So, off we go, a meeting is arranged to see if we are going to be able to be considered for Fostering. There was no real excitement about this meeting, it was more nerves that actually what they were coming to do was tell us to bog off, and never to darken their door again!
The evening of the meeting arrived. We had not lived in our house for too long, and had bought it to do up over a period of time. I made a conscious effort to make sure that it was clean and tidy, but because we had not been there too long, I was adamant that the Social Worker would be told in no uncertain terms that the state of the place was only temporary! My fear of her thinking children could not live in a house in need of repair frightened the hell out of me!
The knock at the door, and I peek out of the blinds to catch a shot of the dreaded Social Worker! Having never met one, it was difficult to know what to expect, although, I had visions of some style of hippy walking in. I could not have been more wrong if I wanted to have been! In walked Kelly, a very laid back and chatty lady, probably in her early 50's.
She made us feel comfortable right from the word go. Kelly explained the agenda of the meeting, the kinds of questions she would ask, and explained that she would be making notes as she went. First job was to offer her a cup of tea! I went to do that, trying to stop my hands from shaking as I put the sugar and milk in, and Tris chatted away to her about this and that. Turns out she was quite local herself, she had been a Social Worker for quite a while, we are talking more than 15 years! She has even been an Adoption Team Manager at one point, and was now a lecturer at a BIG University and in her spare time liked to keep her hand in independently for a few of the local agencies - surely she would know what she was talking about then - yes, and thank you!
To begin with there were the formal questions like name, address, date of birth's, occupations, did we drink, did we smoke, did we have experience with children. Then we got down to the nitty gritty, she asked us a lot of deep and meaningful questions about our own childhoods, our families, siblings, school etc. All the while Kelly is writing like a woman possessed, and we are hoping and praying that she is getting all of this down, and in the right order!
The more questions she asked, the more she told us too. She told us how there were sometimes too many children under the Local Authority Umbrella who they could not even find Foster Carers for, and therefore there were independent Agencies and Charities, just like TACT who were contracted to help. She also told us that one of us would probably have to give up work, as having Foster Children meant that any age range could be placed with us, however, to justify giving up work there was a payment made when you had children placed with you, although, this should not and can not be depended upon as a "living" as if you do not have children with you, you don't get paid!
It was a very interesting meeting, and one that answered a lot of our questions, including the big one....... Can same sex couples Foster children? The answer - YES! Wow - she went on to say that there were BIG changes coming through with a new Children's Act in 2002, which meant that ANYONE can Foster and Adopt. There would be a number of steps for us to take including courses, training etc, however it was possible.
She also had an obvious question for us........ Why did we want to Foster Children? Our answer - We wanted to have children! Looking back, that was such a selfish answer to give, but, apparently, quite a popular one, as there was no shock or surprise given back.
Looking into this now, it is important to understand that Fostering is not like looking after someones pets. It is a really big responsibility, obviously, and not one to be entered into lightly in my opinion. It could be the case that you have experience of a niece or nephew who is a toddler, and you get a phone call form your link worker telling you that they have three teenagers looking for weekend respite! You need to be aware of all of this!
So, the meeting lasted a good few hours, although, it felt like it passed in a flash, as we felt so comfortable giving her all the information about our pasts. The meeting came to an end, and Kelly explained the next steps. She would take all the information home with her and type it all up into a formal report which we would receive a copy of, and would receive in a few days. It would also have her recommendation on it, and it would advise us if they would be interested in taking our application further. Good News, we hoped!
The next few days went by with the obvious checking of the post every day - even the next morning! Then on the Friday morning the post arrived, and there it was, what we had been waiting for!
It was Tris who opened it, as I just couldn't handle the thought of rejection. A big smile appeared after he read the 3 pages. Some of the information about us she had misunderstood, but in the main, she had us spot on!
Her recommendation - We should be invited onto the Prepare to Foster course with a view to taking our application further! Yippee!!! We read on a little more - "However" - uh oh! "I would also recommend that Scott & Tris also look into the prospect of Adoption, rather than Fostering, as I could foresee problems when children were reunited with their families, or placed into an Adoptive Placement" - OH MY GOD!!! Is she saying we can Adopt Children - yes she is!!!
So, what ever is going to be thrown at us next?!
That is another Story!