If you’re just starting out on the road to fostering, here are the top 5 tips we think will help.
1. Be patient
The process of becoming a foster carer isn’t quick. It can’t be. This is because it is imperative that you learn the skills needed to be able to provide the right care for a foster child. You’ll also need to take time to go through the assessments and to be sure that this is the right decision.
All in all, the process between applying and your first foster placement can be somewhere in the region of 4-6 months.
Patience is therefore vital. However, patience is going to be one of the most important attributes you can bring to the foster carer and foster child relationship, so there’s no harm in getting in some practice!
2. Be realistic
Being a foster carer is rarely easy but it is immensely rewarding, and there’s no other role quite like it. However, there will be difficulties.
Children coming into foster care come from a broad range of backgrounds. They may have experienced trauma, loss or neglect. At the very least, they will feel unsettled and uncertain about their future.
As a result, they can come into foster care with a range of difficulties, which are often behavioural in nature. They may be very angry, withdrawn, inappropriate, or have deep-seated problems with attachment. All need a caring and secure home.
Being a foster carer will affect you: It can’t not. Being realistic about this is vital to the success of placements for both you and the child.
It’s also important to be realistic about the impact of fostering on your wider family and household. Fostering should be a ‘whole family’ decision because it impacts all of you. This can be positive, for example teaching a birth child empathy and providing companionship. At times it may result in adverse reactions, such as jealousy.
3. Approach it like a career, with a difference
Being a foster carer is also a ‘job’. It’s unusual, as a type of job, but approaching it as such can provide the best care for children. This is because, knowing foster carers
are respected as professionals (and remunerated as such), provides the ability to supply the level of care a foster child needs.
Not having to worry about finances is absolutely vital. This is why foster carers are paid an allowance. This will also include a professional fee for their services.
In addition, viewing foster caring as a career means you can focus on the skills you need and the training that comes with this. You can access different training and potentially develop your career to include various types of placement.
4. Be flexible
No two foster children are the same, and no two foster placements look identical. Foster carers need to be able to adapt to the different needs of different children. This requires a willingness on the part of the foster carer to truly learn about the individual child and work with social workers and the fostering agency to meet that child’s needs.
Foster placements can also happen with very limited notice. They can last from a few days to months or years. Being flexible helps you manage the immense changes that foster caring brings.
5. Be yourself
The single biggest thing you can bring to foster caring is being yourself. We need foster carers from a hugely diverse range of backgrounds to meet the equally diverse range of backgrounds of children in care.
It, therefore, doesn’t matter what your religion or faith is, your gender, marital status or sexuality. If you believe that you can make a positive difference to a child’s life and are willing to nurture them, then being yourself if vital.
Find out more about fostering here.
*This is a guest post