You’ve done the training. You’ve been approved by the panel. And now, your first foster child is about to arrive. You probably feel a mixture of nervous excitement peppered with concerns – can you do this? Will you be good enough? Every foster carer has been in this position, so what tips do they have for new foster carers?
Fostering is child-centred but YOU are still important
You’ve made a life-changing decision, and the feeling of being overwhelmed and unsure may come back from time to time. Fostering is about the child but you are important too and so if you are unsure about anything, tap into the support systems offered by the fostering agency.
Learn to communicate
You may listen, but are you hearing what the child is actually telling you? Are you, as far as is appropriate, including them in decision-making? For some foster children, feeling in control and part of what happens to them is important. Don’t underestimate the skill of effective communication on all levels, from listening and talking, to understanding their body language.
You’ll use a lot of gut instinct and fostering skills
A lot of what foster carers do on a day to day basis is instinct backed by training and skills learnt. You will rely a lot on this intuition in your early days of fostering as you gather experience and practice newfound fostering skills. Your social worker can help you when you feel unsure about how to approach something.
Nothing compares to the ‘breakthrough moment’
It can be some time in coming, but the moment a foster child reaches for your hand, physically or metaphorically, is the breakthrough moment. And this is the signal you are ‘getting it right’!
Every foster carer fears they are doing it wrong/making it worse
Every foster carer, new and experienced, will feel nagging self-doubt from time to time. It can seem that no matter what you do or don’t do, how you do it or don’t do it, nothing seems to change. But you are making progress as are the foster children in your care.
There are no shortcuts…
… and neither will things change overnight. Fostering takes commitment, patience, perseverance and confidence, four things that can waver from day to day or when things are tough. Foster carers will come to fostering prepared to make a long-term commitment.
Ask for as much information on the child you are fostering
The key to a successful fostering placement is having information about the child. The more you know before they arrive, the better and more personal your response will be. By having an understanding of their past life, their history and the issues that they are presenting, you have a better chance of making a positive start. Don’t be frightened to ask for more information.
You are the ‘responsible parent’
You are the person who will be making the day-to-day decisions that affect the child in your care. Make sure you know the boundaries, however, of when you need to refer things to the social worker for more input.
A ‘family book’ is a great idea
A child coming into foster care can be in a distressed state. There are many ways you can help them feel safe but sometimes, having a clear understanding of the family home is one way of helping them to adjust. Some experienced foster carers have a ‘family book’ which sets out basic family rules, like bedtime, tea time and so on.
You’ll find a balance
There needs to be a balance between privacy and respect, and doing things together, along with family rules and what happens when rules are broken.
Being a foster carer is rewarding, but it can be hard work. However, we are confident that you won’t regret opening your home and heart to a foster child!
Active Care Solutions are a faith-based fostering agency, matching and supporting foster carers with children in need.