Sunday, June 05, 2016


Two independent comments on the last post were from foster carers in the exact same boat; they've been approved and are awaiting their first placement.

I sat early this morning reading their comments at the kitchen table with a cup of tea at my elbow (I'm on unsweetened soya milk these days and I genuinely prefer it to cow's which got too lactose bloaty for me). The family, our weird-shaped family of blood and foster, are all asleep.

It's a Sunday, it's going to be hot, we've promised a barbecue, my big job will be to poach the sausages and chicken legs before they go on the grill to make sure they're cooked through, but almost as important, to do it secretly because otherwise it's soppy cheating and all men and would-be men abhor overt barbecue caution.

Ditto I'll make sure there's a bucket of water next to the grill as well as a discreetly enforced at-least-one-adult-overseeing-the-barbie-at-all-times rule. 

But despite all sorts of stuff running around my brain I keep going back to my days between approval and first placement.

I remember it as being a period of massive anticipation. Looking back I see myself like I was when a child on Christmas Eve. 

But that's the nature of memory isn't it? The old rose tinted glasses of nostalgia. 

Was I really a bundle of optimism and happy excitement? Oh it was in there alright, but I'm trying to remember the truth about what else was going on...

I remember I kept checking the spare room, which we'd done out neutrally - not too girl, not too boy - shouldn't matter these days but it might to them - not too young, not too old. The safety catches were on the windows, the bedside lamp was a simple sturdy one, with an energy bulb which comes on softly and gives a warmer light.

Downstairs the house was a home, and a safe one at that; the glass coffee table we'd given away, the fireguard was ready next to the fireplace. In the garden the tub we call a pond was wired over.

So there was nothing to worry about...

...except I was worrying, really worrying. World class worrying. But what about?

I remembered when our first born was due. We were given a date by the hospital, but it came and went and we got more and more excited/worried. We were excited about the journey that lay ahead, and worried; would the baby be well and healthy?Then there was the mystery of whether it would be a boy or a girl.

I think the feelings in the run-up to your first placement are about the same as the feelings in the run-up to the birth of your own baby. Massive.

In fostering you don't really know who your first child is going to be until they walk through your door. You're allowed to make certain stipulations which may narrow the placement possibilities, and you're given a file on the child before they arrive (9 times out of 10) which helps begin the picture. But just like when you're waiting for your own baby to be born, it's all abstract thinking until it's there in your arms.

And when the baby's in your arms you stop worrying. Because now you know what you've got and from that nano-second on you are too busy, far, far too busy being a parent to enjoy the luxury of fretting any more.

And what was it I worried about? While awaiting my own babies and while awaiting my first placement?

I am pretty sure that I worried about whether I could do the job. Be a parent. Be a foster parent. 

The minute my first foster child was standing on our doormat looking bewildered, frightened and so, so vulnerable, all those selfish worries about myself and my abilities vanished and were replaced with real and very valuable worries for the poor little mite whose future I was now being asked to help fix.

It's a trepidatious time, between approval and first placement, and a magnificently busy time once the child arrives.

If you're awaiting your first placement or in between placements you should concentrate on re-charging the batteries; take walks and deep baths, download a yoga programme, have a lie in of you can. The kids used to call it chillin', I understand it's now called grossing.

I bet you a cup of tea with soya milk that both the contributors who are in that boat find time to post comments right up to their first placement. And we'll know when they've got their first placement because...we'll not hear a peep from them for months.

They'll be busy fostering.


  1. Glad my comment gave you a plan for this blog. Thank you so much for posting it as you are absolutely spot on! I have been checking my also neutral foster bedroom and making sure downstairs feels homely and is safe for whatever age child comes along. I am so eager to start and have gone from naive excitedness to worrying and doubting myself. I brought up my own five children singlehandedly so thought I was more than qualified but the waiting is painful and gives me time to doubt and I want to be busy making a difference. You are right though! You won't hear from me once that phone call comes!! Hope it happens soon

  2. Sounds like you have credentials coming out of your ears.
    Right now it might be an idea to enjoy a re-charge of the batteries; a nice long walk, a deep bath, a lie-in (if you can), because those things will be a bit harder to come by in the future.

  3. I remember the wait well, we had a mini break to occupy us, I kept the room spotless, read lots and I leapt on every phone call.

    I still remember the butterflies while we waited to hear if we’d been choose when we said yes to referrals. We had a few where we not chosen, the children going to carers who were a better cultural match or more preferable location.

    It took almost 6 months for the first long term placement to come along, and we’d started to get a bit desperate by that time – however we still turned down a placement that felt wrong and seemed too challenging for our first proper placement. It was a good call as the carer who took the placement was with us at a training event a few months later, it hadn’t worked out and in group she shared a terribly sad (and rather scary) tale of the anger and violence the children considered to be normal and had brought to her home.

    I suppose I’m saying that its good to be patient and to trust your gut instinct. The right placements will come along eventually.

    Good luck folks! We all eagerly await your updates.

  4. Thanks for the support and tales of awaiting placements.

    I'm currently working out my notice at work and trying, when I get home on a night, to redecorate two bedrooms.

    Since we've had approval for a large age range. I decided to do 1 room for an older child (or course netural, different shades of creams browns bieges etc) and the other as a riot of primary colours. Is really hard to decide, as you obviously try to think what would be ok for a multiple ages and either gender. Hopefully I've made good choices, no doubt I'll find out once completed and I'll either love or hate.

    Hopefully, as we are starting with holiday cover (keep being told it's not called respite anymore, but nobody seems to say what it is now called). We won't wait too long for a placement and they have asked if I can do weekend respite while working my notice.

  5. Your comment about terminology made me smile. One of the enjoyable quirks of working with caring organisations is that they try their hardest to find the best words for everything, although Blue Sky keep resisting my suggestions they call training 'refreshers', supervision 'catch-ups' and support meetings 'gossip morning'.

  6. We too are waiting for our first placement. We were approved coming up for two months ago and sent back all paperwork etc, but as yet we haven't heard from anyone. I emailed our assessing social worker who gave me the email of our supervising social worker. Emailed her and heard nothing back!. Just a tad frustrating but know it won't last forever! Just relaxing in the meantime!

  7. I would enjoy the space for now, if you can. Fostering is all-consuming, but so is the unknown. You have my sympathy, you also have my respect. Welcome to fostering, stay in touch, let us know how it goes.

  8. Our first placement was with us within a week. He was adopted after being here for 16 months. We're taking a couple of weeks break but still eager to continue. We had such a wonderful experience first time round!

  9. Fantastic! So pleased for you and the child. And the children to follow.
    You're both an inspiration.

  10. We go to panel 7th January and then will begin the waiting game!

    Your blog is giving me a lot of food for thought! Thanks for taking the time to write it!!