Monday, May 14, 2018


Waiting for a new foster child I am. Don't know who it will be, obviously.

Waiting for the phone to go off and I hear the words; "Hello it's the Blue Sky Placement Team. Would you be willing to take a child who..."

Probably the most effervescent time in fostering is when you've informed your agency or local authority (depending on who you've partnered) that you have space for a new foster child.

The occasion always takes me back to when I received one of the most bizarre placement offerings in the history of fostering, but I'll tell you about that in a moment.

As far as I know there are only two ways to foster in the UK; either you go with one of the many foster agencies around the country or you get yourself approved by and attached to your local authority.

You work alongside your local authority come what may because it's they who have taken the child into care and have ultimate responsibility for the child while you're fostering them, so you see a lot of your local authority social worker as well as your agency social worker. You don't get lonely in fostering.

What are the differences between fostering via an agency alongside your local authority and fostering entirely via your local authority?

I suspect not a great deal. Fostering is fostering, and the biggest differences by far from one situation to another are those presented by the individual children when they arrive at your home.

I've had two periods in fostering, the first time was way back. I had assumed the organisation I signed up with must have been a private agency because they had premises in a high street shop. You could go in and browse folders of information about children needing homes. However it turned out it was a local authority initiative, they were desperate to recruit new carers and the rules were different then.

After a break from fostering I returned and had to start again. I Googled 'Fostering' and up came Blue Sky's website. I phoned them and had a lovely chat with the woman who picked up the phone and one thing led to another.

Why do I prefer agencies to local authority? I'm not sure I do in any great sense, it's more the way things turned out for me, but I'm very happy where I am. I feel supported on two fronts; Blue Sky look after me and my family, but also care about the children, whereas the local authority prioritise the child as well as caring about us carers. They both understand that the better cared for I am the better the quality of fostering.

I suppose if I search my own mind, what happens when I hear the words 'Local Authority' is I picture a sprawling entity; everything from wheelie bins and potholes to rate collection and dual carriageways.
The fact is that all local authority officers and social workers connected to their child care services are humanity itself. Nevertheless it can take a while on the phone to find out who you need to talk to and then to get them on the line. Fostering agencies are dedicated to one service - fostering. And you get to know everybody quickly.

Back to what I was saying; the most exciting times in fostering are when you're waiting for the phone to ring (or in my case play the theme from Avengers, thanks to eldest foster child for that).

You're excited. You feel like you did when you were eight years old on Christmas Eve.

It's almost the same sense of tremulous anticipation you have when you're eight months pregnant. You can't wait for the arrival so you can get your teeth into one of the biggest things we're put on earth for; to nurture. However  foster children rarely arrive as newer-than-new arm-sized bundles of swaddling. More likely they arrive downcast and frightened, dressed in hand-me-downs, carrying a bag of knick-knacks and a heart full of troubles.

However, try this for size;  I once was asked if I'd take a newborn foster child. 

I was asked in advance of the birth. Not so much a newborn as an unborn. It's not unique, but the story behind this placement certainly was.

What had happened was that a prisoner in a womans jail had got herself pregnant. She'd kept the pregnancy secret from the wardens and was due any time. Apparently her man had made her do it because he was one of those men who believed he had to have a son because a man is only a man if he has a son. The woman had been deluded into thinking that if she had a baby the courts would release her for the baby's sake.

The baby was going to be fostered from birth. I got the phone call and said 'yes', but the baby went elsewhere.

I was left wondering (and still do to this day) how they managed to get the mother pregnant, because she had been inside for nearly two years and there'd been no conjugal visits.

Answers on a postcard please, as they used to say on the radio.

So here I sit. Or stand. Or potter about doing all the things I always do about the house; jobs jobs jobs.

Only, at the moment, whatever I'm doing; preparing meals, clearing up, hoovering etc etc, I do it with a delicious little feeling in the back of my heart; that at any time the phone could go off and it's the magic words;

"Hello, it's the Blue Sky Placement Team, would you be willing to take a child who..."


  1. Hi again, this is anon who asked about lgbt caring a few months back. Just an update. I have my panel date. It's August, yippee. I know there is a chance I may not get approved but I'm quietly confident. Such that I've used all my work holidays to take Christmas into early Jan off so that's I'm free for any emergencies that may arise as I hear it's a busy time for care. I've not had Christmas off in eight years as it's a standard work time at my employer, so it's exciting but also a nervous time.if i get approved August time plan would be to do mostly respite at weekends and school holidays and make myself free for emergency placements over Christmas. Also the city where I lives has a large Polish population so I've asked a friend to help me learn 'Polish for kids' as it's another plus point. Annnnnnd a neighbour donated some toys for the spare room. So many in fact I gave some to the local refugee centre. All coming along nicely. So hopefully Aug time I'll be waiting for a placement. We shall see!

  2. Gendobre Anon!

    (Probably spelled it wrong, but it's the only Polish word I know...

    Goodness, what a lovely update. Thank you.

    I found panel a bit stressful, I kept being told it was nothing to worry about etc and that I'd be fine etc but still, the prospect of sitting in a roomful of people and being asked questions in order to achieve something I dearly seemed like the pressures of exams combined with the pressures of a job interview. Throw in driving test nerves and you've about got how I felt.
    But it went well. I had a deeply Christian man on my panel who was a bit belligerent that I'd put myself down as 'Agnostic', he went "I don't know what Agnostic means!' and afterwards I kicked myself for not replying 'Well then, you're Agnostic about Agnosticism.' That was the only moment.

    Listen, Panel is such a good topic I think I'll do a post on it.

    Meantime, on a personal level; well done thus far. My gut tells me you might make the Foster Parent Hall of Fame.

  3. ps You're well informed about Christmas and fostering. I gather many fragile family truces go up in smoke during the Boxing Day - New Year lull.

  4. Thanks for you kind words, a post on panel would be most helpful. My main concern as I've not had children myself is forgetting something really basic parents would take for granted, like remembering to have spare toothbrushes, flannels, towels etc. Been trying to think of an 'essentials list ' I can go out and buy once I've been approved. Also my LA have carers draw up welcome packs in Word for brand new LACs. Mostly photos of the house, pets, bedroom, bathroom, etc with a short description of you, that they print off to give to kids before they arrive so they're marginally less worried. I'm looking forward to creating that as I think it's a simple but splendid idea. Mine will be house pictures, me, the cats and the box of lego that is ready to be played with.

  5. One of the very best foster parents I've ever come across, a Blue Sky lady, never had children of her own. She turned it into a real strength; she has no baggage and approaches the job more objectively.
    In my experience 99% of parenting is reactive - you react on things as they arise. Planning is fine but you don't really know what you need until the day the doorbell rings. That said it's good to stock up on a few universal essentials. And remember, you might need to provide a toothbrush, you might also need to show how to use one.
    The welcome pack is a fantastic idea, enjoy building it, ours is a boon.
    You've reminded me we need to update ours. The pics of me are definitely 'before' fostering!