Fostering with a history of mental health problems

(65 Posts)
AlexanderS Mon 22-Oct-12 17:45:28

As I understand it, before you can be approved as a foster carer social services approach your GP for a summary of your medical history and any ongoing medical issues and they can turn you down on the basis of that.

But I'm wondering how this can be allowed now we have the Equality Act, which states that somebody can't be discriminated against on the basis of either physical or mental health problems. I thought it was great when that was brought in. I have a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder and when I applied for my first job as a teaching assistant in the days before the Act, after my prospective employers had asked for a medical report from my GP that of course showed I had OCD, I was hauled up before a suspicious occupational health nurse where I had to make the case for why doing stuff like taking my socks off and putting them back on ten times in a row didn't make me a danger to the kids hmm.

It couldn't have been more different when I applied for my current job just after the Act came into force. Again I had to have an occupational health interview but it was all about how my employer could make reasonable adjustments to help me do my best in the role. There was, rightly, no question of me not getting the job because of the OCD.

So how are social services able to discriminate in this way? Or have I got this wrong? I'm sure I read on here that they will not approve you as a foster carer if you are currently undergoing treatment for mental health problems e.g. if you're on anti-depressants. But where does that leave people like me? I have wrestled with OCD (and the associated depression) for 20 years and maybe always will, but believe I am a good mother to my DS and would be a good foster carer, and that, in fact, the sense of purpose that fostering would give me would be beneficial in terms of my mental health issues. I feel I have have a lot to offer society. I've been on and off anti-depressants, and have had some dark times, but I've never been sectioned. I work (both in paid employment and as a volunteer), I study and I look after my son (and have never had any social services input into my family).

However, I suspect that in addition to my other problems I meet the criteria for Asperger's syndrome, and have been considering going to get myself tested - the one thing that is putting me off is that I have always wanted to foster and I don't want yet another thing on my medical record that could count against me.

It is very difficult. I once read that people with moderate mental health issues occupy a sort of twilight world, functioning but struggling - it's so true!

AlexanderS Mon 22-Oct-12 19:15:11

Bump!

AlexanderS Mon 22-Oct-12 20:17:28

Anybody? NanaNina?

GoSakuramachi Mon 22-Oct-12 20:21:53

Fostering isn't just a job though, is it? I don't think it would be called discrimination in this instance, you can be turned down for fostering for a great number of reasons, and I would expect ongoing mental health problems would be one of them.

helpyourself Mon 22-Oct-12 20:27:14

It's a 24 hour job with no respite.
I'm a recovering alcoholic and although the only paper trail of my alcoholism is from the GP with related anxiety I wouldn't expect to qualify as a foster carer. I know

helpyourself Mon 22-Oct-12 20:29:27

Sorry-
I know I'm as safe as anyone else, as do friends, family and neighbours, but why should a 'bureaucrat' put their reputation on the line to vouch for me?

AlexanderS Mon 22-Oct-12 20:32:17

The thing is caring for a toddler is also a 24 hour job with no respite and I'm doing that (except when I'm at work doing my paid job). Did you miss a bit off the end of your post help?

AlexanderS Mon 22-Oct-12 20:33:04

X-post.

GoSakuramachi Mon 22-Oct-12 20:34:52

Fostering is much harder than parenting though. There is a lot more to it.

AlexanderS Mon 22-Oct-12 20:40:49

I'm not sure about that. By the way, I would want to work with babies and toddlers, because I feel I know where I'm at with those - I wouldn't want, and don't think I'd be any good at, looking after older children and teenagers.

AlexanderS Mon 22-Oct-12 20:43:32

Not at this stage in my life, anyway.

DowagersHump Mon 22-Oct-12 20:45:58

There are some jobs where I think they can make reasonable adjustments to MH issues. I don't think fostering is one of them.

And I don't think you can consider yourself unfairly discriminated against.

Children who go into foster care are usually fairly damaged, need consistency and stability. I'm sure you're absolutely fine most of the time. But it would be wrong of any fostering agency to take the risk because you'd not be the one taking the risk - the kids would be.

AlexanderS Mon 22-Oct-12 20:55:21

I wouldn't want or expect any adjustments.

GoSakuramachi Mon 22-Oct-12 21:00:35

I don't think you have a realistic view of fostering, to be honest.

bonnieslilsister Mon 22-Oct-12 21:14:22

There's only one way to find out op because everyone is different. I think it would be good if you could ask for a visit from someone in sw to come and talk to you about fostering and you could mention the things you have said.

I find it hard to believe there are no foster carers on ad's but I have no idea. I would have thought if you are on ad's and settled on them you would be able to go through the assessment but I really don't know what ss's policies are. Invite them round for a chat.

The other thing to mention is looking after babies and toddlers who have been abused and neglected is a totally different experience to caring for your own children. You might think because they are only 18 months say that they will be similar to your own at that age and like you say "you would know where you are with them" but that couldn't be further from the truth with many of these children.

They might not be able to tolerate being held by you or they might be used to no boundaries (very common) and be wild! Even at that age!

I can think of a few children I have had stay with us, none of them stayed that long btw (by chance not by design grin ) and even though they were under 2 they were incredibly hard work if I am honest. Lovely children though and of course some are much easier although that is not always a good sign for their emotional health and well being.

Good luck anyway smile

AlexanderS Mon 22-Oct-12 21:57:11

Thank you bonnie. I will think about doing that.

