Being a foster carer is one of the most rewarding things you can do. But making a difference to a child’s life is not always easy. A foster child puts up many walls and barriers, showing behaviour which can be challenging to manage at home, at school and in social situations.
But foster carers plough through all this with patience, love and a hefty dose of commitment. But what else forms the backbone of a successful foster placement?
#1 Passion to make a difference
Fostering is not something that can be done ‘some or most of the time’. Foster carers have a passion to remain totally committed to the child or young person in their care, for as long as they are with. They advocate on their behalf too, something that isn’t always easy.
#2 Be flexible
As part of the fostering application process, you may think that only a certain age or gender of a child will fit into your family. But be flexible because you would be surprised at what kind of foster placements would be suitable.
#3 Love and support
Some foster children have not received this from their birth families. And whilst you may know love and support makes everything right in the long term, initially foster children can find it overwhelming.
#4 Fostering is NOT adoption…
… and that means be prepared to say goodbye. Depending on the type of placement the child needs, they may be with you for weeks or years, or a few days or a weekend.
#5 Communicate on all levels
And that doesn’t mean just listening, it means hearing what a child is saying and how they are saying it. But the unspoken is just as important. Behaviour is a form of communication too. Communication is key to supporting and helping a child.
#6 A ‘village’
You won’t foster alone. You will receive support from the fostering agency and social workers. But you are not fostering on your own either, especially if you have a partner and children of your own. This is important for foster children to be part of a family.
#7 Seek advice, help and support
You can’t – and you are not expected to – solve all the problems and challenges that arise on your own. But you need to be confident and willing to ask for help when you or your foster child needs it.
Foster carers bring a lot of experience and natural talent to the role but to develop key skills, you need to be prepared to commit to ongoing training. It will make you an even better foster career.
#9 Calm and non-judgemental
Some foster placements will come with contact between you and the birth family. This can be difficult to manage but with calmness, empathy and being non-judgemental, you can do it!