17 Apr Permanency
Permanency is when a child is granted by court to stay in the same placement permanently. It is a difficult decision for carers to make, it has to be a child centred decision and sometimes the best decision for all concerned is for the child to find permanency in another home. Below is a truthful account of one of our carers making the many decisions surrounded by permanency.
Andy and Katie were approved as foster carers in May 2017. Shortly afterwards, they had two little boys placed with them, who were aged 5 and 6. Court proceedings were going to take place but these were not finalised until January 2019. During this time, the children have posed many challenges and difficult behaviours, including soiling and sexualised behaviours, which both carers have managed incredibly well.
As of March 2019, the children are now 7 and 8 years old Andy and Katie were asked if they would consider having the children remain with them on a long-term fostering basis. As you will see from Andy’s account, they gave this considerable thought. I also discussed it with them over the months prior to being asked, as well as in great detail once they had been approached by the Local Authority. However, they felt it was not going to be the right placement for the boys, or them, on an ongoing basis. There were many reasons for this, not least because we felt the children needed to be separated, so that they could have the very best opportunities going forward as they both have very high emotional needs. The proximity to their birth family was also a large factor in the decision.
Permanency, or long-term fostering in this case, is a huge undertaking for any foster carer. The children will need a stable foster placement to see them through to adulthood, so with young children, this can be many years. However, it has to be said, that in a very high number of instances, the foster carers do go on to provide this. We have several long-term placements in our area, and it is lovely to see the children grow and develop over the years.
For some though, the right decision is for them to move on to new foster families. We asked Andy and Katie to do their blog, through the course of this family finding process, so that other carers may gain an understanding of the process and how it can impact foster carers, the children and those around them. I am sure it will be a difficult process, but ultimately very rewarding once you see the children move on successfully, and with the confidence they have gained during their time with their short-term foster carers.
We have had our first foster placement, 2 brothers, since June 2017. In July 2018 we were asked if we would consider being their long-term carers, should a Full Care Order be given in court in January 2019. After much deliberation and tears – are we making the right decision, and the right decision for who, the boys or us? Anguish and worry as to what people will say, or think, especially as we have been given praise for our care and support of the boys. As well as more tears, as we thought we are being selfish and thinking of us more than the boys, and how will they feel about us and how the decision we make can affect them for the rest of their lives.
After meetings with our Supervising Social Worker and support worker, we both decided in August 2018 that we could not offer them the long-term home they will need. This was certainly not an easy decision, nor was it taken lightly. The long-term needs of the boys for the next 10 years were at the forefront of this decision.
In November 2018, after our Supervising Social Worker had already informed the Local Authority of our decision, we had a call from the Children’s Court Guardian. At the end of a routine, 10-minute telephone call, she suddenly asked me if we had any regrets in our decision. She went on to ask what could be done to make us change our minds, and asked how the Local Authority could help us to move house, in order to take the boys on. I was taken aback by this and said that due to the proximity of their family and our town being relatively small, we would not consider it, or indeed change our mind from the decision that we had made 3 months earlier. She asked again and got the reply of “the Highlands of Scotland”, due to the fact that there are so many people they know close by to us. We had already changed our shopping and socialising patterns, to avoid our local town centre due to the huge adverse effect seeing any family members had on the boys. It is far easier for us, we feel, to reduce this risk and problems by going elsewhere for a calmer, more relaxed event.
In December 2018, we received an “All About Me” document for each boy for us to complete to help with the family finding process. This is very in-depth and covered everything from daily routines, behaviours, medication, support at school and any activities and hobbies the boys do. We answered everything in full, trying to give as much information and detail as possible, so that a clear and full picture of each boy could be given.
Completing this document made us revisit the full range of emotions and feelings we had in July and August 2018, as well as guilt and worry as to how this would make us look and people thinking we were turning our backs on the boys. We kept our composure and made sure that we put every last detail down, to give a full, clear and frank view of both of the boys and what makes them them. We got the news of the judge’s decision in January 2019 and the boys were told by their Social Worker that they would not be going home. After the social worker had left, and the boys were in bed, we did feel a sense of relief for the boys, who had voiced that they were so worried about returning home.
As we were told more details of the ruling – that the boys do need to be in separate placements due to their current behaviours and future needs – we did feel a slight relief and justification of our decision. Not only that, but also how on earth could you then make a decision on which one to keep and to tell the child who would be leaving, how you made that decision, not now maybe, but when at 18 he knocks on your door and asks you!
A family finder was in place, who is not the social worker, but a social worker from the family placement team whose focus was to compile a profile of the boys and match them with potential families. The family finder said she needed an urgent meeting with us. However, she cancelled by text on the day of the meeting, due to a social commitment. This did really surprise us, but we do appreciate her full honesty!
Two weeks later after she forgot to turn up to the rearranged meeting, we did eventually meet her in late January. We spent lots of time talking all about the boys and adding depth to the details we put in the “All About Me” documents. Talking about the boys gave us immense pride, as we were starting to see what progress has been made in 18 months. The focus now is to make sure that a full picture of the boys is given of them, so that the right placement can be found.
Nothing further happened until mid-February when our Supervising Social Worker forwarded us an initial profile referral which had been received that day for the boys. So we will wait to see what the next month or so bring…
Thank you Andy and Katie for sharing your experience of permanency. We recognise that sometimes things do not work out in the way that we want them to, but we are glad that you have made a decision that is right for you.