Monday, August 31, 2015


The thing that got us into fostering was taking in some foreign students one year.

We had a Russian girl, then a Japanese boy, an Italian girl, then two Spanish girls.

Other half had been working at the local college when the cry went out for more homes for the students who came to study English.

We were nervous at first.

Who would we get?

Would they be happy with our house?

We figured they'd come from well-to-do homes if they could afford months of study and accomodation fees.

We also figured that because they came from well off homes they'd have their heads screwed on. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

We had to deal with; an unwanted pregnancy where the girl couldn't tell her extremely Catholic parents so we had to sort things for her, a student with chronic loneliness and another who had the opposite of home-sickness; she couldn't bear the thought of going home once she'd found some peace - of being away from her father.

The cream of the crop was a firebrand girl, most popular student in the college with girls and boys, and no moral compass at all; a tea-leaf, a man eater. Used to drink a bottle of vodka before heading out on a Friday night, got brought home one night by the police. Her dad's money came from what she called a night club in Estonia, but it turned out it was a casino/brothel. 

We enjoyed a full house, the students amused our children round the table, but it was a challenge to our parenting skills.

Then we remembered that when we married and planned our lives together (on the back of an envelope), we'd talked about fostering one day. It couldn't be harder than what we were doing, so I did some digging and Blue Sky's name kept coming up.

I made the phone call, liked the woman I spoke to, and before I knew it we were being visited and chatted to. That's all, just chatted to, once a month. It was cosy and rather enjoyable; they were interested in our lives, our childhoods, our chidren and our wider families, warts and all. They didn't make notes or anything as I remember; they must have written things up afterwards.

The process took about six months. I've often wondered why; they could have done it in a fortnight with a session every other day. I'm going to ask one day (there always seems so many other things to talk about once you're signed up). I'm guessing they need to get to know you over a period of time, and ensure you have stickability.

The part of the process that stays in my mind is the period around what's called "Panel'. It's the final stage of the process of becoming a foster parent. You go before a bunch of people each of whom have various connections to Blue Sky and fostering generally. They ask a few questions, they usually have a good idea of the answers if they'd had a look at your file. It's very friendly, but still calls for a deep breathe.

They've already sent someone round to do a Risk Assessment. Our man asked us to get rid of the glass topped coffee table (didn't like it anyway, took it to the charity shop) and to put a safety net over the garden water feature (chicken wire did it). 

It's a period where you feel like Neil Armstrong strapped into Apollo on the ground waiting for the whole kiboodle to start. How did we feel? I don't know about other half, but I felt like I was eight and it was Christmas Eve. I knew there'd be some surprises under the tree but that what was to come would be warm, memorable, nourishing, exciting, chaotic and slightly life-changing.

If you foster too, I expect you'll remember that feeling of sitting on the tarmac listening to the countdown.

If you are thinking about it, do it.

It's one small step for a man, but a giant leap for some poor kids out there.


  1. We're going to panel at the end of the month. Very nervous / excited! We don't have children of our own and are in our 20s so quite young, hoping it won't count against us at panel!

  2. Well, nobody ever told newlyweds; 'You can't have children because you've never had them before'; the human race would have dried up long ago.
    To be fair, foster children are harder than your own babies in many ways. And easier too in some ways, now I remember all those sleepless nights!
    Your support team must recognise something special in you; I guess panel will ask a question or two about it, but your honest answers will be great.
    Please let me know with a comment on the blog how it goes?
    And, if it's not premature, welcome to the best thing in the world!

    1. Yeah I'll let you know. Our social worker is amazing, she's so well matched to us it's unreal, makes the whole process much easier! I've been reading your blogs for ages and find them so interesting, and great tips to keep in mind for the future. I really can't wait for it all to get going!

    2. Just think...Out there right now is a child, some children, they don't know you yet, but they can't wait for you to get going too.
      You're right about these social workers, some of them take your breathe away with what they do, and it comes from the heart.
      It ain't all roses this fostering, it's hard at times for sure, but worth it; so worth it.

    3. "Out there right now is a child" - that exactly what our assessor said to us :)

    4. We were in the same position Anon. Childfree (by choice) and in our mid-late 30s, so older than you but far younger than anyone else on our courses.

