“How has lockdown been?” you ask. How to reply to that takes a few moments of thought.
In some ways I am very lucky; I have a nice home, a garden to spend time in and my daughter and her family live close enough to drop food parcels in if I needed them. I don't have care of any school aged children so, thankfully, I am not struggling with home schooling! In other ways, not so much.
Let me explain the situation at home at the moment. I am a single foster carer and I have a very young mum and her baby in placement with me. She is here while the Local Authority assess her parenting and decide whether she and the baby can remain together. Due to certain risk factors she is under 24-hour supervision, which is hard enough at any time but much worse with the current lockdown.
We went into isolation two weeks before the official lockdown started as the mum was displaying signs of COVID-19. Of course, at that point, there was no testing available so we could not be 100% sure she had the virus. Mum really struggled. She didn't feel well and was told by NHS 111 that she shouldn't be caring for her baby in case she infected him. She was resentful of me caring for him and very unhappy at not being able to go out; she kicked hard against the restriction. After she had completed her 7-day isolation I had to remain in isolation for a further 7 days, and then we went into lockdown! This did not go down well as she had pinned all her hopes on being able to go out once I was clear. The thought of being home indefinitely, as she put it, really messed with her head. The atmosphere at home was not at all nice.
During the lockdown we remained indoors, partly so as not to put the baby at risk but also because I have an underlying health condition. We were very fortunate to have my daughter and some brilliant friends from within the fostering community who stepped up and supported us by doing shopping, sorting prescriptions and so forth.
As time went on, mum struggled more and more and decided she simply could not cope and left the placement whilst the baby stayed with me. This considerably eased the tension within the house and to be honest, I have really enjoyed having the baby to care for; he is such a happy chappy. I do feel a little sad that the majority of his life has been in lockdown so we haven't been able to go to groups or socialise with other little people.
Contact has had to be via video call, which is not ideal. We currently have six planned video contacts a week with various family members and unlimited video calls with mum. As you can imagine this is not easy with a small baby. Trying to schedule times is hard when a baby is being demand fed so it has involved the family being willing to adjust times a little to suit his routine. This obviously doesn't work for supervised calls so there have been times when dad has had to watch him feed, or sleep, rather than actually engage with him. Initially he wasn't able to focus in on the screen for any length of time and would get fractious very quickly. It was difficult for family members to continue talking to a baby that showed no interest in them at all but most of them persevered and now, as time has gone on, he has started to recognise the sound of their voices and will listen to them and smile when they make silly noises to him. I'm sure that all they really want is to give him a big cuddle, and I'm equally sure that he would be much happier seeing them face-to-face but hey ho, these are strange times.
Video meetings are the norm for now. I will be totally honest and say I loathe them! I am not very tech savvy and the finer nuances of the various platforms escape me. I have mastered Zoom and WhatsApp but Teams, well I have yet to be able to join a meeting. Since Teams is the preferred platform for the Local Authority this has been something of a problem. I have had to be dialled in, which means I can hear but not see the other participants. I find this very difficult as I cannot read their body language when they respond to comments. I will persevere though, eventually I will work it out!
I have missed seeing my family dreadfully, especially my granddaughters who I would usually see several times a week. I haven't been able to take my planned trip overseas to see one of my sons and his family, and the rest of my family, who live in the north of the country, have not been able to visit for our usually month of birthday celebrations. It would be easy to get depressed but fortunately I am a half-glass-full type of girl and so I take comfort in the fact that all my family are well and we are able to video call regularly; we have even taken to having Sunday family quiz time!
On balance I think I've done okay during lockdown. I accept I have had it much easier than some. I have valued the check-ins from my supervising social worker and how the baby's social worker has kept me up to date with what is going on behind the scenes. The family nurse attached to the family has been amazing. The HFN Facebook page has enabled me to keep in touch with fellow carers, to ask for and offer advice and to simply feel a connection. I have seen who my real friends are and appreciated their help with practical and emotional support and I hope I have been able to offer them some comfort when needed. Having a good support network has really come into it's own. Now we are able to go out a little more and I am able to see a few people for socially distanced walks, life is looking much better. I still can't wait to give my granddaughters a big hug but hopefully that will be soon, then I will squish them till they tell me to stop!