Becoming a Single Foster Mum: My Fostering Assessment3 September, 2019
Single mum, Nikki, shares her experience of being assessed to become a foster parent.
I’m a single mum of three children and after my two eldest children moved out, I decided to embark on a new chapter in my life and apply to become a foster mum.
I live in a 3-bedroom house with my youngest son, Oscar, 7. Oscar sees his dad regularly, as we’ve managed to maintain a positive relationship and work together to parent him. My older children and their partners also come to visit us regularly, as they live close-by.
As well as bringing up my own children, I’ve had many years’ experience working in child protection and currently work 2 nights a week as a Senior Care Assistant at a specialist care home for dementia patients. I’ve wanted to foster for such a long time, but the time has never felt right, until now.
I’ve found the process of becoming a foster parent hard at times, especially as I’ve not had a partner to share it with, but it is possible. I’ve decided to share my experience with the hope that it will help somebody else who’s going through the fostering process, so you’ll know what to expect.
My First Home Visit
After deciding to go for it and get in touch with Fosterplus, they arranged for an initial visit to my home. This was with a lovely lady called Sarah, who provided me with lots of information on the assessment process. We talked for nearly three hours about myself, my work history and touched on some of my personal background, which I found very positive.
I was excited to finally apply, but it was also nerve wracking at the same time. Surprisingly, even just on my first visit, I felt quite comfortable opening up about my life, even some of the more painful bits.
Regular Social Work Visits
After my application to foster had been accepted, an Assessing Social Worker, Rebecca, came to visit me for the first time. We discussed the process in more detail and she gave me the chance to raise any questions or concerns. I didn’t have any questions at this point, as I knew my questions would be answered as the process went along.
Rebecca visited almost every week, with a short break over Christmas. In between visits, I would work through a mountain of forms and various paperwork that had to be completed.
I spoke to my family and friends about what I was doing and how the process was going. I also spent lots of time talking with Oscar about it, as I knew this would impact him greatly. He’s a happy, bright boy and I just knew that he would benefit from fostering, while being supported by myself and his dad if any issues occur.
I felt incredibly proud of myself for starting this application and being brave enough to lay my life out in a hope of being able to be what I call a ‘professional mum’.
Challenging and Emotional Sessions
Social work visits could be emotional at times. It really wasn’t easy and sometimes, when Rebecca had left, I felt the fact that I was on my own. I’ve lived on my own for years and am strong and quite independent, but I also know we all need people to talk to, so I would often call my friend or daughter to off load.
The session on childhood was the one I dreaded the most; not because I didn’t feel comfortable speaking about it, but sometimes it’s worrying how a person may interpret what you’re saying. My childhood was particularly tough. However, that’s what’s made me as strong and resilient as I am today. It’s also the reason why I love working with people in a caring and supportive role.
The adult relationships session was great, until we started to speak about a moment of madness I had with a very unpleasant ex-partner several years ago. I was shocked and angry when Rebecca said that she would need to get a reference from him because I lived with his teenage daughter for just a matter of weeks.
Eventually, I decided to allow Rebecca to attempt to make contact with him, however it was impossible to track him down. Instead, Rebecca spoke to one of my friend references and also my daughter to verify all the details I had provided. I also had to give more detail on that relationship. This wasn’t pleasant, as I’m not one to dwell on the bad times but it had to be done, I guess.
2 Days Preparation Training
I attended the 2 day foster parent preparation training at the Fosterplus office in Long Eaton, alongside a married couple and another single lady, who were at the initial stages of their applications. I learned a great deal from the trainers, speakers and also from the other applicants.
The training was very honest and didn’t sugar coat caring for children who are often very damaged and challenging. I appreciated the honesty, as I have worked with many young people in the care system and whilst it is hugely rewarding, at times it can also be extremely challenging.
My only regret was that I didn’t bring my daughter along with me, as she’ll be my back up carer and would have benefitted greatly from the 2 days. I hope that if this all works out, she can attend some training with me in the future.