      I dreaded panel as we'd been told I'd be grilled on why I wasn't giving up work (hubby is primary carer) and why I wasn't having my own children and what I'd do if I got pregnant. Actually none of that came up and it went really well, very straight forward.

      We can honestly say that our "lack of experience" hasn't been a hinderance. In some ways its easier, we didn't have any expectations of "normal" child behavior, nor was there an issue of comparison or competition with the birth children. Our foster children have been delighted we are fit enough to play sports with them, and we've had teens that were thrilled we knew their bands and would happily take them to gigs and festivals. All the kids have enjoyed our busy social life, including our friends and family having children of simular ages. Of course there have been calls to friends/family with kids to get advise on issues that birth parents would have learned gradually, and we've done more reading and courses than any birth parents I know. I think there are positives and negatives to having experience of children before fostering, but I wouldn't ever let it hold you back from going down this route. Good for you and good luck for Panel

  3. Last week we had visit of SW from local authorities about placement of three children. We really liked description of children. Meeting went very well. Shortly after we received call from our Supervising SW. She started:
    “Do you want good news first or good news…”
    Local authorities chose us as foster carers! In six weeks time we will be 2+3.
    We do not have children of our own. We are kind of nervous. From two men house we will become five people family in very short time. Wish us luck, please :)

    1. YeeeHaaah! Well done you guys! I'm so happy for you, and even happier for the children and young people you'll be able to help.
      From two to five is a big jump for day one in fostering; your team must have great regard for your skills.
      I wish you luck since you ask, we all need a bit of luck, but I'm a believer you make your own luck; you say you liked the description of the children; that kind of positivism is half the battle.
      Please, please let us know how it goes.
      I feel strangely proud of you Sobek even though we don't know each other!

    2. Good luck! How long have you been approved for if you don't mind me asking?
      Just wondering how long it takes between approval and getting a placement, generally

    3. Thank You Secret Foster Carer and Anonymous.
      We was approved on 19th May 2015. I was told that average wait for first placement is up to 3 months, but nothing is certain in fostering. We had referrals even before panel.
      This is our first placement. Planned as permanent, long term.
      Three boys: 2 early teens and one pre-teen :) WoW!
      LA and our team are thinking that we are good match. To the point that boys are bilingual: languages I can speak.

      If owner of this blog do not mind, this is my blog about our approval process:

    4. Nice blog Sobek, if I may say so. Loved the piece about the girl with hearing difficulties.

    5. Anonymous you asked how long since we were approved?
      We got approval in 1985, the year we married. We thought having our own children might be a problem. But the day we got our letter of approval we found out we were pregnant. Sounds trite but it's a fact.
      We underwent approval all over again after a gap and knew who our first placement would be even before we went to panel; we'd met the boy at a Blue Sky social event, his foster parents needed for him to have a respite weekend and we liked the lad (although he was hard work alright).
      How long between approval and first placement? I think it varies from carer to carer. They look for a good match, you'll have indicated your strengths.
      Look forward to your first phone call asking: "Would you be interested in taking a child who..." - then they give you the gen. It's one of the most exciting moments in your life.

    6. Sobek, thats wondeful news. We've been told that groups of 3+ are harder to place, and especially if they are all male, I'm delighted to hear you've been matched to such a group and are excited about it. I agree that you make your own luck - but I send you wishes for lots of strength and patience as I think you might need those with such a big change in our home. I'll defo check out your blog!

      Anon - we went to panel in early December. We had a couple of respite weekends in April / May the next year and then our first long term placement arrived in June. Part of that was a delay due to a prebooked holiday in the March, and the rest was because of our specific requirments and the need for us to give notice on our jobs. I think its hard to say how long the average wait is as there are all kinds of variables.

    7. Thank You, Mooglet.
      We always wanted group of siblings. We hoped for 2 children; we are approved for up to 3 if children can share bedroom. We had a few referrals for groups of four. We never said "no" for larger groups. Three "tween boys" sound very like we imagined our first placement would be. We are happy, exited and scared to death in the same time :) As you said: "strength and patience"!