Monthly Archives: June 2012

I think my pregnancy hormones are kicking in…

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Can you get pregnancy hormones when you’re foster pregnant?

Because I had to stop myself from crying when the kids from one of the special needs classes at the school I’m working with did a presentation at assembly. I took one look at all those proud parents and I was done in. An that was before they played “I am Australian”…

I’m officially a sap.

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So when will it all really begin?

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Just wanted to give you all a heads up on my timing. When will is all really begin??

Again I’m in a pretty¬†unusual¬†situation I think, because my department is waiting on ME, not the other way around ūüôā I’ve been doing some work as part of my Masters of Social Work that doesn’t finish up until the end of July. So rather than overloading myself and juggling new kid(s) and writing a major report, all while working full time, I’m going to wait until August to begin. Then I should have around one year where I will be home full time and can devote myself fulling to parenting (while hopefully finishing off my Masters). I still have one assessment to complete, but Helpful suggested that I shouldn’t do that until about two weeks before I was ready to go, otherwise I would just spend the next month having to say no to calls. So I will set that up in a about a week and a half and hopefully the last of the paperwork will all be done and come August the phone will start ringing. Four weeks to go!

In the meanwhile I have to write my life story for my file (not quite sure while, they’ve already admitted that they don’t have the time or¬†capacity¬†to do any matching!). Fun…

Training – aka Big Giant Gaps

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So for the last three or four months I have been consuming anything and everything I can get my hands on about parenting kids from trauma. I’m also completing my Masters in Social Work and as part of that gaining a more informed¬†perspective¬†on the impacts of poverty, the outcomes of kids once they enter out of home care, and the reality of everyday life for a lot of children in the town that I live in.

Naturally I was really interested to see what the training would involve for Foster carers in my State. The¬†compulsory training is only 15 hours, and there are no requirements for ongoing training once the initial¬†assessment¬†has been completed. There is an additional training course that you ‘probably’ need to complete if you are a non-Aboriginal person caring for an Aboriginal child. Other than that I believe that depending on where you live there may opportunities for further training that are optional, but the chances of that happening where I live (I’m in quite a remote town) are almost non-existent. Now I’m going to be a carer through my state’s community services department as there are no NGO Agencies that coordinate foster carers where I live. If you foster through an agency the training¬†requirements¬†and ongoing¬†opportunities¬†may very well be different and my State is moving more and more towards contracting through NGO’s. But for now the 15 hour course is what I have in terms of official training and this is likely to be the case for hundreds of foster carers throughout my state.

So what did I think of the training?

Good points:

– The training offered a very¬†realistic view of the children that come into care. It was careful to make sure that there would be no illusions of an instant happy family, with foster children so grateful for their ‘rescue’ that they adored their foster parents and would do anything to make them happy. It discussed some of the behaviours that you might expect and the reasons for their presence. It was realistic about the outcomes for many of the children that come into care. They made it clear that it would be a long and often painful journey.

Bad points:

– While there was no sugar coating and building of unrealistic expectations, there was also basically no focus on turning kids lives around. I very much got the feel of ‘babysitting’ the kids until they leave care. I was really disappointed that it didn’t talk at all about the opportunity that foster parents have to transforms these kids. I know that with the current system this really isn’t happening all that much, particularly with older kids (over eight) (not too sound too negative, because there are brilliant foster parents all around Australia, but it doesn’t seem that they are supported by the system, they are kind of out there on their own) but I really got the feeling that there is no effort to try and turn this around, just a kind of resignation that the life of a child in foster care sucks. It’s like they spend so much time lowering expectations they forgot to have any expectations at all.

In conclusion I think the training is designed to help you survive the experience of having foster children in your home until they are either moved or age out of the system. I really don’t think that it offers very much at all in the way of teaching you how to parent these children and turn their lives around.

I’m still hopeful that there will be people within ‘the system’ who are all about the chance to make a difference. But I really felt confirmed that it’s time for a new breed of foster carers to stand up, people who are willing to parent kids from the hard places and put in the¬†commitment, tears and heartache required to turn their lives around (I know there are many foster parents who have done this, but oh how I would love this to be the norm, not the exception). And I think that as Christians, it’s time to step up and really take care of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Now lets see what song I”m singing once I really begin.

It’s the deep things in life I like to think about…

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I have to say it’s almost impossible to prepare a space for a new child when you don’t know what age they are going to be and what experiences they are likely to have had in life.

For example: My floors in all the rooms in my house (except my bedroom) are wooden floorboard. Which basically means that I need to buy a rug for my kids room so there is a comfortable place to play, not too cold for bare feet etc. Now a rug is a decent investment of money, so you want to choose one that works and that will last. The problem is that while I have said that I would prefer to stick with just girls for placement (I have quite solid reasoning behind this, maybe a topic for another post) I can’t¬†guarantee¬†that I won’t fold like a cheap suit and accept the first boy that comes along and tugs at my heart strings. So that rules out buying a rug that is too pink or too pastel.

It means I can’t have this:

Pastel Coloured Stripes Childrens Rug 225x155cm

So I’m down to neutral colours, and that reduces the choices significantly,¬†especially¬†when you are trying to avoid ugly. My eye is then drawn to patterns, spots and dots and paintbrush strokes. Again there is a problem. If I end up fostering a child who has¬†experienced¬†sensory¬†deprivation then a patterned rug may be sensory overload, I will need to keep the room simple and calming.

Which means I can’t buy this:

Arte Espina Cute Blue Elephant Rug 130x130cm

So basically I think I’ve worked out that I need to buy either a solid light pastel blue or green rung (both colours go with pink, so you can girl them right up), or wait until a child has come into my life before I make a purchase.