Are you foster carers or social workers, Go and Dowagers? Because lay people speculating about whether or not I would be approved isn't very helpful. Dowagers, I find it quite offensive that you think I could pose a risk to the children.

I just want to be useful, but it seems that because I have mental health problems some people think I should just crawl away and spend the rest of my life under some rock somewhere.

MrsDeVere Mon 22-Oct-12 22:05:12

Having a history of MH issues does not preclude you from adoption. I was not aware that it did from fostering.

Its not about posing a risk to the children.
It is about whether you would be able to cope with the considerable stress of fostering.

Fostering is nothing like having your own child.

I know its hard to hear but fostering is not about what you want, it has to be about the child.

You need to be able to provide stability and consistency.
If you can do that you should be considered for assessment.

But if your condition is exacerbated by stress I do not think fostering is such a good idea. That isn't discrimination. Its being realistic.

Have you approached any agencies?

AlexanderS Mon 22-Oct-12 22:14:51

Of course it has to be about the child, I wouldn't go ahead if I wasn't absolutely sure I could take good care of the child.

So far all I've done is gotten an enquiry pack from the local authority.

Fosterangel Mon 22-Oct-12 22:31:33

From your post AlexanderS I could not tell if you had approached Social Services about fostering yet or were thinking that you would not be considered because of your OCD and depression.

You really need to speak to someone in fostering face to face and tell them honestly about how you manage your OCD etc. That is the only way you will find out if fostering is for you and you are for fostering. One in four people will have mental health issues so do not let that put you off. Foster carers need to be as diverse as the children they foster. You may have better insight into the children you foster. Many top managers and CEO's (and politicians!) present with Aspergian traits!

If you progress to the training it can take up to a year and is extremely thorough. It teaches you a lot about yourself (what you can tolerate, what your triggers are) and you still have the opportunity at the end to decide if fostering is for you as you can walk away right up to panel. No one will judge you.

From memory, our medical was done just before panel so it was quite late into the process. It was just a chat with our GP confirming we were reasonably fit and ok to foster.

We also had our worries as we were over 50yrs old when we applied to foster. We were afraid we would be too old and out of touch. Everyone has their doubts as it is a big thing to take on a traumatised child, with some pretty bizarre coping strategies, and care for them as if they were your own. You just have to give it a go or you will never know.

MrsDeVere Mon 22-Oct-12 23:01:12

It wasn't meant to be patronising.
Its a phrase people use but its quite hard to really get it until you have to deal with it.

Until you have been through the training you cannot be absolutely sure you could take good care of the child. None of us can.

People drop out of fostering prep courses all the time once reality hits them.

Its not a judgement. Its not a failure. Its is because most people really do not have a real idea of what fostering involves.

With regards to MH issues they will want to know how you will cope with stress and what strategies you use.

I could be wrong, its been a while, but I would be surprised if they just said 'no' from the off because you have had MH issues.

They will want to explore them in some depth. Many children in the system are coming into care due to their parent's MH issues. It is not pleasant to have your medical history laid bare but it is a necessary evil.

DowagersHump Tue 23-Oct-12 13:57:42

Sorry I phrased that really badly - I meant a risk in terms of you not being able to cope and therefore the placement breaking down, not a risk as in you damaging the children.

parsnipcake Tue 23-Oct-12 15:34:12

I think you are being unrealistic. Fostering is an extremely stressful role, and tests you to the limits emotionally. Hearing disclosures, saying goodbye to a child, false allegations, retuning to violent parents, being threatened and assaulted are all part of the job. I was in great mental health, but 10 years of fostering has at times taken me to the depths of despair, and I don't think I'm unusual. Fostering babies and toddlers would not mean you avoided this stuff - fostering little ones usually means working with teenage or young volatile patents, which brings its own problems. Your responses on this thread have been fairly defensive - you will have to deal with a lot worse when fostering. it's not discrimination, but realism.

Lilka Tue 23-Oct-12 21:16:40

They won't ususally take one glance at a medical history and say no. Whether you adopt or foster, the decision (if you have medical issues of any sort) should be made after discussions with you and with other medical professionals if necessary. Certain complex health issues and past health issues might need more than a few discussion and might need more investigation

At the end of the day, social services become fully responsible for a childs health and wellbeing etc when they are in care, and so all aspects of the foster carers life, including their medical issues, have to be evaluated carefully and a decisions about their suitability made based upon the possible children you would foster. They certainly should not be ignoring the health issues of potential carers

Perfection is not necessary, and mental health issues are not a blanket barrier (which is why I don't think equality and the equality act comes into this, it isn't about excluding an entire group of people based on disability, this is about possibly excluding inidividuals because their specific circumstances make them unsuitable). People foster and adopt with past and current MH issues ranging from quite severe depression to one-off sections under the mental health act, and on the physical side, people in wheelchairs to people with cystic fibrosis can foster/adopt if they are currently well enough to do so and can expect to remain well enough for the forseeable future. That's an individual thing. Some people might be affected by OCD to the extent that they shouldn't foster, and many others will not be affected to that extent. But that's the judgement call of social services, given that they are responsible for the children, and they are responsible if they approve someone who later causes harm to the children in their care.

