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Foster carers - what would you advise?

(9 Posts)
chickenmama Sun 14-Sep-08 11:57:00

I'm a foster carer with an independant agency... or at least I'm approved as a foster carer, and have been for 11 months now. In all that time I've not had one placement. I was told, before I went to panel, that the longest I'd be waiting for a match was 6, maybe 8 months max.

I waited for 4 months and then decided to start childminding until I heard more, as I was starting to struggle a bit without income. At 6 months after approval, and after being turned down for several long term placements I'd enquired about, I took on more work and was minding the maximum number of under 5s.

Then in June this year I finally had a call about an emergency placement - two children under 4 - but was unable to take them as I had my mindees. Following this referral, I received a call from my agency and was told that I should make a decision - fostering or childminding. This was easy enough, as fostering is what I really want to do. So I gave notice to the parents of the kids I was minding, and began waiting for the next referral.

I haven't worked now since the end of July, and in those 7 weeks haven't had any referrals. There are two older children I've enquired about (for LTFC), but it's very early stages and I don't yet know if I'm being considered.

In the time since my approval I've also moved to a larger house which is much better for fostering, but also a lot more money. And having had no income for almost 2 months now, I'm getting a bit worried. I've turned down several offers of childminding work but have recently had another call and wonder if maybe I should take it. Only this would have to be a serious committment as the child is a small baby and I wouldn't want to mess them about.

I really don't know what to do, and feel I have to make a decision soon. Can anyone advise? I'm a single parent of a 2 year old and wonder if this is why I haven't had any placements (as agencies tend to have the harder to place children). I've been thinking of maybe speaking to my LA or other agencies, but I don't really fancy going through the approval process again, and even if I do it's likely to take 6 months or more.

So any thoughts on what I should do? Keep on with the current agency in the hopes they'll find me a placement, give up and go back to childminding (at least until dd is older), or start childminding again for a bit and look into being approved by the LA/another agency that might actually have placements for me???

mummyBop Sun 14-Sep-08 15:22:00

Perhaps you need this discussion with your agency?

We were approved as respite/short term foster carers and had enough placements for us, but we were with our LA. We've now stopped as we adopted one of the families we fostered.

I understand the concern about the conflict if both fostering and childminding, but I also undertand your dilemma about needing some income whilst awaiting a placement. Just wondering, is there anything else you could do in the interim which you could bring to a close more quickly? I presume fostering and childminding suit as you can also be with your own daughter?

Alternatively childminding until your daughter is older and then looking again at fostering might be a better option. You would probably need to be reapproved and you will certainly get more placements through your LA, especially as currently you have litle fostering experience, which will make you a riskier choice for harder to place children.

I hope you can make the right decision for you soon

Bop

Janni Sun 14-Sep-08 15:26:33

It sounds to me like your agency has really messed you around and treated you very unreasonably. I am astonished that an approved foster carer would not have children placed with them. I know several LA foster carers and this is most definitely not their experience.

betterhalf Sun 14-Sep-08 15:51:32

I have to say that this can be fairly common in private agency fostering. LA's don't like to make a plan to place a child with agency carer's as obviously it costs a lot more. Generally the only placements that come through are emergency ones. The LA then don't have a choice. The longest we've gone without a placement is 4 months. While we were without a permenent placement we gave respite to other foster carer's. Maybe approach your agency about the chance of doing that, so as to keep things ticking over and provide you with some money until a long term placement comes through.

chickenmama Thu 25-Sep-08 18:17:04

Thank you for the replies. I did what Bop suggested and have now discussed things with my agency. They are very apologetic but can't really say more than that. They're still looking/waiting for a placement for me, and can't give me any timescales.

betterhalf - I have mentioned respite in the past, and my link worker actually mentioned that she had been looking into this recently, but hasn't been successful so far. There always seems to be a problem - 'we had this referral BUT...' She says I'm priority right now (probably partly cos it's going to look quite bad when my review goes to panel) but then I've been told similar things for a year now.

I'd told myself I was going to give them a full year, so I've got a few weeks to go yet... then I'm going to start phoning around other agencies. I have already organised a visit with my local authority, but I'm not confident about them as I've heard some negative things from other carers in my area. And getting reapproved is a tricky one really, as I'd hope my agency would be able to find me a placement in the 6 months it would take for the LA/another agency to complete the process.

So I'm still very unsure right now!!

fostermum05 Mon 06-Oct-08 14:18:53

I'm a lone foster carer too. I've been with an independant fostering agency for a few years now, had a few placements but only adds up to less than 50% of the time . This isn't unusual with private agencies so I'm considering moving to Local Authority now. When starting I had 3 months with no placement, but all other new carers I've spoken to waited less than that. Chickenmama - how did your visit with the Local Authority go?

chickenmama Mon 06-Oct-08 17:41:58

Hi fostermum05

the meeting with LA went well, they're happy to proceed and I have my name down for the next skills to foster group, which is sometime in November. I'm still hoping a placement will come thru with my agency before I have to make a decision on the LA. But if things are still this bad towards the end of the year then I think I'm just going to have to go for it.

How have you found things being a lone carer? Do you have (birth) children? What age children have you fostered?

Lauriefairycake Mon 06-Oct-08 17:45:32

I'm a foster carer and I didn't realise how much more money you got as an agency person. We went through the LA and had a child the day we were approved. I don't earn any money from it at all as she costs all the money they provide - actually i've run out of money this month and had to borrow some of my husband for a new dance outfit for her hmm

ObsidianBlackbirdMcNight Sat 11-Oct-08 14:15:16

This is a big problem. It's more financially viable to foster for agencies and you often get more support/training. However LAs will never choose an agency placement over in house so if you work for a smaller/less established agency that isn't on the LA's preferred provider list you may find placements few and far between. Working for the LA you will be constantly busy. Also - the LA often has to pay upwards of £800 pw to an agency for foster care which is massive drain on limited resources.
My LA pays very similar to agencies as they have such a problem recruiting carers, (small LA, big population, expensive housing so few spare rooms) but some don't, shockingly. Perhaps you could try to negotiate?

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