Monday, March 21, 2011

What do you do when a child turns up at your place?

People have asked me, "What do you do with a child that has just been dropped off at your place for care?"
So I thought I'd share some of the things we usually do. Of course, please keep in mind that this is a general overview and we change things according to how many kids we take and their personalities and ages etc.

It often starts like this -
4.20pm ~ring, ring~ I answer and this is how it goes, "Hi Des, this is such and such from Families Plus, how are you? (general chit chat for a min or so, and then this - ), What's your capacity to take a placement of a (age, gender, number of ), child?"
Then I say, "Why are they in care? How long have they been in care? Why are they moving placement? How many times have they been in care? How long will the placement be? When does the placement start? (usually asap), Plus a whole heap of other questions to which the worker either answers as honestly as she can or says she'll find out. And then I always ask, (because it's a small town), would I know the family?"
Once I've got all this info I let the worker know that I'll call my partner Bruce and get back to them.  Bruce is usually flat out at work so we have a bit of a conversation and a think about how we can handle a placement right now, consider the things going on in our lives and make a decision, yes or no.

So, let's say we decide yes!
I call the agency back, let them know and then I make sure I have a backpack for the child and run to Coles to get some child friendly food, (because unlike popular belief, some foster carers don't have a neverending supply of lunch snacks, poppers and tempting desserts always on hand). I bolt home, make sure the child's room is ready with fresh sheets and the backpack and toiletries on the bed along with a teddy and their new torch.

It's now 5.10pm.

About now I realise I haven't cleared the dining table off for dinner, (because my partner and I eat in front of the tv when we don't have kids and use the table as a dumping ground for 'stuff' lol), so I do that. I tell the dogs and the cats that we are getting a visitor and have a handful of treats ready to keep our AmStaff calm. She adores kids, but it can be really overwhelming for a little person to see a big dog all excited.


Bruce is home by now and we talk about what to expect. We make dinner and wait.


A car pulls up in the driveway. The dogs go nuts and I give them treats and shut them in my office or on the patio.
Out of the car jumps a little person with a bag full of Maccas, (thanks for that dear social worker or whoever you are). We are introduced, my cat Capt. Jack rubs up against the little person, which usually breaks the ice.

The Capt. and Bruce


The social worker, or random drop off person leaves, and we are left to work stuff out.
If there are bags, Bruce and I show the LP to their new room and help them unpack, (the cat likes this part also). By this time the dogs are crying and I tell the LP what to expect. I go and get the little dog first and introduce them. Then I get the big dog and put her in a sit/stay while the LP has a pat, then I send her off to her mat while we finish unpacking.
Of course, the whole time we are chatting and talking about which draws to put things in and 'Oh, that's a cool shirt!, or 'Can I wash some clothes for you?"  We look through the backpack and then we say, 'We'll be just in the kitchen making dinner, you can come out when you are ready'.

Mr. Woofy
Kairo, (or Rosie as we call her), looks scary huh?
Milo, terrified of little people for some reason and hides the whole time, lol!

I like to give the LP some time alone, but where they can hear us, to process.  Usually the animals go and get the LP and we all have something to eat. Then because it's getting late, bath time and quite time before bed. We show the LP how to get to the toilet, we practise with the lights off and use the torch and we show them how to get to our bedroom and knock on the door really loudly!

I always to the first bedtime routine, unless we specifically have information that a male should do it. I have this great set of books called, 'I feel loved', 'I feel sad', 'I feel jealous' etc. There are 7 or 8 of them.  We go through the titles and the child can choose a couple for me to read. Yes, even if they are 11 years old I use the same set of books.

We had one LP who chose the book, 'I feel angry', for the first three nights, on the fourth he chose, 'I feel loved' . . .  the next day he was reunified with his family.

I've made a quick vid of the story, it's not great filming and there are no special guest star voice overs.. just me! I am camerman, crew, and narrator... the editor had the day off :o)

8 - 8.30pm sometimes later depending on how hyped up the LP is.

I ask if the LP wants a light left on, a lamp left on or the door open etc. and I check on them every 5 or 10 mins till I go to bed.

We don't really sleep that well on the first night.

6.30am or earlier

Bruce is first up in the morning and he does breakfast and the teethbrushing and getting dressed for school or day care or whatever. (I am not a morning person at all! lol).

At some point before school, I ask the LP if they'd like to go to Kmart after school to buy some new pjs, (or whatever I can see they don't have or may soon need replacing). I NEVER throw anything out that the child brings with them. These things are their only belongings and they BELONG to them, not us.  Buying new things is a nice bonding experience for both of us and I make sure they know that they now own these things, because they usually ask anyway :o(

8am ish

I walk with the LP into school, visit the office to let them know I'm caring for such and such. The school is usually the last to know. Then I pop over and visit the teacher and let them know and encourage them strongly not to expect too much homework or even quality school work until things are settling down again. Sometimes the teachers take my advice, and sometimes they don't.

9am ish

I go home for a nap LOL! I wish!  These days I have to go to work, but last year I was able to take a breath and organise a menu and lunches etc. and chase up my agency for all the info they have, if the DOCS worker hasn't called me by midday I call them and insist that I get the 'authority to care' forms by that afternoon.

I must say, that the agency I'm with is awesome!! Very helpful, friendly and supportive and I'm so glad we joined with them.  Usually we get a call from our support worker or sometimes a visit the same night the LP comes to stay (yes, out of hours... imagine that!) or the next day.

If you have any questions or comments or you are a carer and do things a little differently, please leave a comment below.

Again, this is a very general outline.

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