At some point in the not too distant past, I started to call one of the foster care agencies to talk about being assessed as a foster carer. I’ve always been interested in foster care, but assumed that it wasn’t really an option for me since I work full time. After spending some time on a foster care forum though, I realised that I could still complete the training and then request emergency and respite care placements, which can occur on weekends. I also started to think that it would be good exposure to the system, the kids, the agencies and the Department as I gear up to go through the gruelling permanent care process. The assessment process for foster care is normally shorter than permanent care and I imagined I could have my weekends and apartment filled up with little folk within a couple of months.
I think on my fourth attempt at communication ( I swear there’s some sort of social services code that you need to break- very similar experience when inquiring initially about permanent care) , I finally spoke to a real person, who put me on the phone to another real AND relevant person, and I got myself locked in for an info night. I had to travel interstate for work that day, but I booked a flight that would have me home with plenty of time to get in peak hour traffic and head out to the far flung burbs for the session. Until of course my plane was delayed on departure, delayed on landing (the worst kind of delay) and somehow I had misplaced my parking ticket for the day, so I had to locate the stupid customer service place in a stupid location and hand over stupid boarding passes and sweet talk stupidheads so I could get out of the stupid parking lot… argh. Home. Bed. Fetal position. No foster care info night.
The agency do offer to come to your home though, if you can’t make it to a session. I am sure this service is designed for and utilised by busy mothers, not childless single people, but they didn’t bat an eyelid when I suggested this alternative and after the time was shifted once or twice, tonight was finally locked in. A lovely lady from the agency turned up on my doorstep and chatted with me about my options for nearly an hour and a half. I was scared Omar was going to do a big, stinky poo in his kitty litter while she was here, but instead he showed the most amount of chutzpah I’ve seen to date with another person in the flat and demonstrated his new found bravery by repeatedly attacking the crapola out of her leg. Sigh. Thankfully, she’s an animal lover. Or so she says. Eek.
She was young, but very experienced. She’s been a foster carer before, knows a lot about the permanent care program in my region and, interestingly, her partner and her are going through the domestic infant adoption program.
She did a great job of being balanced and honest, and while her interests obviously lie in recruiting more people to foster care, I don’t think she was being unnecessarily damning of the permanent care program when she did say some not-so-complimentary things about it. She spoke about how the application process and the workers often come from a deficit base in the PC application process, whereas the foster care program comes from a place of recognising strengths through adversity. She used the example of postnatal depression. In the foster care assessment process, if a woman identified she has postnatal depression at one point in her life and engaged the appropriate services to aid her her back to health, the foster team would recognise that as someone being able to acknowledge their own limits and make good decision about accessing help when required. The PC team would just assess it negatively overall.
She also spoke about people having their PC applications rejected mainly due to high BMI. I’m not surprised and this is not an issue for me AND the two programs are assessing for completely different types of parenting experiences – forever versus short/medium/long term – but it was a very noticeable difference in how the two programs are positioned and thought through. And they are different – foster care has the ultimate goal of reunification. PC is about finding a forever family for a child when parental rights have been terminated. I told her that I feel I need to put my battle gear on when I begin the PC process and she didn’t disagree. She also said that the most thoughtful, well researched and ‘with it’ people often have the hardest time during the PC assessment process because of the lack of control and the considerable power imbalance. I don’t doubt it. She also encouraged me to really apply myself to PC though, if that was the path I wanted. I do want it, but I want to do foster care too. Waaah!
I suppose what I really learnt from tonight was that doing foster care through an agency can provide a community experience, with a lot of support in place. She also said some children will never go home, but are not referred to the PC program because they’re too old and the likelihood of them getting placed is minimal. When chatting about why single, female carers are preferable at times, she mentioned a little boy they have at the moment who is nearly 3 and is terrified of men. She spoke about his propensity to self harm and how he’ll probably never go home, but also may not go to PC because he has behaviours that would already make him a difficult candidate for the program. Of course, I instantly wanted this little man in my care!
I asked her whether she thought my idea of doing foster care as ‘groundwork’ for the PC process was valid and she agreed. However, there’s little to no chance that the PC workers will be interested in me doing a foster care assessment whilst doing a PC assessment. They will question my motivations. They also do not like PC parents doing foster care for 2 years after being placed. I can understand that would be in the interests of the child, but any thoughts of doing foster care will be ruled out for at least 3-4 years now if I proceed as planned with the PC process. The alternative is that I slow down the PC process (not that it’s moving all that bloody quickly right now!), get qualified as a foster carer and then pick up the PC application process again once I’ve been a foster carer for a while.
There’s probably a bunch more I will want to add the minute I hit ‘Publish’ on this post, but my thoughts are a little jumbled and I want a hot drink and my hit of True Blood. Sookie and her vampire issues will most certainly help me even out my thoughts, no?