelly's Show - Eastern Fostering Services
One of our carers, Tracy, talks to Lorraine about fostering teens...