Emergency fostering- Foster Care Fortnight

Tracy and Wayne share their experience of emergency foster care

Emergency foster care provides a placement for a child or children who need somewhere safe to stay for a few nights, while social workers establish what is needed in the longer-term. Emergency carers will often be called upon at very short notice, and potentially may be needed late at night. Tracy and Wayne have cared for a number of children, for varying lengths of time. They’ve shared with us their experience of caring for children placed with them in an emergency placement.

For a long time, fostering was something we spoke about every now and then, but because we didn’t have a spare bedroom in our house, we never acted on it. When the time came to move house, I said to my husband, “If we’re serious about fostering at some point, then we need to make sure this new house has that extra room.”

I had to leave my job when we moved, so had been looking for work in our new area. There were two jobs that I had applied to that I really felt I should have got, but I hadn’t. It made me think, what was God saying to me? Where was He leading me next? It felt like the right time to push the door and begin exploring fostering, so we made those initial phone calls, had those introductory conversations, and then momentum took over – a year later we were approved.

We decided to foster with our local authority, and had such a great experience with the local authority and the social worker we worked with. The social worker who we had those initial conversations with was the same to do our assessment. We really felt like we got to know her, and that she really got to know us, and we got on really well. You often hear the assessment process described as intense or intrusive, and I suppose it is – it has to be – but we really are an open book as a family. You ask us one question, and you get the whole story in response. The process didn’t feel daunting to us, and we were open and honest with her from day one.

Our local authority doesn’t approve you as one particular kind of foster carer, such as long-term, short-term or respite. You’re approved as a foster carer for a specific number of children, and for a specific age range, and you can decide with your social worker if you think a short-term or longer-term placement would suit your family. We were initially approved to care for one child between the ages of 0 and 2, and when our older birth son moved out of our house a year later, we were able to care for up to two children from 0-11.

Since we were approved we have had some children for a few days, and others for a few months, and our longest has been two years. A number of those placements have been emergency placements.

The local authority gave us a list of things we would need to buy to care for a foster child. Just a few days after we were given this list, but before we had managed a trip to the shop to pick up what we needed, the phone rang. There was a 14-month-old baby who may or may not need an emergency foster placement for that evening. The social worker said they would call back in a few hours to let us know whether or not baby would be coming to us. I hung up and turned to my daughter in a panic – “We’ve got nothing!”

We jumped in the car and raced to the shop. We grabbed a car seat, a cot, a push-chair, and various other items, and then had to squeeze it all into the car like a panicked game of Tetris. The social worker called us back to say that baby was coming to us that evening, and would be home around 5pm. We managed to assemble the cot and the push-chair before this little one arrived. Talk about a whirlwind!

You get used to those phone calls after a while, but they don’t always play out the same way. The initial call tells you to prepare, a child may or may not come to you today. Then you have the waiting while the decisions are made – and sometimes it’s a long wait. You prepare, you tidy up, you make room and begin to feel nervous, excited, intrigued, and sad for that family facing separation. Sometimes that second phone call comes, and the child arrives soon after. But sometimes the second call never comes.

I have a bit of a mantra that really motivates me as a foster carer– I want to see children move from surviving to thriving. So often the children we care for are in survival mode when they come to us. Our role as foster carers is to help them take a step closer to thriving. I believe we’ve seen that with every child we’ve cared for, whether that’s one little step with a child we’ve had for a few days, or a number of steps taken with one of our longer placements, like the little boy who is with us right now.

Sometimes those steps are significant milestones, sometimes they can be measured by doctors, social workers or other professionals, but often those steps look like little things that others might take for granted; a hug, a smile, or lasting through a whole haircut without feeling overwhelmed. It’s our joy as foster carers to take each one of those steps towards thriving with the children who come into our home.

If you think you could offer a vulnerable child a safe and loving home through fostering, or want to find out more about how you or your church can play your part in finding a home for every child who needs one, we would love to hear from you. Click here to get in touch.

Author:
Home for Good


Date published:
May 2021


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