Suddenly full-time carers

Detour

We had been warned as foster carers from day one to set limits about what you can and can’t do and stick firmly to that, because of the great need for carers those limits would be continuously tested. We had generally been good at enforcing our limits but this all went out the window earlier this year.

We received a phone call on a Monday morning with news that the placement for one of our regular respite kids (a 12 year old boy named David – fictional name used) had broken down and he was in urgent need of a place to stay. We knew there were some issues in the current placement but the placement of many years ending so suddenly still came as a surprise. Our agency were asking if he could stay with us for the night while they searched for options.

This was heartbreaking news as we both had good attachment with David. We knew enough about him (and his struggle with anxiety which I have written about previously here) that he would be struggling to process the placement breakdown and would be extremely anxious about where he would be going to live. We knew that at least in the immediate term if he stayed with us he would be living with people he knew in a familiar environment.

“We received a phone call from Our agency were asking if he could stay with us for the night while they searched for options … we knew that at least in the immediate term if he stayed with us he would be living with people he knew in a familiar environment.”

To say there was no emotion involved in the decision would be a lie, this is a child we knew and loved and saw as part of our extended foster care family so of course this played into our decision. However we had to be practical and realistic about what we could handle as well this couldn’t be a decision based purely on logistics. The immediate logistical concerns were that it was not possible for us to transport him to school (a significant distance in the opposite direction we worked) and we both worked full time so this created a problem from the time school finished to when work finished. Both of these things our agency was prepared to provide assistance with. The other consideration was what were we actually prepared to commit as we both knew it was extremely unlikely for a suitable placement to be found for David within a day or two. We decided to commit to one week and we would reevaluate as that date closer depending  on how things were going.

“To say there was no emotion involved in the decision would be a lie, this is a child we knew and loved and saw as part of our extended foster care family so of course this played into our decision.”

After the first week rolled around there was still no suitable placement found and this weighed heavily on our minds. We kept extending our commitment week by week. There was a couple of placement options being investigated but none were ideal for David’s needs long term and the possibility of going into residential care weighed heavily on our minds. After a few weeks of extending week by week we decided to make a longer term commitment extending our date out by about 6 months from the time he started saying with us. The main reasons for this were so we could give David some assurance of stability in the short-term (taking each week as it came was adding to his anxiety), allow some time for other placement options to be found or let some time pass and take further consideration into turning this into a long-term placement commitment.

Life was not smooth sailing and it was difficult adjusting to a new routine. Due to the transport arrangements it meant early starts and waking up and getting ready for school was not one of David’s strong points (nor was going to sleep at bed time). Dealing with all the details and inevitable appointments also led to impact both our jobs (thankfully we both have understanding and supportive employers). As the days went by putting in place routines never got any easier, as we became closer as a family new behaviours came up causing new challenges. Through much of this we were taking things one day at a time in every sense of the word, adjusting to routines and strategies as best we could.

“Life was not smooth sailing and it was difficult adjusting to a new routine … through much of this we were taking things one day at a time in every sense of the word”

So suddenly we were full-time carers considering going long-term with a 12 year old boy. This is not exactly something we anticipated or planned to take on as respite carers both working full-time. However we didn’t go into this unwittingly and continued to consider what we were prepared to commit to as time went by. We also were under no illusion that it would be easy and were expecting things to get worse before they got better. Little did we know just how quickly and challenging that worst would end up being – something I’ll share more on in my next post.

 

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Image: iStockPhoto

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