I guess it’s a legitimate question: “So, you wish to look after children in care, that’s great to hear. So, how many?”

How comes that’s the only question my wife and I are still unsure about? It is surprising how many issues related to fostering were agreed in a matter of minutes. Many didn’t even require a discussion. Not this question, though. And it’s not even because of a difference of opinion, we genuinely don’t know what the right answer might be. For us.

Siblings, sharing, toddlers lottery

Social Services like to keep tabs on things. Every detail has to be agreed in advance and communicated to whoever needs to know, as it should be, really. Things can change, but before they are allowed to change they need to be discussed in a meeting called the annual review. The number of children who can stay with a family falls into the category of things that need to be agreed upon, predictably.

There are rules dictating the terms in which children can share a room, and for once, these are simple and fairly sensible. Siblings can share a room as long as they are of the same sex. Unrelated children need a separate room. And finally, infants and toddlers must be accommodated in their own room since their sleep patterns can affect older children.

Now, we have two spare rooms in the house that would be suitable for a child bedroom, apparently. The reason I added “apparently” is that one of the two rooms is barely big enough to lodge a single bed and small chest of drawers. It is so small in fact, that we never even considered it as a potential bedroom. It has been known as “the dumping ground” for a few weeks after we first moved in; now we prefer to call it “the utility room”. It just sounds more upper class. But the Social Worker assessing our application is adamant it is a “rather good side room for a child”. I suspect any room with a door and a window would do then. The window might be optional too.

Let’s assume that we could clear that room too, how many children do you count? Three? Two same-sex siblings plus a single unrelated child. Two? A brother and a sister. Maybe three siblings: two brothers, and an infant?

What if we need the space? Well, that reduces the options to a maximum of two children at any one time.

So, how many children do we want to turn down?

Under pressure

Of course, there is more to consider other than just the number of children we can cram in our house. Our abilities and experience, or the impact on our son, are only a few examples of things that should weight on this decision even more. But it stands that the system is struggling to cope with demand.

Did you know that Social Services keep a close eye on the number of applicants for fostering and that often, by the time a family reaches the Approval Panel, they already have an idea of which children could be assigned to each family? That’s remarkably efficient, but I wonder where these kids are now. Emergency care? Children’s home? With their birth families?

There is real pressure on foster parents to do more. Carers have to routinely turn down requests from Social Service to avoid their family life to be derailed by yet another child who has no other option, but staying with them. However, I’m surprised to feel a tiny bit of pressure even now, before being approved. I’ll clearly struggle with this in the future.

We haven’t decided what to do with that small room yet, but whatever decision we might come to, there’ll be space only for so many children.

My hope is that, as long as I keep writing about fostering and people keep reading about it, I’ll have a chance to prove that if I can do it, anyone can. If I could convince one single person to follow my example, it’d be like clearing another room in the house and make space for another child who so desperately need it.

If that person is you, I’d love to hear about it. No rush, think about it, I’ll wait.

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  1. Suddenly Mummy (@suddenly_mummy) 16th August 2016 Reply
    • Diego Boccaleone 16th August 2016 Reply
  2. Louise 16th August 2016 Reply
    • Diego Boccaleone 17th August 2016 Reply

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