New to fostering? Welcome to a world of challenges, rewards and fun. We do recognise, however, that fostering is daunting for those new to foster care. With this in mind, take a look at the tips from fellow foster carers and families on how to get over your initial fostering nerves.
Keep the passion for making a difference, even when the bad times and crisis seem to run into one another. There will be hard times but the great times far outweigh them.
The initial fostering nerves and the feeling of taking on something bigger than you will pass! Take each day as it comes and if you are unsure about anything, ask. Your social worker won’t think you are a nuisance.
Make use of all support networks including the phone lines of fostering charities. You may feel more comfortable discussing some of your own personal fears and issues in both confidence and anonymity.
Being flexible is something we all think we are but fostering widens your ‘flexibility’ even more! You will become more agile in thoughts, actions and response as your confidence increase.
Work hard to engage and connect with your foster child because it is ultimately this connection that makes a fostering placement a success. Be gentle and take it at the child’s pace, however.
Hang on to the small stuff like the first smile or the first time they reach for your hand. These are all small but significant steps in a foster child trusting you. Trust is a major issue for foster children, no matter their gender, age or history.
Make your love and support unconditional because foster children are used to ‘being let down’. The feeling of being abandoned runs deep so learn to separate the child from the behaviour. The behaviour may be negative but the child is still valued.
Attend training and support groups because these are the informal settings where you will get a lot of ‘insider’ knowledge, hints and tips from foster carers who have a lot of experience. It's also a great place to talk through some of your worries and concerns about being new to the fostering environment.
Fostering isn’t adoption and so you will need to be prepared to say goodbye to the child.
Goodbye is sometimes the right thing for the child. It can mean that they are leaving to live with their forever adoptive family. Or it could mean that because with the right support has been put in place that they can return to their birth parents or to members of their extended birth family.
Don’t be frightened to explore career progression within fostering, something that has changed in recent years. Foster carers are now seen as professionals, so access the specialist training you would like to expand your fostering practice and skills.
You can hug your foster child, read the bedtime stories and all the other stuff you would do with your own children. But it must be done on your foster child’s terms. Some children crave attention, whilst others back away from physical contact.
Be prepared to advocate on behalf of your foster child because systems and processes don’t always take foster children and their situation into account.
Stand firm when you feel that this is the right thing to do. But do so kindly and professionally, confident that you are doing so in keeping with your foster child’s best interests.
Get to know people, what they do and what role they will play in the placement of a foster child. There may be many professionals you will work with. They are coming into your home – and therefore, the safe space that your foster child calls home – thus, getting to know them is essential.
Not everyone understands fostering or why children are placed in foster care. Some people lose all sense of tact and will ask, quite often in front of the child, as to why they ‘aren’t living with Mum and Dad’. Have an answer ready but don’t give any detail, and make sure it has a positive ring to it.
Enjoy it because it is rewarding and your foster child will remember you forever!
Fostering People is a fostering agency who support foster carers across the country to provide amazing life experiences to children and young people in care. Could you be their next foster care recruit?
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