Following approval at a recent panel, we could not wait to catch up with Alison from Fostering Solutions North Wales to find out about her assessment and first placement.
Alison, could you explain about the assessment please?
The assessment process is very in-depth, as it should be, but the first session can be a little daunting- talking to a stranger about your life. You are allocated a social worker to guide you through filling out Form F which is very long and contains all of the information needed for your assessment. It looks at finances, health and safety of your house, car, personal and work references, your health, your childhood, support network etc. I would say that my social worker got to know more about me and my past life than anyone I know. Just remember that past experiences and what you have learnt from them can be a valuable resource for the future. It is not about being perfect.
What was it like at panel?
The panel is like a mini interview. The panel members will read your Form F and talk to your social worker and ask you a few questions. I was told the result of their vote within 10 minutes – Approved! I got written confirmation through after a week and I had a visit from a social worker who is part of the team at Fostering Solutions North Wales.
What ongoing support from panel is offered by the agency?
Following my approval I received a welcome pack of information with a card to access discounts with shopping and activities. I now have access to training courses and the system which is used to access information about placements and record information. I have an allocated social worker whom I can consult about any issues. There are various support groups to join and I have a buddy who is an experienced foster carer who I can contact to ask questions too. There is always someone on duty to call in an emergency – the support is really good.
Please tell us about your first placement
The paperwork was efficiently progressed and I had my first weekend placement 9 days after panel. I was very nervous but excited! I had been sent the child`s safer caring document and spoken to the full time foster carer so I best understood what to expect and the child’s needs. I made sure that I was aware of what the child liked, her hobbies and what she needed support with moving forward.
As I knew the age of the child, I looked at the bedroom asking myself if it was appropriate and appealing and made some slight adjustments. The first night of respite we watched a movie (her choice) and I was aware that she liked painting nails and bought us a couple of face-masks. Rather than sweets, we got out the popcorn machine and this allowed us to do something together. I thought doing something practical may make settling in easier for us both.
I had a few ideas for the weekend such as a walk around my village to see the area. I have animals, so introduced them and explained about their care. We visited a nearby pond, danced to iTune videos and made cakes as this allowed me to assess, guide and gather ideas for future things to do.
That first weekend it was just the two of us, so that we could get to know each other. I have now introduced her to some of the locals which we pass on our walks and I am mindful to avoid any situation that may be stressful (for us both). I have in mind a rough idea of activities and resources but I am very much led by the child’s needs and stay as flexible as possible. Last week we went to the beach which was new for us.
What would be a top tip for a respite carer?
Build a relationship with the main carer and take into consideration all their advice and guidance to best understand the child and their needs, as well as how they may respond, their surroundings and appropriate interaction with others.