Foster System

(7 Posts)
misseskimo Wed 19-Jun-13 16:20:28

You see all of these adverts splattered around on TV, radio, billboards and bus-stops urging you to consider ?a career? in Foster Care, helping young children in need of a good home, and hear all these stories on the news about how they desperately need Foster Carers as there are just too many young people in the system needing homes etc. And yet if this is the case, why do they make it so difficult to get into Foster Caring in the first place?

One of my friends has been considering Foster Care for a long time now, and after years with a partner who didn?t want children, when they split up in January she decided she would get herself settled again and then start the wheels in motion to look into doing it herself. So she recently contacted her local council about obtaining an application pack, and today was rung by a representative to ?ask some further questions? about her lifestyle to see if she would be suitable to Foster?

After a 15 minute phone call, she came back to me very disheartened and frustrated as she?d been told she wasn?t suitable for Fostering. I asked her, how they could determine this in such a short amount on time, and wondered what on earth she could have said that would make them say no? Well these were the ?Eligibility Questions? which were asked as part of their survey to determine her suitability:

?Are you in a relationship?
oIf yes, how long have you been in said relationship
oIf no, when did your last relationship end and why
?Do you live in your own property, be it owned/rented?
oIf yes:
How long have you lived in your current property
Do you have a spare bedroom
Do you have pets
?Are you currently working?
?Do you smoke?
?Would you be willing to let us (the council) run a CRB check?

Her answers were: Split up with partner in January this year (so 6m ago) due to just growing apart after 4yrs together, live alone in a 2-bed rented accommodation for past two months (long-term lease) with a single cat, work full-time, occasional smoker, yes CRB is fine, however you (local council) yourselves already have one for me (as she is a freelance council-paid swimming teacher at the local leisure centre)?

She was looking at Fostering Primary to Secondary School aged children, so that she could still work during the day whilst they were at school, even if it was p/t in order to be able to support a child and their home, and also currently works from home 2days a week anyway, so would be able to be home to look after a child if needed? The response she got from the council was quite astonishing? That she wouldn?t be eligible for a number of reasons; she works full-time, has recently split up from a long-term partner and also recently moved home? When questioned about how she would be expected to support a child/teenager if she wasn?t working in some capacity, she was given the answer that the council supplies benefits to people who are unemployed and have dependants? She would be eligible for Income Support, Housing Benefit and some other Child-Care related Benefits in addition to the Carers Allowance?

I find this absolutely crazy!! If a person who has no other ties, is financially stable, has a secure job, a comfortable-sized home, is CRB-checked WITH said council themselves, and wants to help children by giving them a home is declined and told to leave their job and claim benefits then it?s a wonder why our country is in so much debt! You always hear these stories on the news etc. about how there are too many people on benefits, and yet the local councils themselves are encouraging people to do so?

My friend was utterly shocked at all of this, particularly as the women from the council didn?t even ask what she herself would class as relevant questions? So she could be a drunk, with no job, no other income, and live in run-down home with no furniture as long as it was a 2-bed, and still be eligible, however to be so secure, she is automatically declined? They never asked her where she worked, what hours, or what she did, how much she got paid (on quite good money, working for a reputable company), where she lived (lovely 2-bed cottage in the country, with a massive garden and plenty of space for a child), she has her own (family-sized) car and drives, doesn?t really drink, and has lots of close friends nearby with similarly aged children? Obviously is a swimming instructor for the council, and has plenty of experience with children from both this work, and previous. She has the flexibility with work to be able to do school runs, and work from home if the child is off-school for any reason, or as a last resort, has family and friends close by who could help in holidays when she couldn?t work from home.

I really can?t understand how this system can work, and what messages this sends to both the children involved and in general to those growing up? That not working, being on benefits and living off others is the way to move forward in life? That surely can?t be right??