I told you I like to¬†contemplate¬†the deep things ūüėõ

My first experience saying no…

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So I’ve had my training now (which for the record, in my state, is 15 hours. I was very fortunate to have that modified, taking in to account my previous training etc. but I doubt this happens very often at all) and all went well. I did, however, get my first experience of saying no!

So Helpful Holly, after a few minutes of polite chit chat, says “I know that you were planning on taking littlies, but we have a 15 year old girl who we are really having trouble finding a placement for. I would really be only a year and a half, as most teenagers remove themselves from care at 17, but I think you would be really good at being able to provide that focus for her, helping her out with things, setting her up in life.” Keep in mind that I said I was only interested in taking under 6! I totally appreciated where she was coming from, we are isolated where I live, and there really aren’t a lot of carers to choose from. That said, I think it was a really helpful experience for me. I really feel strongly called to parent younger kids, it’s what I’ve been focusing on, have done miles of reading about (therapeutic¬†parenting, reparative parenting, parenting children from trauma backgrounds, you name it), it’s what my peers are doing now. So in saying all that, it really was quite an obvious no. The part where this was a helpful experience was in realising that even though this was an obvious no I still felt a lot of guilt, questioned if I was being selfish and second guessed myself. I’m feeling very ok about saying no now, but it has really made it clear that I need to be very sure of my own limits and have quite concrete ideas about who I will accept as a placement. Helpful has already told me that child protection will work down the list when they are calling for a placement, there will be no matching, it will be entirely up to me to say yes or no. I think I’m going to have to put my big girl pants on…

She came, she saw, she went…

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Warning: This post may make some of my American readers green with jealousy.

 

Well, I had my official home inspection, and I have to say, it went rather well. ‘Helpful Holly’, as I shall “blog name” (which is to say that her name in the real world is neither Helpful nor Holly) the rather nice community services lady, arrived pretty much on time (only five minutes late), which is a major plus is my books. We started out by discussing the training and any questions that I might have. Now normally the training would take about two or three days to go through, but Helpful Holly, recognising that I have probably covered most of it in my studies (I’m currently half-way through a masters of Social Work), suggested that we do the training one-on-one and get it done one afternoon next week (hooray!). She gave me the manual to go through so I can have read it all before we start to cut down on time (now before you think that this is actually more dodgy than helpful, I still have to have a formal assessment of my learning to make sure that I am at an acceptable level to be a foster carer). We’re booked in for next week to go through the training (at my house, so again I’m not put out at all except for taking an hour off prac) then I will have a formal assessment at the end of the month to make sure that I’ve actually learnt all the stuff in the training.

I then asked a whole bunch of questions that I had including:

– do I need to buy a cot, pram, baby seat ect? Answer: no, we provide all that with each child (and the stuff moves on with each child if they go into kinship care or have to move to another carer).

– can I travel with kids on holidays etc? Answer: yes, you’ll need a signed release from us, but we are happy to do that

– how many kids do you have in care? Answer: believe you me, you will not be waiting around for a placement

– can my friends babysit? Answer: yes that’s fine. You only need police and working with children checks if you have an adult staying in your house for more than four nights.

We talked about a whole bunch of other stuff too. She said that her role is to be a support person to the foster carers, she said that I can ring her if I have any questions about a potential placement, she will answer them fully and make sure that I know the whole story (including things that perhaps caseworkers wouldn’t say). She said always ring her if the child is over 10 (which I’m not planning on taking at the moment), she’ll make sure I’m fully informed about behaviours etc. She explained about reimbursements etc. She also talked about the importance of family contact and explained that initially when a child is first removed when they are working towards reunification visitation can be quite intensive (three times a WEEK is not uncommon) and so that is something I need to be aware of. W talked about the fact that I could sign my friends up to be respite carers just for me if I wanted. She said that most of the kids on their books are on permanent care orders til 18 (this is where our system in Australia is very different to the American one, as we don’t have TPR, and adoption is the exception rather than the rule), not that many are working towards reunification. I’m sure we talked about a whole lot more, but that’s all I remember off the top of my head.

We then took a little tour of my house, she said the inspection was really to look out for hazards, we talked about putting my tv up out of reach or securing it so it can’t be knocked over, seeing if we could turn down my hot water temp (I don’t know if I can), putting some latches on kitchen cabinets, supervising the dog with kids, coping without a bath (I’m going to buy a big ol’ plastic tub) etc. Everything was very conversational, some things she brought up, some things I did. I never had the feel that she was judging, or that she thought anything big really needed changing, we just talked about being sensible to the age child I get and changing things as I go.

Then that was it.

Really!

Training next week. I’ll keep you informed ūüôā

 

One home inspection coming up

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I was reminded again lately why I have decided to write this blog. I’ve been reading lots of different blogs from fellow foster mums and foster mum-to-be’s but as I’ve mentioned previously they are mostly based in America (so I should probably be saying foster mom). I’ve been particularly interested in their¬†equivalent¬†of a home inspection, or homestudy as it seems to be called. I’ve read stories of having to not being allowed to keep shampoo in the bathroom, having double locked medicine cabinets, having to pay to have a fire inspector come and assess their homes, months to write up the assessments and many more. Naturally I was quite interested, and a little apprehensive, to see what a home inspection would involve over here in Aus. So when my lovely CS worker rang me to book in the home inspection (which will be tomorrow) I asked if there was anything¬†particular¬†that I needed to have. She sounded quite surprised and said ‘no, I’m just coming over to check that generally everything is in order, it won’t take too long’.

Haha, I’ll let you all know how it goes tomorrow!