Fostering is certainly very stressful and not like caring for your own children, but that's what the training is for, to open everyone's eyes and make people think very carefully about whether it's for them or not

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 11:17:04

The only reason I've been defensive on this thread, parsnip, is that there is a fine line between realism and prejudice. This is shown by the kind of language people have been using on here - there is no chance that I would "cause harm to the children" Lilka, it would, if anything, be a case of getting too stressed, feeling unable to cope and the placement breaking down, as Dowagers said - I appreciated that clarification, Dowagers. I'm not and never have been a danger to either anybody else or myself.

MrsDeVere Wed 24-Oct-12 11:27:16

These children are already harmed.
Being a danger doesnt mean being cruel to them.
It means behaving in a way that may cause further emotional harm.

You know how your condition affects you so you have to be perfectly honest with yourself.
But first you have to find out much more about the realities of fostering children in the care system.

How will you know if you can do it otherwise?

People are not turned away for having MH issues. They are turned away if the refuse to acknowledge the MH issues could have an impact.
That would be true of any condition.

The assessment is tough on everyone.

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 11:33:41

The reason why I questioned GoSakuramachi's comment that fostering is much harder than parenting is that parenting is a pretty tough job! I'm sure fostering has its own unique challenges but they both, at the end of the day, involve looking after a child even when you and/or they are tired, hungry, fraught, sad etc., that is to say, hard work.

Like I said, I've only gotten as far as requesting an information pack and doing a bit of reading online. I can't be blamed for not knowing things I will only know if I get further along in the process!

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 11:42:01

X-post. I don't think my mental health problems aren't an issue, I just don't think I should be written off because of them.

GoSakuramachi Wed 24-Oct-12 11:57:18

But it is by its nature far harder. You are doing all the regular parenting, but for a child who is not your own, with extra problems. Add to that the vast amount of liasing you need to do with other people and agencies, which all brings their own problems.
It is harder than parenting.

Fosterangel Wed 24-Oct-12 12:04:28

That is a good point MDV. I agree it can be the carer's parenting style rather than mental health that could cause more harm to emotionally harmed lo's. Your mental health issues may have no bearing on how you cope with what fostered children can throw at you when they are hurting. You just need a really tough skin and a soft heart (and that is just to deal with the SW's!!).

Could you speak to some experienced foster carers? Your LA may allow you to come along to one of their foster carers coffee mornings for a short period (usually run monthly by the LA so foster carers can get together). It is worth asking.

Lilka Wed 24-Oct-12 13:39:00

"X-post. I don't think my mental health problems aren't an issue, I just don't think I should be written off because of them"

I did say in my post that you wouldn't be written off for them, but that they will be looked at carefully, as are all health issues. They shouldn't be disregarded

"The only reason I've been defensive on this thread, parsnip, is that there is a fine line between realism and prejudice. This is shown by the kind of language people have been using on here - there is no chance that I would "cause harm to the children" Lilka, it would, if anything, be a case of getting too stressed, feeling unable to cope and the placement breaking down"

I'm not prejudiced, goodness knows I've suffered from mental health problems myself. I also wasn't saying that you personally would cause harm, I was saying that in general social services are responsible for harm caused to children in FC, and that is why assessments and discussions of disability are very important. In fact, what I meant by harm was not abuse, but like you said, extreme stress causing placement breakdown and further problems with the childs emotional/mental health.

I didn't have any current or past MH problems when I adopted the first time, but a couple of years later I was on anti-depressants and displaying plenty of symptoms of secondary trauma eg. nightmares and flashbacks and insomnia. It was pretty awful. If i had been displaying those kinds of problems before adopting, I wouldn't have placed my DD1 with me, so I wouldn't expect a SW to place them with me either. You have to be in a good enough place when you start, and although no one can predict what will happen after, you have to think carefully about it yourself and be honest with yourself about - how you have reacted to very stressful situations in the past, and - if it was like that again, what effect would that have on a child in your care? Would it make them unhappy and stressed? etc

I'm not trying to put you off fostering at all, plenty of FC's and AP's have MH issues, I am just trying to be realistic

gallivantsaregood Wed 24-Oct-12 16:01:47

I think you do need to speak to someone from an agency/LA and get a feel for what their policies are.

TBH I think that potentially ( and I do mean potentially) your thinking you have Aspergers would be more of a concern to me than the OCD ( depending on what form your OCD takes, if I was your worker. The very nature of Aspergers means that you possibly struggle with facial/emonitonal cues and for traumatised little people it is vital that the person caring for them can tune-in to them.

Re the task of foster caring being more difficult than parenting : That is absolutely spot on. There may be things you do with your own children which you could not do with a foster child of any age. You are essentially living in a goldfish bowl with lots of professionals, birth family etc watching your every move and often on th epart of the birth family waiting for a perfect opportunity to complain.

You say you only want to care for babies/toddlers........In the first instance most LAs have lots of carers for babies and so there isn't really a huge need. Secondly though would you plan on moving the children on when they get older? I personally struggle with that idea. As a carer I give a child a home for as long as that child needs it/us whether that be 24 hours or years.

What I would say is, if it is something you really would like to do, then don't write yourself off. Approach the LA/agencies and if there are going to be issues then they will tell you.

Take care

NanaNina Wed 24-Oct-12 16:10:43

Hi AS as you know I am not a "lay person" - I think most posters on here are being very understanding (as far as anyone can be who has not suffered the type of mental illness that you have) of your mh difficulties whilst at the same time being realistic about what exactly is involved in fostering. I too think you are being a tad defensive to be honest. If you post on here, you can't expect professionals to be responding, so saying the views of lay people is of no use is unrealistic and a bit unkind, and you have displayed defensiveness in the posts of others who have not meant to be disparaging of you in any way.