I have a few friends and family members who have been Fostering for many years now, and find this such a rewarding thing to do? It?s not about the money you get, it?s about giving children a better chance at a future. And the way this system has been created, I personally don?t believe this is the right way of providing that better future?

Really sorry for the major post, but has anyone else experienced something similar to this? And has anyone successfully managed to get into the system without having to leave their jobs?

Parsnipcake Wed 19-Jun-13 16:29:15

I think the relationship/ new home thing was probably the most important issue - its just too recent to make a big life change like fostering. Usually social support structures change with the ending of a relationship and so it would be about things settling down. As for working, I think it's very difficult to do as a single carer. One person really needs to be at home. There are lots of meetings and children are often not in school for all sorts of reasons. It costs £1000's to train a carer so they want people who are very available. It may be that in a few months they would revisit it.

The process is very indepth so all the things you mention would be covered over time. As for living in benefits, I am not sure about your reasoning. Fostering in itself is being a good role model, you don't have to have an additional job.

Mum2lots Wed 19-Jun-13 17:51:49

I would guess the new home and relationship as the reasons for the no ....... also I have fosterd when working full time but it is really hard I had amazing support from work the day to day commitments for children are huge has your friend thought of supported lodgings 16-21 year olds its a brilliant experience

scarlet5tyger Wed 19-Jun-13 18:07:48

Hi, I agree with the points made by Parsnipcake above - your friend was most likely turned down because of the recent major life changes. It's also worth considering that even though there are plenty of adverts out there saying how desperately short of foster carers the nation is in actual fact I know plenty of fellow foster carers without placements at the moment. A lot of local authorities in my area (my own included) are only recruiting carers for teens at the moment.

I'd advise your friend to wait a while then try again. She might struggle with the working thing though even then. I'm a single carer and fostering itself is a full time job, I won't want to have another job on top! It's not just the meetings and appointments, it's being called into school at a moments notice, or spending weeks at home with a child who's suspended or excluded. Many looked after children have appalling attendance records. I'm not sure even the most flexible employer would stretch as far as fostering can sometimes need.

misseskimo Wed 19-Jun-13 19:09:55

Hi all, thanks for your comments and advice.
Parsnipcake/Scarlet, sorry I truly didn't mean it to come across in any demeaning way to foster carers or parents who don't "go out to work" if that makes sense, most of my existing carer friends/relatives do not do this, and are always joke that being a carer IS their fulltime job.. smile It was more the principle that as a carer you don't seem to get the choice? My friend has been seriously considering leaving fulltime "office" work so that she can do something more children-orientated.. And was thinking along the lines of foster care of older children/teenagers, plus doing more teaching freelance, so she could pick and choose the hours she worked around them and school terms etc. and still have an income coming in to be able to give them everything they need. But she wasn't given the opportunity to discuss this with the representative as they immediately dismissed her for working full-time at the moment...

I'm forwarding her these messages so she has the best advice to go on, I think she feels a bit lost for words at the moment that she just wasn't given the chance, even to show she was willing to accommodate, you know what I mean?

Do you know if there's any set time frame then from a "major life change" that you would have to wait to apply? I think she was expecting that if she applied and got the ball rolling now, it would take a good 7-10 months just to go through all the checks etc., before she was eligible to start caring, and so was hoping that by this time next year she would be in a position to start looking after someone, not in a position to start the process from scratch and have to wait another year again for it all to be done.

Mum2lots, thanks for that idea, I'll pass it along to her, it may be exactly what she's looking for! Do you know of any specific agencies/organisations who run these schemes, or is it just a case of "Google has the answer"?

Mum2lots Wed 19-Jun-13 19:16:37

Where r u I would guess a google but I can give numbers for northwest xxxx

scarlet5tyger Thu 20-Jun-13 19:43:41

Hi misseskimo, don't worry - i didn't find your post demeaning. I hope your friend doesn't give up trying. I've often said that social services make becoming a foster carer as difficult as they can so that they know if you can cope with that you can cope with anything!

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