I’m sure that when people start considering fostering the first questions that they ask of themselves are:
- Am I the right kind of person to become a foster carer?
- Do I have the right skills and experience to help children?
Our dedicated team speak to interested people every day who come from a variety of backgrounds, family configurations and life circumstances – connected by their interest in fostering. We always remind people that foster carers are just everyday individuals who have a special interest in helping children at a difficult time.
Foster carers do need to be patient, empathetic and able to understand the feelings of children who have been experiencing a crisis in their life. As well as the core skills to foster, a good sense of humour is often needed, as is an appreciation of life and a belief in the positive qualities of children and young people.
If this sounds like you, then full training and guidance is given to enable you to develop these qualities that are already in you, so you may just be the right kind of person to foster a child or young person. If you still need persuading, then consider the following:
Consider how long does it take to process trauma? There is no timeframe as to how long it can take to undo years and years of neglect and fear?. Children will develop at their own speed, and they simply need foster carers that will walk alongside them through the process and have realistic expectations as to how long and how hard it will be. Do you have that strength for those times when your foster child is running on empty?
- Empathy / Understanding
Following on from the point above, foster carers need empathy and understanding in bucketloads. The effects of trauma and neglect can lead to children having behavioural issues or developmental delays. They may have unusual habits, attachment issues, or struggle to manage their emotions. You get initial and regular ongoing training as a foster carer to develop your knowledge and understanding of the needs of foster children so that you can better understand and support them.
Much like patience, resilient people are those that can process the most stressful and challenging situations and yet still continue resolutely that they will make that long term difference for that child. It is too easy for foster carers to give up on children, which in turn can do much further damage to that child. Resilience is key!
We can all too often take love for granted but many children grow up with a distinct lack of love. Foster carers need that capacity to love children, if possible unconditionally. Love is not always automatic and is not always accepted by the child anyway. But if you have a capacity for love then you may be showing a child a world of warmth that they may never have experienced before. If can be so hard to see a child struggle to accept your love and affection, but don’t take it personally. Would you really expect a child to initially understand and trust your motivations when life experiences have previously let them down harshly?
- Good Communication
Any child, whatever their age, needs someone to communicate with, someone to help them process their past and lead them towards their future. Communication comes in many forms. What works for one child may not work for another. Foster carers will be adept at listening and talking, knowing when to talk, when to stop and when simply to offer a hug. As a foster carer you will have your own social worker to help you and your household to care and support your foster child – talk to them as they are there to listen, encourage and guide you.
- Passion / Attitude
Call it passion, call it attitude, if you are passionate about something, be it humanity, children in general, or children neglected abused and suffering, then you are likely to have the drive to put your interests aside and do all that you can for that child, enjoying the good times and staying resolute during the more challenging times. You may have been the first person to ever do that for your foster child, and they will remember, maybe now or maybe in a few years’ time (as you may only be part of their young life’s journey), so please make it count.
- Good Sense of Humour
This goes without saying. Fostering is hard work but can be so rewarding, but to have the ability to bring in some humour at an appropriate time to diffuse a situation, or to illustrate that something really is not such a big drama – if you can see the funny side!
So, do you think that you have what it takes to be a Great Foster Carer? Please get in touch for an informal chat.
You do not need any formal qualifications as full training is provided, but any parenting or work/volunteering experience that you have with children or young people (or vulnerable adults) can be helpful.
Why not check out some of our other blogs that have been written by UK Fostering Foster Carers about their journey to deciding to foster and some of their experiences once fostering.
https://ukfostering.org.uk/why-we-care-lornnas-story/ – Lornna on her journey to becoming a foster carer
https://ukfostering.org.uk/why-we-care-peter-michelle/ – Peter on caring for siblings long-term
https://ukfostering.org.uk/why-we-foster-teenagers-although-that-wasnt-our-initial-plan/ – Charlotte on caring for teens
https://ukfostering.org.uk/foster-parent-child-foster-carers-view/ – Gloria on caring for mum and baby assessment placements
We would love to hear from you and discuss fostering with you further.
By Lynsey Dobbs – Senior Recruitment Officer, UK Fostering