OK the process is that if you apply to foster, you have a medical with your GP and he/she has a form to complete about your physical and mental health. This form gets forwarded to the Medical Adviser for the LA and he/she makes a decision on the basis of the GP's form of someone suitability (or not) to be approved to foster. I confess to not knowing about the "Equality Act" and will google it, as I really can't believe that people cannot be discrimated against on the grounds of mental health. Some people have psychotic illnesses which mean they are out of touch with reality and could be highly unsuitable to care for children. Indeed a lot of children come into care because of the severe mental health problems of their parents. Others have pyschosis with paranoia which again is a potentially dangerous condition.

One of my concerns is that you seem to find it difficult to accept that fostering in not like looking after your own child, no matter how tiring that can be. Children needing to be fostered will have in the main been abused/neglected and the manifestation of that trauma will be played out in numerous ways with foster carers. Alongside that you will have to cope with birthparents who can be aggressive, make complaints about you etc., and many fcs now are being expected to transport children to contact several times a week with their bps and are not even being paid a mileage allowance!

Then there is your paid employment and voluntary work. If you are considering babies and young children you will need to be at home which will mean giving up your job (and of course you can never be guaranteed placements for 52 weeks of the year) A lot of carers are complaining about lack of placements and of course if there is no placement there is no money.

So to be honest I think there are quite a few issues that you need to think about (and no of course you can't know everything about fostering) at the stage you are at - no one would expect that. You mentioned in your original post that fostering may help you with your condition, but this is about the child and not you, as I'm sure you realise.

I would give the same advice to you as to anyone else. There will probably be a reply slip contained in the info pack and if you send it back, someone in the course of time will visit you. That is the time for you to talk about your mental health issues and anything else that is a concern to you. SO come on AS step down a little from your "high horse" and you will find a great deal of support on here, and posters are not judgemental - honest.

Wishing you well.

MrsDeVere Wed 24-Oct-12 16:36:38

Yes to nana's post.

It does seem as if you are not listening to the fact that fostering children is vastly different from parenting your own children.

TBH most people think this way. Its a common misconception.
But you don't seem to be taking on board what experienced people are telling you.

IME the most stressful part of fostering was not the child's behaviour. It was being the least important cog in the wheel. Not because I am egotistical but because I was doing all the work but had the least say in what happened to the child.

Quite rightly the child's needs came first but the needs of the demanding birth parent plus the busy schedules of the SWs and other professionals involved were also prioritized way above my wishes/wants/needs/schedule.

Add to that the stress of caring for a traumatised new born. One who doesnt know you, you dont know them, they may be withdrawing from drugs, they will almost certainly be very unsettled...

THAT is why it is different from bringing your own, expected, cherished and well cared for baby home from the hospital.

NanaNina Wed 24-Oct-12 16:53:16

I have just looked at the "Equality Act" (though not in great detail) but the characteristics the legislation deals with are:

Age
Disability
Gender Re-Assignment
Marriage and Civil Partnership
Pregnancy and Maternity
Race
Religion or Beliefs
Sex
Sexual orientation.

I am assuming for the purposes of this Act that Disability is meant to cover physical disability, and I think I'm right in saying that a Disability Discrimation Act preceeded this legislation but I might be wrong. However I don't think Disability includes mental health as this is an illness, rather than a Disability (at least in the sense of the legislation)

Do you have anything more detailed AS as would be very interested if you have. Thanks.

MrsDeVere Wed 24-Oct-12 17:13:43

also, are not certain posts/jobs exempt?
For example you can advertise a post for men/women only for specific reasons?

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 17:33:50

Mental health problems/autism are considered a disability. Mental illness is in so many ways the last taboo. Of course somebody who is floridly psychotic can't take care of a child. But surely that they are floridly psychotic would become clear in the course of the interviewing/training process? I'm thinking aloud here. It would soon become clear if somebody was unable to look after themselves, for example, once you went to look round their house.

I already knew that foster parents spend a lot of time taking children to and from contact with birthparents who can be difficult. I also understood that taking of a baby who is withdrawing from, say, heroin is different to taking care of your average newborn baby. I only work one day a week, on a Saturday, when DP would be able to care for the LO. I have thought about this a lot.

The thing is people with Asperger's can adapt and learn to accommodate it. I know somebody who had a statement of special educational needs for their Asperger's at school who is just about to qualify as a solicitor. I think that's what I have done, adapted, largely, and that's why I've never been diagnosed (if indeed I do have it).

Of course, of course, of course the child comes first. But there is nothing wrong in thinking I might benefit from fostering, I seem to have committed some sort of sin by admitting that! It's not like it's my primary reason for wanting to foster.

Am going to go away and do some research into the Equality Act and will get back to you NanaNina.

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 17:45:39

"Under the EqA a person will be considered to have a disability if they:

Have an impairment that is either physical or mental; and
The impairment has substantial adverse and long-term effects on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Impairment: It is not possible to give a complete list of impairments recognised under the EqA but they include developmental impairments such as dyslexia or autism, learning difficulties and mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and bi-polar affective disorder. The EqA does not require someone’s mental health problem to be a clinically recognised mental illness in order for it to count as an impairment.

