Being a foster carer is not always easy and is something you should think a lot about beforehand. As with many things in life, you cannot ever be completely prepared for life as a foster parent; you can only know exactly what fostering is like when you are going through the experience yourself. However, it is always beneficial to research as much as you can and try and get a better idea of what life might be like if you were to become a foster carer. In this post we are sharing five things we think every potential foster carer needs to know. This list has been compiled with the knowledge of our social workers and team here at Foster Care. If you are considering becoming a foster carer yourself then we hope this post helps you get a better understanding of foster care and what life will be like as a foster parent.
1. Fostering is more than just having a child live with you – Fostering isn’t an accommodation service. You will be expected to do more than simply house a child, feed them and meet all their basic needs. Children in foster care need love and support. They need to see what healthy and happy family relationships look like and they often need someone to listen to their worries and help them through this difficult time. Foster carers need to nurture and care for their foster children in the same way they would their own children. Foster carers need to offer opportunities to the children in their care as doing and achieving different things helps children to grow in confidence (something children from difficult backgrounds don’t always have). Fostering is so much more than having a child live with you and that’s why we need people with big hearts, a big home is not of paramount importance.
2. Foster carers need to be resilient – As with any other ‘job’, fostering is not always easy. Being a foster carer is sometimes accompanied by a whole host of challenges. The children who come to you have often experienced a difficult home life with their biological family and this can result in difficult behaviours. A good foster carer will stick by the children in their care even through challenging periods, they will show their foster children that they care about them no matter what and are willing to help them through the hard times. Fostering is challenging at times but when you see all the positive change you can make to a child’s life, all the hard times will feel completely worth it.
3. Foster carers should not take negative behaviours personally – A child is not placed with a foster carer because everything in their life up until that point has been ok. Potential foster carers should be aware that the children placed with them are likely to have experienced a difficult childhood so far. Children in foster care come from all different types of backgrounds and some children have experienced more trauma than others, meaning they may not accept becoming a member of a foster family straight away. Children can sometimes fear becoming attached to their foster parents or may not know how to form positive bonds with them as it is not something they have learnt from their own parents. Occasionally children will try and push their foster carers away as a self defence mechanism, they don’t want to get too attached as they have been let down in the past. A good foster carer will be understanding of the way their child behaves and will not take any negative behaviour towards them personally. Often a child does not act this way because they actively dislike their foster carer, it is a way of protecting themselves.
4. Foster families can be happy families – When a child first gets placed with a foster carer/s, they are essentially a stranger. Over time, and it may not take as long as you think, a child will settle into life in their new home and become one of the family. Children can be much stronger than we give them credit for and, despite a difficult upbringing, they can often go on to achieve amazing things with the support of a loving foster family. Just as foster carers help the children in their care, children can teach their foster parents a thing or two too. Fostering is a wonderful opportunity to not just change the lives of children but those of the foster carers and their wider families too. Foster families often learn so much from the children they work with and it is a great opportunity to try out new hobbies and pursue new interests as a family. By becoming a foster carer you can help a child have new, fun and exciting experiences they may not have been able to have without you. Fostering can give foster carers and children the opportunity to make lots of happy memories that everyone will cherish forever.
5. No one regrets becoming a foster carer – Fostering doesn’t always work out. It would be unrealistic to expect every single placement to result in a happy ending. However, whether you foster one child or one hundred children, it is not something you will regret. Even if fostering doesn’t work out for you, you will never regret trying to make a positive change in a child’s life. Fostering can be challenging and exhausting at times but it is such a privilege. What a wonderful thing to do, impacting a child’s life and making a real difference to children who need it most.