Some more thoughts etc after the support group I went to the other week.
SGO’s, do they work? I think they do. They are, at least on paper, the best of fostering and adoption. Of course they need tweeking and they don’t work for every situation, but on the whole they do.
So what does work?
For the majority of children, contact with their birth family helps them know who they are and where they came from. It helps them to keep and maintain relationships with their BP’s, even if contact is not always perfect it is for the majority right.That’s something, contrary to lo BM, I firmly believe in and one of the reasons we took on lo and agreed to the SGO. Sibling relationships also benefit from contact, again it helps the children to know who they are and form relationships. Sibling relationships are one of the most important a child can have so it’s vital that in almost all situations that they are encouraged. These contacts with BP’s, siblings and wider family are however stressful and we need better support and guidance to help us make these about the children and what’s best for them. It is the children’s contact time, not the BP’s, and should always be about them. It should be positive, of a manageable level, and should be reviewed periodically so as the child grows and their needs, views and relationships change, the contact could be altered without the need for expensive and stressful court cases. SG’s need better support at the start of assessment to help guide them to make sensible and manageable decisions about the duration and frequency of contact in the best interests of the children. If contact is reviewed automatically it takes away they threat BP’s have over SG’s and should help support better relationships for the adults. It would also be better for BP’s that want to have a hope that they can increase the contact at some point if it’s in the best interest of the children.
So, what doesn’t work?
All the above said, the first thing people then say is contact. Contact with BP’s is probably the biggest cause of stress within SGO’s. Unfortunately it does not always work. SG’s are either left making the decisions alone without guidance and court orders, left to pick up the pieces when BP’s fail to stick to agreements or left with unmanageable contact bound to a court order. Very few SG’s even knew what one was at the start, yet alone could foresee the problems and issues the children would have before during and after contact. I do not really have a magic suggestion as to how it could be better. You can’t set it the same for everyone as all situations are different, you can’t have say 10 options ranging from an hour supervised to a weekend as there are too many variables that it still wouldn’t work for everyone. I feel the introduction of set reviews out of court would help most families and relieve some of the stress around contact.
Next on the not working list would be finance. Not one SG went into this for the money but it’s a big part of life. Alot of SG’s had to give up a job or are relying on a pension so the SG support allowance helps. However, in most cases it’s means tested, which ok suits most people who genuinely need it. It also varies from LA to LA so it’s a postcode lottery. Some LA’s take out child benefit, tax credits etc some don’t. It all needs to be standardized across the country, and for England, scotland, Ireland and Wales all to be the same. No one child should suffer because of where they live.
Nos. 3 and 4 would be support and training.
Training. While being assessed and since being granted the SGO we have not had any training. There have been a couple of information mornings/ coffee mornings over the years, usually (I think all of them but not 100% sure) in the mornings and not always local (but in our county) which isn’t enough. I am currently doing the ‘Theraputic Parenting” course, but that’s a 45min drive (or a £20 and an hour train ride) I’m lucky, don’t get me wrong, as it’s the first offered to SG’s in my county and hopefully the start of something for others. As a SG I feel we would benefit from some training from the very start. Some training in the areas important such as contact (and supervision of), first aid and parenting just to start. A therapeutic parenting course earlier would help alot, parenting a child who has suffered from whatever trauma, is very different and quite often the children have other health problems and behaviour changing diagnosis’ and help knowing how to parent these children would benefit everyone in the long run.
Support. I don’t think as SG’s we get enough support. I have however spoken a but on this, and could ramble on for hours, so I won’t repeat myself for now!
Thanks for reading, I did intend to write more earlier and more frequently, but as always life as a wife, mum, nannie and friend gets in the way (as well as the old brain fog!)