Foster carer, feature writer and photographer David Bocking talks about his experience fostering for Sheffield City Council.
One of the first thing a Foster Carer learns is that foster children don’t officially go by that name anymore: our children are called ‘LACs’ or ‘Looked after Children'.
And boy, are they looked after — at the last count our current child has been regularly seeing over a dozen brilliant NHS professionals over her first year of life.
She has a number of health problems, but like most babies with additional needs is ignoring them whenever she can and getting on with gurgling and bashing things together.
When a child becomes a LAC, foster carers are telephoned by the ‘placement team’ and told as much as is known about the child’s health conditions and general situation before they decide whether to take on that particular child, or not. There’s no pressure, and the social workers who make the call just aim to find the right carer for each particular child.
We’ve had to say no to a child on one occasion, which felt hard, although it was definitely the right decision for him and us. Foster carers have to think about our own family and working situation, and in this case we realised it wouldn’t have been the right option for the youngster.
The placement officer stressed it was fine as she had other foster carers available, and it doesn’t alter the likelihood of future placements.
Once a child is assigned to us, our job is to hustle for her in the world of health and social care like we would our own baby.
That means hospital appointments and discussions with doctors where we have to advocate for our baby and try and ask the right questions for her, relating to both her needs now and potentially for her future when she’ll have moved on from us.
There are also regular home visits from a variety of specialists with bags and paperwork following each other in and out over the same day. All good for the baby’s socialisation, it seems, and she seems happy enough showing them all her new teeth.
But with so many people involved with her varying dietary, speech and physical issues her diary does gets complicated and I sometimes struggle to remember who’s in charge of what.
Does her physio really need to see her ‘How Many Times a Day Am I Currently Vomiting’ chart? Does her speech therapist need to know her bowel habits? It can’t do any harm.
Baby and I recently attended her ‘LAC review’ which is where her Independent Reviewing Officer listens sagely while varying professionals discuss her progress and consider her future while she bangs on the desk and throws her toys on the floor.
She’s doing well, everyone concluded. She grinned and blew them all several impressive raspberries.
David Bocking is a foster carer for Sheffield City Council. For more on fostering in Sheffield.