Saturday, May 11, 2013

"40% of Carers suffer from depression..." 

That was the headline on Radio 5 at 5.00am this morning as I sat in the bed in our spare bedroom, typing this post.

The news comes from the Royal College Of GPs. The newsreader has just added:  " some point in their time as Carers. And can lead to problems such as strokes." So they are calling for us to be screened.

I woke up early by the way, because I'm not sleeping well just now, I tend to wake up suddenly. Have done for quite a while now. I'd taken ages to get to sleep, and that's become the norm too. As usual I lay there in the dark letting my mind go for walks around my problems.

I'd had a call from a Social Worker asking me if I wanted to attend a meeting of professionals to discuss whether Contact for one of my foster children should be reduced. I've never had such an invitation before and it's probably come my way because I kept a very precise diary of all the Contacts this child had to endure over a two year period, and documented how the "family" had disrupted the Contacts as much as they could. When I compacted it into a list on a single sheet of A4, it showed they failed to turn up on 30% of occasions, and were late by up to 20 minutes a further 20% of the times. They turned up with other people in tow such as "friends" or banned members of "family", passed contraband to the child, even allegedly did something to me that I can't divulge because it's subject to a police investigation.

After every Contact the child has a massive anger attack, destroying things, running away, self-harming, hurting us. Nobody else sees these attacks but us. You write in your weekly report "Child had a tantrum as a result of Contact" and it feels like you're being dramatic. How can you get across World War Three in a text box on a form?

So there I was at about 1.00am lying there in the dark picturing myself getting the law about Contact changed. I'm standing up in Parliament explaining what a stupid piece of legislation it is, and behind me the Prime Minister, The Education Minister, The Minister For Children and Families are nodding and going "Hear Hear!" MP's of all parties carry me shoulder high out into the sunlight where thousands of foster carers and social workers are cheering and waving banners saying "No To Compulsory Contact!". Now I'm on a loud hailer shouting "Sisters and Brothers, our threat to go on strike has been averted."

At some point I nodded off. And woke up to the news that 40% of us suffer from depression. Now, one of the many useful things I've learned from our training sessions is about depression. There's a tendency to think "depression" means feeling fed up, low, miserable. It can be that, it can also be all sorts of other things.  It can be obsessive behaviour, it can be anger, it can be eating disorders.

It can be sleeping problems. It can be delusions.

On the radio I listened to an interview with an expert on depression among Carers. She said that GP's could identify it by asking us to fill in a questionnaire. Then she was asked how it could be treated. "Well," she replied, "There's no guaranteed effective treatment for depression, there are medicines in extreme cases. The best thing is get Carers to talk about how they feel."

I said to the radio; "The best thing would be if Carers didn't have their care sabotaged by bad Contact."

Here's the thing, if you're a Carer reading this and you're with Blue Sky, and you wonder if you're one of the 40% talk to somebody at Blue Sky. If you aren't with Blue Sky, talk to somebody, anybody, your GP. 

I had a colleague once who played Sunday football and he was always coming in on Mondays limping or with a black eye. He reckoned that if he hadn't been wounded he hadn't played well. 

I often think it's the same with being a Carer.

The Secret Foster Carer

ps I heard on a later news that this report refers mainly to carers of elderly relatives at home. Mind, the 40% figure probably is about right for us...


  1. loving this blog. We (my husband and I) have just been approved as foster carers :) love the honesty. Thx

  2. This sounds like my week I too have been invited to a meeting about contact its called a dispute resolution meeting I did nt even know I was in dispute!!

    1. Secret Foster CarerSunday, May 12, 2013

      Know what you mean, there are lots of official processes I'm still learning about. I find the best thing to do is to work your way through your first and hope the next time you have the same thing you know what's coming. The professionals seem to know the format of these things, and the undermeaning, if you know what I mean.
      Amyway, good luck, hope you get the best outcome, for the child, and for you.

  3. Secret Foster CarerSunday, May 12, 2013

    Congrats, welcome to the fortypercenters club.
    Seriously, if there's anything you wonder about fostering but have been reluctant to ask, at panel etc, please feel free. And we'd love to hear your first experience (try not to allow the child to be recognised, or to recognise themselves).

  4. I'm a foster carer of 5 years, just recovering from secondary trauma. As well as being the single carer of a very traumatised little boy I am having to battle schools. Despite preperation we still don't know what senior school he will be going to in September and things have broken down so badly at the primary school he is on the verge of being excluded. I'm not depressed, but overwhelmed by the amount of things going wrong at the moment.

    1. The Secret Foster CarerSunday, May 12, 2013

      Hi there, thanks for contacting the blog, it sounds like things are mounting up a lot for you, and the child. I wish I could help more, but hopefully the hands on help is there for you, especially your Social Worker. Being a single carer under stress must be very lonely; you can always open up to us on this blog, I do some of the moderating, and would only publish with your agreement. If you want to talk privately, we can do that too. Or else, you may not have thought of this, but your GP will have heard the word coming out of the Roayl College of GPs about carers suffering, and be able to help.
      Whatever you do, I respect your 5 years of service so far in fostering, and wish to pay tribute to what you have done, and are continuing to do.

    2. Hi again

      I don't want to use this blog to complain. I am feeling much better now. I have fantastic support from social workers and my GP, but the schools are failing us miserably. They do not understand these children and there must be thousands who don't fit into the traditional mainstream schools.
      I am in it for the long haul, so doubt you will hear from me again!

  5. The Secret Foster CarerTuesday, May 14, 2013

    Thanks, that's an uplifting reply. I'm delighted you're getting back-up, and I agree with your main point, about schools and foster children. Schools receive extra funds for each looked after child, I worked it out as the equivilant of 100 teacher's hours, are our looked after children getting value for money there?