Foster carers need to have a broad range of skills and qualities, including being a great listener, having a good sense of humour, being optimistic, having their feet firmly on the ground and showing resilience. They must also be able to offer the time, commitment, space and skills to care for children separated from their families. But what duties does a foster carer have on a day to day basis? To give you a better idea, here are some examples of what foster carers do:
Foster carers are expected to do all they can to support children and young people in their education, look after their health and promote their social wellbeing. They act as a vital source of support in all these areas.
Attend meetings and manage information
Being a foster carer involves more than just looking after a child. As well as the day-to-day care of the child, foster carers attend meetings about the children in their care, keep written records, and manage information that is confidential and sensitive. In doing so, they help make plans for a child’s future.
No longer being able to live in the home or with the people you are used to is a traumatic experience, whatever your age. Fostered children and young people can display difficult or challenging behaviour as a way of coping with this upheaval. A foster carer needs to recognise the possible causes of this kind of behaviour and, with the support of their fostering service, develop strategies to help a child manage their feelings and experiences.
Promote contact with families
Contact with their own families is very important to children and young people in foster care and foster carers need to help maintain this if needed. This is important, regardless of any personal feelings a foster carer may have about the child’s parents. Contact can be direct (face-to-face) or indirect (telephone, email or letters) and a carer will receive training to help manage this.
Foster carers must be able to communicate effectively, not only with children and young people but with social workers, the children’s birth families and other people who are involved with the wellbeing of the children.
Commit time and energy
Every foster carer needs to have time and energy to invest in a child or young person. No matter how caring or how passionate they are about changing children’s lives, the fostering placement can only be successful if foster carers have space in their lives to accommodate a child in need.
When foster carers are preparing to foster they will receive training for themselves and their families so that they can build upon the skills they already have, and develop new skills needed to foster. Once approved, they are expected to undertake on going professional learning and development to help maintain and develop these skills.
Work in a team
A team approach is necessary to help children cope with separation, loss, abuse and neglect, settling in long-term foster care or moving on to adoption. Foster carers link to a large network of people: social workers, children’s families, schools, health care workers, counsellors, designated teachers and the fostering service.
If you’d like to know more about becoming a foster carer, go to our becoming a foster carer section. You can also give UK Fostering a call at any time for advice and information.