Life equips us with all sorts of skills, but the attributes a foster carer needs are quite specific. People who go into fostering can come from all sorts of backgrounds: couples (married or living together), families, single people, and same sex couples. Fostering agencies look to recruit people from different ethnicities, religions, and cultural backgrounds: this obviously helps with the matching process and gives the best chance for a placement to be stable.
Qualities a foster carer should have.
The main qualities needed to be a foster carer are listed below. The first and most obvious is that they should have a genuine interest in children and want always to do their best for them. Anyone considering fostering should obviously have a caring nature and whilst compassion is important, so too is the ability to be firm when the occasion demands. Children and young people need to feel that they are in a home environment where they are treated in a fair and consistent way. They might not always like ‘house rules’ but having them in place is ultimately what makes them feel secure. It is also important to have:
- the nature to be both adaptable and flexible.
- the strength to persevere.
- good communication skills.
- good listening skills.
- a stable family and home life.
- the willingness to works as a team player – able to cooperate with a child’s birth parents as well as social workers.
- the ability to set boundaries.
- the commitment to support a child and their identity – religion, culture, and language.
- a sense of empathy.
Many children who come to the attention of social services and need to be found a foster home have had negative experiences. These can include being abused and neglected. This means that they can have a whole range of emotional problems that will often need clinical intervention to address. Being able to sympathise with a child and appreciating that their behaviour can be challenging because of such experiences, is crucial. Today, many foster carers are having additional training so that they can foster therapeutically. This means that they have the skills to provide more specialist support in the home. This can mean working to help implement a tailored recovery programme devised by a clinician for a child or young person. If you are considering this kind of fostering, be prepared to do additional training and knowledge building.