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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!

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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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