I’m only here because of my wife!
She suggested we go to a Council Event about fostering.
As a typical middle aged man, I was prone to taking the path of least resistance, and thought ‘why not’.
I’d been on worse nights out.
The event was run in a local Community Centre.
There was tea, coffee and as many Custard Creams as you could eat.
I wouldn’t say the evening began particularly well.
A Social Worker was giving us a lecture about how you become a Foster Carer.
As an enormous extrovert, and invariably one of the loudest in any room, I was quick to put my hand up.
‘What’s a LAC?’, ‘What’s an I.V.? What do you mean by ‘Panel’?
These were just some of the terms that had confused me within the first five minutes.
The Social Worker was surprisingly patient as she explained that we would be caring for Looked After Children (L.A.C.) but would need an Initial Visit (I.V.) before we went through an assessment process and hopefully, eventually, be ‘approved to foster’ by an Independent Panel of people (Panel!).
The next guest speaker was one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met, but did even less to encourage me to foster.
She was a single woman of an indeterminate age, and probably exactly how I imagined a foster carer to be. That is to say, she was nothing like me.
She explained that she was particularly tired today.
She’d spent the early hours of the morning looking for a 14 year old in her care who had done a runner. With the help of the Police, she’d tracked him down, coaxed him back into her car and taken him home.
She’d then had to call upon the Police for a second time because the 16 year old she was fostering had invited her boyfriend over.
As a convicted drug dealer, this boyfriend was banned from her home and had to be ejected.
I was very glad someone was looking after these teenagers, but I was probably more glad that it wasn’t me.
We had a nice life.
I was a teacher, my wife worked for the Council, and our two kids were doing well in Primary School.
We had two Guinea Pigs, a compost bin, and a pebble dashed, extended, semi-detached home.
Did we really want to risk all that by inviting the unknown into our home?
The third speaker of the evening was a ‘Care experienced young adult’ or ‘Ex-LAC’ or, as she introduced herself, Lucy.
I’m guessing she was about 20.
She changed my mind.
She stared at her audience, who were all significantly older than her.
‘If I told you, that you had to come to stay at my house for reasons that I’m not going to fully explain, would you come?’
‘If I said, that you had to leave everything you knew, all your stuff, all your family, all your friends, all the smells, all the noises behind, would you come?’
‘Even if your home was dangerous and chaotic, would you gladly go and live with complete strangers, with their funny ways in their funny home? Would you?’
‘When you’re a kid in care, especially when you’re very young, like Primary age, you don’t understand what’s best for you, you’re just scared. Could you make a scared kid feel safe?’
Sometimes, if we go on holiday it takes me time to adjust to new surroundings.
The first day at a new job can be the hardest day, and we are glad to get through it and get home.
When kids go for sleepovers with their friends or family they sometimes feel homesick or anxious.
I’m an extrovert, but even I like to be on my sofa, in my home with my own TV remote, on my own.
My wife and I spent the next few days considering the pros of cons of fostering.
We decided to apply.
We knew it would take about 6 months to be assessed and approved to foster.
It was possible that the Council’s Social Workers would decide we weren’t suitable to foster.
It was also possible that during this time we’d decide that fostering wasn’t for us and withdraw our application.
In fact, we were approved to foster ‘one child between the ages of 0-18, with a preference for an under 5’.
And that’s when the adventure really began.