The first step is to show that someone has an impairment. This is normally quite straightforward. The second step is to show what effect the impairment has on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Substantial adverse effect: A substantial adverse effect is something that is more than minor or trivial. When deciding whether an impairment has a substantial adverse effect on someone’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks the following should be taken into consideration (this is not an exhaustive list):

The time it takes them to complete a task, compared with the time it would take someone without the impairment
The way they would complete task, compared with how someone without the impairment would complete the task
The cumulative effect of the impairment on their ability to carry out everyday tasks.

Under the EqA a person only needs to show that their impairment gives rise to adverse effects, not that those adverse effects impact on any particular capacity, such as a person’s memory or their ability to concentrate.

If someone is receiving treatment or medication for their disability that helps them carry out their daily activities, they may still be a person with a disability protected by the EqA. This will depend on whether their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks would be affected in a significant and adverse way if they stopped taking their medication or having treatment. If this is in doubt at any stage it might help to get a medical opinion on what the consequences of stopping treatment or medication would be on someone’s day-to-day activities.

Long-term: A long-term impairment is one:

Which has lasted at least 12 months; or
Which is likely to last at least 12 months; or
Which is likely to recur.

If someone has as mental health problem that fluctuates over time they may still be regarded as having a long-term impairment. If someone has episodes of mental illness that have a serious adverse affect on their ability to carry out daily activities and those episodes could well occur again, their mental illness are considered long-term for the purposes of the EqA."

Taken from the Mind website. Still researching, will be back!

NanaNina Wed 24-Oct-12 17:48:36

Oh AS please try to stop thinking that you are being "picked on" in some way - it really isn't the case. OF course you haven't "committed some kind of sin for admitting you are interested in fostering" - it's a great shame that you are still feeling defensive, as this will be picked up by a social worker who is visiting you for a preliminary discussion about fostering. I hadn't realised that you only worked one day a week, nor that you had a partner who could take over, so my concern over finance may not be a problem.

If the applicant has mental health issues, learning disabilities or some physical illness that might affect their ability to foster, then it is usual for a medical to be done first, to clarify the position. That is the same as if people have offences, then the CRB check is sent for immediately, although both medicals and CRBs should be done very early on in the process.

Can you start to trust us a little and maybe we can be of more help.

MrsDeVere Wed 24-Oct-12 18:05:45

No one is suggesting you have committed a sin.

You seem bent on proving everyone wrong. Posters are just trying to point out a few facts to you.

The OP is based on you looking at the information pack and jumping to a conclusion.

People are not turned down for having MH issues. They are turned down for being unsuitable.

That unsuitability may be down to current mental health issues or a hundred other things. Lack of physical fitness, an unrealistic view of fostering, extreme but sincerely held views etc.

Everyone who is turned down probably feels discriminated against. Perhaps they are but its for sound reasons.

If you are managing your condition well, have good insight, have contingency plans and plenty of support, you stand as much chance of being approved as anyone.

parsnipcake Wed 24-Oct-12 18:11:51

Honestly, whether it's discriminatory or not, I would not consider fostering if you have depression and OCD as current issues. Not because you aren't trustworthy, but because it will probably destroy you or st least make your problems significantly worse. Wait until you are emotionally strong. I often explain to people that fostering involves an emotional skillset and a lot of laundry. The children will often try to recreate the chaos of their lives within your household - if they see you struggle with dirt ( for instance, I have no idea what your issues are) , they will smear poo. They will reject your food, tell their parents you whipped them ( leading to police interviews), they will injure your pets and everything else that they can think of to make you reject them. It's part of their trauma. It is nothing like normal parenting. I used to consider myself very robust, but ended up with PTSD from dealing with one of my children. You don't gave anything to prove - concentrate on your own wellness and maybe think about it in the future, as your experiences may well bd very useful in time.

Fostering is very rewarding, but there is a reason there is such a shortage of carers, otherwise people would be queuing up to take an extra child!

Wishing you well

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 18:54:58

"*Disability discrimination*

It is unlawful to discriminate against workers because of a physical or mental disability or fail to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a worker with a disability. Under the Equality Act 2010 a person is classified as disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Day-to-day activities include things such as using a telephone, reading a book or using public transport.

The Equality Act 2010 provides disabled people with protection from discrimination in a range of areas, including in employment and occupation.

This means that employers:

•must not directly discriminate against a person because of their actual or perceived disability, or because they associate with a disabled person
•must not treat a disabled person less favourably for a reason related to his or her impairment, unless that treatment can be justified for example an employer may reject someone who has a severe back problem where the job entails heavy lifting.
•must not have procedures, policy or practices which, although applicable to all workers, disproportionately disadvantage those who share a particular disability, unless these can be justified
•must make reasonable adjustments in the recruitment and employment of disabled people. This can include, for example, adjustments to recruitment and selection procedures, to terms and conditions of employment, to working arrangements and physical changes to the premises or equipment
•must not treat an employee unfairly who has made or supported a complaint about discrimination because of disability."

Taken from the ACAS website.

"Applications will be considered from married and unmarried couples, single people, heterosexual, lesbian or gay couples, those who are able bodied and those who are disabled.
All assessments and preparation of foster carers will fit within a framework of equal opportunities and anti discriminatory practice.
The primary consideration in any decision about accepting an application and in any assessment will be the capacity of an applicant to meet the needs of a looked after child in a safe and effective capacity during placement. This is in the context of the needs of looked after children, most of whom will have experienced some degree of loss, trauma, emotional or physical abuse or neglect or disruption in their early lives, which will inevitably have had an impact on their functioning and development. Few situations therefore are straightforward.

