What the parents told us
What foster parents and birth parents said about social workers:
· If they thought that the social worker was there to help, then they got on better with them, and felt more supported. But they didn’t get on well if they thought that the social worker didn’t care about them.
“The social worker’s the one person in my life that never, ever judged me ... she always saw me as an individual, as a person, not just as a mum.” (Birth parent)
“There were social workers sitting here in this house, trying to convince us that they were acting in the child’s best interests ... in my opinion they weren’t.” (Foster parent)
· They didn’t like it when the social worker kept changing, especially if they had really got to know them well. It was also annoying that the new social worker had to find everything out again.
“It’s stupid because you get another one and they don’t know what they’re doing, when there’s one that knows ... I hate them changing all the time.” (Birth parent)
What adoptive parents and foster parents said about their first meeting with the child:
· They said they found it hard at the start when the child first came to live with them. Some children felt a bit confused and frightened and it could take time for them to feel at home and trust the carers. But eventually the young person settled.
· They also said that children found it easier to settle in if they were able to say where their home was, and who they would be living with in the future.
“The biggest issue was where she was going to be and we could never honestly say to her: you will stay here ... So, the fact that you could come to her and say to her you will stay here; she has settled so much better, she has fewer problems with access (to her birth family) as she knows she is going for a visit and not staying.” (Foster parent)
What birth parents said about their child coming home after being in foster care:
· Birth parents said that it took some time to build up trust again with the child when they came home.
· They also said that they had to reassure the child that they were dealing with their problems, and that the child settled once they believed that the parents were genuinely trying to change things.
What adoptive parents and foster parents said about forming a relationship with the child:
· They said that things were easier if the child came to live with them when they were very young.
· They said that it was easier to form a strong relationship with the child if they were able to get on with other people in the family.
· They also said that the child was better able to form a relationship with them if the placement was stable and secure.
“Because we got him from a baby he was just ours from the beginning ... he moulded into our way of life.” (Adoptive parent)
“Our own son would see him as his brother, he sees our older daughter as his big sister, they all get on very well ... Our children treat him as a smaller brother, there’s no conflict.” (Foster parent)
Relationships with the child’s birth family:
· Some foster parents felt that contact visits with the child’s birth family made life more difficult for the foster parents and the child. Others said that they had invited birth parents or grandparents to celebrate significant occasions, such as a birthdays, Christmas, and First Holy Communion.
· Some birth parents said that contact with the child was very difficult because they didn’t get to meet them in nice places. They didn’t feel they could act normally because they were being watched all the time.
· A lot of adoptive parents said that contact was a good thing, because they got to learn more about the child. They thought it helped the child understand why they were living with adoptive parents. But they also said that contact could be confusing for the child, and that it made life a bit more complicated.
What adoptive, birth, and foster parents said about school and friendships :
· Most believed their children were getting on well at school, although some children were having difficulties, such as being hyperactive, and not being able to concentrate.
· They talked about different things that helped their children with school, like having classroom assistants. Children who were getting extra help were doing better at school.
· They also said that children were making friends at home as well as in school. Some children had ‘lots of friends’. Some children were visiting their friends’ houses and attending birthday parties. Sometimes children in foster care found it a little more difficult to arrange sleepovers because they thought it would have to be checked with the social worker.
“She’s getting help with her reading now, and it’s on a one-to-one, so of course one-to-one she does brilliantly, so it has really brought her on and she’s doing really well with that now ... hopefully that’ll just give her the help she needs.” (Adoptive parent)