“My partner and I had just started the assessment process to become foster carers. Very early in the process we were told we had to attend a course called Skills to Foster. This was a three day course and is run fairly frequently often over weekends, to minimise the time taken off work. Having sorted the time off, we were booked onto the next available course.
“When we arrived on the first day we didn’t know what to expect and it is fair to say we were quite nervous. All the chairs were arranged in a horseshoe shape and most of the seats were already taken. We took our seats and tried not to look too nervous. Most of the potential foster carers who attended our course were couples and the majority had had their own children who were grown up and had flown the nest. There was also a young couple there and a lady on her own. We were the only same sex couple. The mixed makeup of the group reassured us that the information we’d been given and local media stories were true; it didn’t matter about your age, ethnic origin, work status, marital situation, sexual orientation etc.
“The day began with some introductions but not in the usual way. We were asked to swap places and find out about the person sitting next to us. Awkward! It did however break the ice and set the scene for the days ahead.
“There was a lot of group work both as a whole and split into smaller groups. The days went by fast, covering a number of topics through scenarios and group interaction. As well as learning what you should do as a foster carer in certain situations it also made you think and put yourselves in other peoples shoes; the child, the birth parents, the social worker. It gave us a far greater understanding and was honest about the challenges that are posed to the foster child, family and foster carers and their families.
“We covered all sorts of topics including why children and young people would be taken into care. We were warned we may find certain areas uncomfortable. I thought we would skim over the different types of abuse in order to be aware of them: I was wrong! We went into real detail, which I think was right, looking back. Even though it wasn’t comfortable to discuss, it had to be done and that summed up the whole course for me. There were areas covered we may never come across, some areas we already knew about and some we perhaps hadn’t ever thought about before.
“On the last day we got to meet a real-life foster carer, after all the theory was done and the discussions and debates had been had, we were ready to ask about the practicalities – how you deal with certain situations, different people etc.
“Overall we found the skills to foster course very useful. It had given us an understanding, made us talk about things we weren’t necessarily comfortable with, created debate and discussion, made us put ourselves in other people’s positions. We had learnt a lot in a very honest and non-pressured environment. We were very impressed with the content, style and organisation of the course and it made us more determined to keep going with our application.
“We felt relieved and satisfied when it was all completed and submitted to the relevant people. Next step was to be presented to panel in around a month’s time for yet more questions!”