All of those interested in fostering will be welcomed without prejudice, responded to promptly, given clear information about recruitment, assessment and approval, and treated fairly, openly and with respect throughout the process.
Information about the relevant policies will be given to all applicants at the information evening. No applicant will automatically be excluded, except in the case of certain criminal convictions which are laid down in legislation. There are no blanket bans."

Taken from Bournemouth Borough Council's Fostering Policy (I don't live in Bournemouth, by the way, this is for illustration purposes).

What I have to demonstrate is that I wouldn't jeopardise the LO's health and safety, and I don't see how they can argue that I would when I look after my own little boy perfectly well.

GoSakuramachi Wed 24-Oct-12 19:00:22

As you've been told several times, foster children have higher needs than your own child, so thats not really the point.

Your quotes on the EA are to do with employment, fostering does not come under that heading. It's not just a job.

MrsDeVere Wed 24-Oct-12 19:08:43

It is NOT the same as looking after your own little boy.

Going by your posts I can not see you getting past the initial interview. I am not being a bitch I am being honest.

How about you stop trying to prove everyone wrong and actually take note of what we are trying to tell you?

My OH is disabled. We were approved to foster. We might not have been. If he was unable to care for the child. Would that have been discrimination?

parsnipcake Wed 24-Oct-12 20:09:05

To foster you also need to be able to reflect on and learn from your experience, work as part of a team, and understand your own limitations. You also need to understand that fostering is not like looking after your own children. Disability aside, I think you are going to struggle to be honest.

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 20:24:21

The recruitment of foster carers is subject to the Equality Act according to the Bournemouth Borough Council website, Go.

NanaNina, you said a while back that I was wrong to not want to talk to lay people, but talking to people who are not in the know is really not helpful if all they are going to do is reproduce the prejudice that exists in wider society. In the absolutely nicest possible way you yourself, a professional who should know better, assumed that the Equality Act couldn't possibly apply to people with mental health problems. Is it any wonder that I'm feeling a tad defensive?!

Parsnip, ok, that is interesting. I have no problem with people saying it might not be advisable to me to foster at the current time. What I have an issue with is people saying I automatically shouldn't be allowed to foster or assuming that because of how I am I won't be able to care for the child.

MrsDeVere, now tell me if I'm wrong but what you seem to be saying is that less than ideal care is fine for 'normal' children but foster children need perfect care. If my care is good enough for my son surely, surely, it is good enough for a foster child. Unless you think my son should be taken into care? I thought the whole point was foster carers are not expected to be superhuman? I'm not saying this to be confrontational, I'm genuinely trying to understand.

I can't help but feel people with mental health problems are expected to sit at home and twiddle their thumbs and feel grateful they've been given the opportunity to do even that.

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 20:25:48

There is a difference between understanding my own limitations and selling myself short Parsnip.

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 20:28:22

P.S. I work in healthcare and reflective practice, working as a part of a team and working within my limitations, is something I do all the time.

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 20:33:04

One final point: what exactly is it you're trying to tell me Parsnip?

MrsDeVere Wed 24-Oct-12 20:37:06

I am sorry but I find your perception of my post a bit odd.

It isn't what I am saying at all.

It is different caring for fostered children. I do not understand your link to different and less than perfect.

You do realise that the people on this thread have either fostered or worked in foster care?
Why on earth do you think we are telling you these things?

I do not think Nana was trying to tell you that the Equalities Act didn't apply to MH issues and she certainly didn't say 'it couldn't possibly' (and AFAIK NN was working when it was the DDA which didn't apply to many conditions that the EA does).
Everyone is telling you that Foster caring is not classed in the same way as a job is. AND as I pointed out there are certain posts that are exempt from the DDA/EA anyway.

So let us be practical. When the SW asks you to explore you MH issues and how they affect you and how you think they may affect your day to day caring for a foster child - what are you going to say?

NanaNina Wed 24-Oct-12 21:19:29

Thank you for the info on the legislation AS - yes I can see that the Discrimination Act does indeed state physical or mental disability, which I didn't realise. However there does seem to be an emphasis on physical disability, but I'm sure you could argue that the law also states that mental disability is included.

However this isn't about the law really. Most LAs have their own policies and procedures and should be working to the Fostering Regulations 2000 (think thay was the date) The thing is no one has the right to foster, no one has the right for their application to be taken up. I'm sure you realise all LAs are severely under-resourced and preparation and assessment of prospective carers is very costly. If therefore applicants are considering say babies and under 2's (and I'm not saying this because that is the age range you are considering) the LA may well have sufficient carers who are approved for that age range, and so it is not cost effective to take on new applicants. The usual need is for older children, sibling groups and children with disabilities (and this means physical disabilities) as children are not normally diagnosed as having mental health difficulties.

If the LA do still need carers for babies and younger children, they may well take up your application and you would be invited to a preparation group, usuallu about 8 sessions, where a lot of information is given about all aspects of fostering.

