Being new to fostering and opening the doors of your home and life to your first foster child is daunting. But believe in yourself because you have the right outlook and training to help any foster child reach their full potential.
#1 Be prepared as fostering WILL affect you
The children and young people you take in will have had a traumatic time, some more than others. In your care, children begin the process of working through all these pent-up emotions and feelings.
Their behaviour will be symptomatic of all that has happened to them. Wetting the bed, swearing, mood swings, being disruptive are all negative behaviours that can be difficult to handle.
Some days, you will be the positive foster parent that you know you can be. But in the blink of an eye, the trauma a foster child exhibits could have you questioning your ability to cope.
Fostering not easy but through the dark times, the rewards will come. And it is YOU making that difference.
#2 Reach out for help
There will be long days, dark days and days full of tensions. Every time the phone rings, you’ll assume it will be school or nursery complaining about your foster child’s behaviour.
At a time when we know we need help, someone to talk to or someone to bounce ideas off, the hardest thing to do is to pick up the phone, send an email or drop by the fostering agency office asking for help.
No one is thrown into the ‘deep end’ of fostering. Without support, no fostering placement is successful. This is why fostering agencies have packages of support for not just the child but for their foster carers too.
But if you feel the dark cloud descending and feel unable to cope, contact your social worker and talk through the issues, problems and concerns you have with them.
#3 What are small things to you, are BIG things to them
Until you meet your foster children and get to know them a bit better, you are feeling your way along so to speak.
Trauma has a ‘funny way’ of showing itself. We think of things like bedwetting and bad dreams, or inappropriate behaviour. But sometimes, it is the small things, the things we don’t think twice about that can upset a foster child.
For example, forgetting to put their favourite snack in their lunch box could, for them, be a sign that you are abandoning them too.
Or not being stood where they can see you as they come out of school. Or playing a game of hide and seek only for them not to be able to find you.
You will need to continually reassure in a way that puts their beating hearts at rest. Some of these children are so traumatised, they don’t even realise how much themselves.
#4 You ARE doing a great job
At the start, it can feel like you haven’t made much of a difference. But you have, and you are!
Things don’t change overnight. Some foster carers who offered long-term foster placements are still helping their foster children, who are now adults, to adjust and adapt to life.
#5 You’ll learn to adapt
As a foster carer, you will bring a range of life experiences and skills to your new role as a foster parent.
But if there is one thing about foster care, it is the sheer joy and new skills that will come along as you welcome children into your home.
There will be many new things to learn but one skill that you will pick up very quickly is adaptability.
But of all the tips for new carers, which one is the most important? Take it slowly, take each day as it comes and enjoy it because you are making a difference.
Foster Care Associates are a leading fostering agency in the UK. Offering unrivalled training and support, they are currently looking for foster parents across the UK.