Adopt London say thank you to foster carers during #WhyWeCare campaign
As we approach the end of this year’s Fostering Network’s Fostering Fortnight – 10-24 May, we wanted to shine the spotlight on the many foster carers who work with Adopt London. When children come into care they are usually placed with a foster carer. It’s here children are given the opportunity to really feel safe, to have someone to hold them while they grieve the loss of their family, and recognise the huge and significant changes in their lives.
As the children learn to trust, and live an ‘ordinary’ family life, it is the foster carer’s role to help move children into their new long-term placement with their lifelong family, through adoption.
Today, we’re speaking with Shreen*, a mum to grown up children, and her youngest daughter, who is adopted. Shreen is also a foster carer to many children who she has moved onto adoption. We asked Shreen how she supports children and prospective adoptive parent(s), and how she copes with seeing her ‘babies’ move on.
‘Moving children on makes me feel happy, because I know they are going on to start their new life. After 16 years’ experience, I try to accept the children have to leave, and when I know they will be moving on in a good way, to the right family, it gives me peace of mind.
The children arrive with their social worker, often having had no regular routine … nothing. And then, they get their first chance of a safe and predictable experience with their foster family. We start the healing process, but as foster carers, we need to show them a lot of patience, comfort, let them know they are not abandoned. For the very young ones who can’t say what they are feeling, it is difficult and for the children who are a little older, it is painful too, but they understand more.’
As the children begin to settle into their foster families, the Adopt London Family Finding teams begin the search for the family who will be the best parent(s) for each child. Shreen explains,
‘When a family is identified, and all the ‘formalities are done’, the family make a video of themselves – from their front door, right through their home. They include only the family in their household – pets too. I show the video to the child, regularly over a period of time so the child becomes aware of who is in the video and the home. They’ll recognise their new front door, their bedroom and their garden, and most importantly, their parent(s). They’ll recognise everything about them, so when they see and hear them, they know who they are.’
Introduction arrangements involve the child, prospective parent(s), foster carers and social workers, and is carefully and sensitively planned. Adopt London use the Moving to Adoption model that gives foster carers and adopters the opportunity to build and promote a positive relationship at an early stage in the moving process, and keeps the focus on the feelings of the child, allows flexibility and continuity of the foster carer relationship. While extensive planning is put in place, every situation is different. Shreen tells us more,
‘Sometimes children settle quickly, sometimes they need more support. Imagine being so disorientated, and being just a toddler, it can be confusing and upsetting. Sometimes new parents will call me, so the child can hear my voice, or now, with video, we can see each other, especially during lock down. I feel pleased to have some very special relationships with my families – and seeing the children grow up, makes me very happy. I still hear from my foster children, who are now going onto college or jobs – so proud!’
*name changed and model photo used.