I would point out that this is a 2 way process and applicants need to use this time to see if fostering is something that they actually do want to take on, after hearing a great deal of information. If so then a comprehensive assessment will be undertaken (though there may be a delay as social workers are somewhat thin on the ground in most LAs) Reference will be taken up and as already said medicals and CRB checks taken up. Also a Health & Safety check will be done on your home. At the end of all this the assessing sw will make a recommendation as to your suitability (or otherwise) to foster. If there are problems along the way (as there often are) then the sw must talk over with the applicants the areas of difficulties in the hope that matters can be resolved. Sometimes in such cases, applicants withdraw, or the sw has to be straight and say they cannot give a positive recommendation (has to be something quite serious for this to happen).

All assessments for fostering have to be presented to the LA multi disciplinary Fostering Panel, chaired by an independent person. The vast majority of cases have a positive recommendation. However IF the assessing sw cannot give a positive recommendation (and they must provide full details of the reasons) applicants still have the right for their assesment to go before the panel. All applicants are encouraged to attend the panel; indeed most LAs make this a requirement.

Lets say it is a normal positive recommendation and the panel agree, they still cannot give official approval until the papers have been scrutinised by the Agency Decision Maker (senior manager) and then the formal letter of approval is sent out. IF there is not a positive recommendation, then the panel can agree or not. Either way, they must follow the agencie's procedures and send the papers to the Agency Decision Maker, and he or she makes the decision about approval or not. If the assessing sw, the fostering panel, and the agency decision maker do not believe that they can give approval, the agency decision maker will usually visit the applicants to explain why they could not be approved.

I have carried out hundreds of assessments for fostering and adoption and I can honestly say only 1 applicant for adoption, for whom I gave a positive recommendation, was turned down by the Fostering Panel, but the Agency Decision Maker overturned this on the grounds that the Panel had given insubstantial reasons for turning the applicant down. She was subsequently approved. I have had cases where early on (or part way through) the assessment, difficulties have arisen and discussed honestly with the applicants. This hasn't happened very often but in cases where it did the applicants withdrew their application.

SO in essence I am saying that no one has the right for their aplication to be taken up, nor the right to be approved as foster carers.

I hope AS that instead of finding out more and more information on the law that you contact the LA and declare your continuing interest after reading the information pack, and take it from there.

Coo sorry that was so long..........

NanaNina Wed 24-Oct-12 21:49:02

Oh dear SA if you think all social workers will know the content of all legislation that is not specifically related to social work i.e. Children Act 1989, you are going to be very disappointed!!

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 22:26:16

Fostering is exempt from the EA, MrsDeVere, as I've already said (sorry, I forgot - because I have mental health problems I must be stupid too).

Nana said, and I quote, "I am assuming for the purposes of this Act that Disability is meant to cover physical disability, and I think I'm right in saying that a Disability Discrimation Act preceeded this legislation but I might be wrong. However I don't think Disability includes mental health as this is an illness, rather than a Disability".

What you (and GoSakuramachi ) seem to be saying is that I would need to be a better parent to a foster child than I am to my own son. Indeed, Go said "Fostering is harder than parenting".

Nana, I've not at any point said that I have a right to have my application taken up (I understand that my LA might not need foster carers for babies and toddlers at the current time) or that I have a right to be approved as a foster carer. What I am saying is that should my application be taken up I have as much right as any other candidate to be considered. Of course the law matters! The policies and procedures of LAs can't contravene the law.

As for what I'd say to a social worker MrsDeVere, at the minute I'm leaning towards not going ahead with the application. It is very hard for me to be confident generally. This thread isn't helping. A number of people, including you, evidently think I have nothing to offer.

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 22:29:51

The Equality Act is central to social work - I thought social work was based, amongst other things, on the principle of equality?

bonnieslilsister Wed 24-Oct-12 22:40:26

From what I can see Alex, you are jumping to the wrong conclusion. Maybe re read the thread. I think everyone has been supportive and realistic and have written good posts.

NanaNina Wed 24-Oct-12 22:42:02

I am wondering if there is anything to be gained either for the OP (as she says it isn't helping her) and despite our best efforts we all seem to be making matters worse. For this reason I am bowing out of the thread.

bonnieslilsister Wed 24-Oct-12 22:50:49

Never mind NN everyone loves to read your posts so they will not have been in vain xx

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 22:58:32

Somebody on here actually said something like "I'm not being a bitch, I'm just being honest". People only ever say they're not being a bitch when they're being bitchy.

I don't get it. Did everybody just expect me to say 'Oh, you're right, I've got a mental illness so I must be a rubbish person and I've obviously got no business fostering'?

AlexanderS Wed 24-Oct-12 23:01:17

There is a person with feelings here, you know!

Lilka Wed 24-Oct-12 23:28:27

Look, nobody on this thread has said you are rubbish or shouldn't foster, or that people with MH problems shouldn't foster. Nobody. So i've no idea where this is coming from. We've (especially NN) explained the procedures and why they are necessary, and confirmed that there is no blanket ban on people with disabilities fostering (which is what you asked in the Op wasn't it?). None of the talking about the difficulties of fostering is designed to make you run away, or upset you, because the poeple on this forum are really not like that

GoSakuramachi Wed 24-Oct-12 23:29:15

You don't seem to appreciate the thoughts and feelings of others.

Nobody is being bitchy, and nobody is saying the frankly rather odd statements you keep assigning to others.

MrsDeVere Wed 24-Oct-12 23:33:44

You know what?
Bollocks.