The training gave me more of a focus on Oscar, so one week later, I arranged for all 3 of my children to meet Rebecca individually and it worked well. Oscar really needed that contact, as all he ever heard about fostering was from me. I am very keen to ensure he has a positive relationship with the social worker, who will be our support should I get through the panel.
Preparing our Home
As panel date approached, I worked on getting the more practical things sorted in our house to ensure our home met Health and Safety regulaytions. Thankfully, I had already budgeted for that.
The spare room was also starting to look more like a lovely bedroom and Oscar played a huge part in that. I don’t have a vast amount of money or a partner’s wage to rely on, but if I want something bad enough, I always make it work.
Receiving my Form F Assessment
Before I received my Form F assessment, Rebecca advised me that it can be an emotional read. She was completely right; my entire life so far – the good, the bad and the ugly – was documented in a file for me and a group of strangers to read and to make a decision on.
However, despite all the hours of work that had gone into the assessment thus far, Rebecca still needed to tie up a few more ‘loose ends’ and wanted to speak to somebody from my childhood. I recommended they talk to my aunt. Again, this was nerve wracking as we aren’t really a family who talk openly about things that have happened. I have no idea what was said as no feedback but my aunt said she had spoken to assessor and all was fine.
There was also some more work to be completed on my chronology; it was hard for Rebecca to piece together all my work and address history, as I’ve moved address and employment so often. There was a lot of back and forth between Rebecca and I, so I would return home from hard night shifts and jump straight onto the computer to complete more paperwork.
Finally, after additional paperwork and social work sessions, I received my completed Form F assessment.
Reflecting on the Assessment
I sat and read through my final assessment and cried. It’s odd reading a summary of your life.
The process certainly wasn’t an easy one, but reading my assessment reminded me how much I’ve been through. I feel so much more balanced and grounded on my feet now. These past few years, I have really found me and focused on all that I want and need to do in my life.
Oscar also wanted to see the file – well, the bits about him. We read them together and I think he felt quite proud and a really important part of the whole fostering thing. That was a special moment for Oscar.
That day, I breathed a sigh of achievement and thought: “It’s done. No matter what happens from here on with fostering, I did the application. I went through the process. I did it on my own with help from lovely people”.
I have every faith, if we are lucky enough to have a foster child, they will be given all the love and care we have here.
The idea of going into a room full of strangers who know intimate details about my life, was daunting. Thankfully, Tabatha, my daughter came with me to calm my nerves, although I didn’t want her to come into the room with me.
I was so anxious driving there; I was a little shocked at myself if honest. I met Rebecca at the venue and went straight to the waiting room. The Chairman of the panel came out for a chat and tried to put me at ease. It didn’t work too well but I appreciated that he explained things to me.
Finally, it was time. I walked into a large room full of panel members. I found myself drawn to the guy who was once in foster care. The meeting began with the chairman going through all the strengths they had found in my report. That alone was hard to hear from a total stranger. I was taken aback with the detail they had fed back to me, which made me feel a little better as they seemed to see me for who I am. I felt quite overwhelmed with the huge list of positives.
Several panel members asked me questions that they had pre-planned. I felt a lot more relaxed when I spoke. I talked about how the process was for me, how I use my support network and a lot about Oscar. I just felt that even though he wasn’t there, he’s as important as any child and his needs have to be met as well as any foster child. Rebecca also added a few comments.
Hearing the Good News
Once all their questions had been answered, we were asked to wait in the side room whilst they made their decision. I felt like I had only just sat down and they called me back in and invited Tabatha in too. I only heard: “It is a unanimous decision, we recommend you are approved”.
I just cried, as did Tabatha. I was totally overwhelmed and cried the entire way home. I thanked my dad for giving me strong genes to fight my way to this point and felt incredibly proud of myself for doing all this without a partner.
I DID IT! I Nikki Brown did it.
I’m looking forward to work my magic and make someone’s life a little easier and brighter. My hope is to do the best that is possible to offer a child a safe and happy home, surrounded by people who care. That’s all we ever really want in life isn’t it…