Carer By Name, Carer By Nature

Prior to becoming a supervising social worker for Caring Hearts Fostering I was working as a social worker in a Local Authority for 8 years in frontline child protection, court proceedings and working with children in care. I’ve seen a lot and learnt a lot along the way and I’d like to share some of my learning with you.

It may come as a surprise but during my time as a children’s social worker working for the Local Authority I sadly encountered some instances of foster carers who didn’t care. It was very apparent to me and undoubtedly to the children who they cared for. Becoming a foster carer is not for everyone and takes a special kind of person with a lot of care to give. Be honest with yourself before committing to be a foster carer about whether you really have a caring heart or if your hard has become hardened.

The lived experiences, behaviours and challenges of each child is unique and so is the support and care that they need. As a foster carer it important to be teachable and curious. You are not expected to know it all and will learn so much as you go along but don’t forget to ask the professional network for support and guidance as you need. No question is too small-even if it simply clarifying an acronym being used in a professionals meeting. Side note: social workers love using acronyms that at times it may seem like they are speaking another language. Always clarify anything you are unsure of. (There is also a handy glossary of frequently used terms available to foster carer on their Charms account).

The perfect child does not exist and neither does the perfect carer (or social worker for that matter). There are times that you may feel overwhelmed and question your ability. However, if you have made it past the intense assessment process to become a foster carer, congratulations you’re a pretty-amazing human. You won’t always get things spot on but that’s okay so long as there is a learning and reflection to take away. It doesn’t matter if you are a single carer or a fostering couple. It doesn’t matter if you have experience fostering or you are a fresh set of eyes to the field. We all have our own strengths.

Self-care is paramount when caring for Children Looked After. Some of the stories you will hear about the children’s experiences, both second-hand from professionals and directly from the child’s mouth, will be shocking and painful to hear at times. It can be difficult to process when you hear something terrible has happened to a child you know and care for. In addition, when the young people feel sad or upset some of those feelings at times can seem to be contagious (what is known as transference in the world of psychology). As a result, it is important to make sure you take care of yourself and your own emotional well-being. Don’t feel guilty for treating yourself, taking some ‘me-time’ and giving yourself space to decompress.

The next point I have seen in my career and in my own experience as a child raised without parents following family court proceedings. Many times, a young person’s sense of self-worth and self-belief can influence the decisions and choices they make. All it takes for a child to start to believe in themselves is one single adult believing in them first. For many children this will be a parent but for Looked After Children often their parents are not able to fulfil this role. A child’s trusted adult can be you as their foster carer, their social worker, mentor or teacher or someone else. As a foster carer make sure you demonstrate clearly through actions and words that you believe in your young person, that you see their potential and you are there to support them to achieve their goals. Remember all it takes is the consistency and belief of one adult to make a difference to a child: that adult could be you.

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