You come bulldozing on here talking nonsense about being banned from fostering and lots of people come on and try and help.
NN has something like 30 years of experience and you tell her she is talking rubbish.

I don't know about your MH but you are incredibly passive aggressive.

WTF with the 'Ooh I have MH issues so I must be stupid'. You sound like a stroppy teenager.

If you don't go ahead with the application it will be down to you and nothing to do with this thread. Again with the passive aggressive bollocks. If you are put off by a thread on a website you are not exactly committed to the process are you?

YOU are not the only person with MH issues on this thread. YOU are not the only one with OCD and not the only one who knows about ASD.

And you are certainly not the only one with feelings either.

'I don't get it. Did everybody just expect me to say 'Oh, you're right, I've got a mental illness so I must be a rubbish person and I've obviously got no business fostering'?

I don't get it. You come on here with a misinformed op and what do you expect everyone to say? 'yeah the bastards they are not letting you foster because you've got a mental illness, you are perfect to do it. We don't know you and you obviously haven't got a clue what it entails but you will be brilliant anyway. Why are they even expecting you to be assessed, the prejudiced twats?

parsnipcake Thu 25-Oct-12 07:28:26

Alexander, my daughter has aspergers, and there is no way she harms our foster children - she is very positive in their lives. However, I think she would struggle to foster as she gets very caught up with things she needs to let go of, and she can become very frustrated. Im not sure what it would be like for you, all you can do is apply and find out more. I think this thread is becoming unhelpful and personal, so I will now out but wishing you well x

AlexanderS Thu 25-Oct-12 08:28:59

At no point did I say I was banned confused .

I had already said that fostering is definitely not an exempt occupation from the EA but you still said it might be exempt, hence you must think I'm a bit dim (I think you don't fully know what you're talking about and don't like at all that this thread has made that clear). NanaNina may have 30 years experience and is clearly knowledgeable about the application process, but she also, it turned out, did not fully know about the implications of the EA for fostering.

You're right, you don't know me, but that hasn't stopped you passing judgement on my ability to foster, only negatively instead of positively. Because that is the gist of what you're saying, isn't it, that it would be a bad idea for me to foster and I shouldn't do it? But then when I listen to that and say ok, maybe this isn't for me I'm passive-aggressive?!

And what is all this crap about I don't have a clue about what it entails? What exactly is it that I haven't grasped? That it is a superhuman feat only achieved by exceptional people, that normal parenting isn't enough? That's funny, because the literature the LA sent me talks a lot about how foster carers are just ordinary people, nothing special.

There is nothing helpful about just saying, 'That's a rubbish idea'. Nothing helpful at all.

The people who have been helpful on here are the ones who have told me a bit more about fostering or the training process, or who suggested talking to the LA (which I may do), or said that whilst I could apply it might not be the best thing at the minute for me personally and backed that up with a reasoned argument. The people, frankly, whose responses have not been coloured by prejudice.

MrsDeVere Thu 25-Oct-12 13:55:38

I have not passed judgement on your ability to foster.
You have made that up.

I have said that following your later posts you would be unlikely to get past the initial interview if you expressed your views in that way.

No one has said 'its a rubbish idea'. You are making that up too.

No one has said it is a bad idea for you to foster. You are making it up.

You are calling me prejudiced based on what exactly? Because I have told you that you will not be barred from fostering?
Because I have pointed out that fostering children is different from parenting your birth children?
Because I have said that if you are able to manage your condition you shouldn't be prevented from fostering?
When I suggested you talk to the LA (you know how you said that was helpful?) But when I asked you how you would approach it with them you refused to discuss and said you were not going to do it anyway because of how horrible everyone was being to you.

Yeah - rampant bigotry there hmm

Do you think there may be a reason why people who have initially tried to help you are leaving this thread? I am guessing you don't think its anything to do with you.

FYI I have an anxiety disorders. My son has a dx of HFA/AS. I have been a fostercarer and therefore been through the process. I also work in social care with LAC.
But don't let that stop you from being prejudiced.

Best of luck with your application.

gallivantsaregood Thu 25-Oct-12 16:06:00

I am going to throw in my last tuppenceworth. AS you don't appear to be open to listening to other people's opinions. So perhaps better not to ask.

It was suggested by me and others that you contact the LA/Agency and enquire and see what they say.

I raised the potential difficulty in relation to your (possible) Aspergers in that for many people with Aspergers it is difficult to translate emotion/facial expression and in order to foster you need to be able to tune-in to the children's emotional states. I stand by this and your post have not convinced me otherwise.

Parsnipcakes described her daughter as being a very positive part of her foster children's lives, but acknowledged her tendancy to latch on to things and struggle to move on from them. I think that this is exactly what has happened with you in this thread. This is not a helpful/appropriate attribute in a foster carer ( not foster parent btw).

I will lay my cards on the table and say, that from what I have read and can perceive of you from here, I do not think you are in the right place to become a foster carer. ( I am both a foster carer and a parent of a child with disabilities and probable ASD). I am not getting a caring/nurturing vibe at all from you. Sorry.

By all means contact the LA/Agency, but I would suggest that before you do that you read through the whole of this thread again and try and work out why you have been so offended by people giving you good advice. If this is how you usually respond to situations then try and find some ways of managing things differently. And lastly maybe you would benefit from getting some support in relaton to dealing with the fact that you are living with MH issues as it comes across like you are carrying a huge chip on your shoulder.

I wish you well.

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