5 things about fostering that only an approved foster carer knows

20 February 2020

Fostering is a complex world that you discover once you are an approved foster carer. 

When you are not directly involved, it is hard to understand what it entails, and what it’s like to foster. The discovery process really begins when you start to look after your first foster child.

To help you on your research journey, we asked our approved foster carers for some insights and the main discoveries they made after starting to foster. Here are five things they shared, which are also extremely useful in helping you to make a decision about starting your journey.

  1. There’s always a need for more foster carers

‘Do you really need foster carer?’ this is what people we met at events in the borough asked us. This is not something that’s mentioned all the time but the information about the constant need for foster parents is out there for those who want to see it. According to The Fostering Network, every 20 minutes a child comes into care in the UK. And the truth is there are not enough foster carers in the whole of the UK to meet demand.

While people are willing to learn more about fostering, only half of those who express their interest turn up to an information evening. Even fewer decide to apply. This happens because fostering is not a quick and easy decision. You need to dive deep into the matter before you take the plunge. The more you know the firmer your decision and the more committed you will be to fostering. This is why we encourage you to do your research thoroughly, attend information evenings, join interest groups, speak to foster carers and contact fostering services. Dare to ask questions and seek answers, particularly form those with first-hand fostering experience.

  1. You may be the main carer but your whole household is involved.

Regardless of whether you are have your own family or not, fostering is an experience which involves everyone you have a relationship with. Your partner, your children, your parents, relatives, friends and your acquaintances. Those closest to you play a key role in the child’s development so before you apply you need to speak to them about your decision. Ideally, these people would share your passion for helping others and enjoy being around children. If you have your own children, they need to be open to having a foster sibling around. During the assessment process, we need to speak to all these people to know them better and make sure they are happy to be involved. We will also gauge the impact they will have on the child.

  1. It’s not about how many children you look after, it’s about how you do it.

Children come into care for various reasons and each one needs something specific from fostering. You need to be open and ready to help them. It is crucial that, first, you strive to understand them and secondly, that you keep a level head. You should never take things personally either. You need to remind yourself that children’s behaviour is not a reflection of their soul but a result of trauma or past negative experiences, and that you are not the target but part of the solution.

Having a strong initial motivation to help these children will help you get through the more difficult times. You should also seek help when necessary and try to speak to others; either to ask for their opinion or just to have a rant. At Brent we organise monthly support groups and encourage building relations with more experienced carers.

  1. It’s not just you and your foster child.

This is not visible from the outside, but once you become a carer and start looking after your first child you realise that you are part of the big team. Professionals from different areas like social care, health and education work together to make sure the child has a consistent experience in care and achieve their life objectives before becoming independent. You are a key team member as you spend the most time with the foster child and begin to know him better so your input will always matter. So it is critical that you work closely with others to make sure that the child in your care stays happy and healthy.

  1. Fostering equals responsibility

By definition, fostering is taking on the responsibility of looking after a child to prepare them for the next stage of their life. Once you start looking after a child, you make a tacit agreement to help that child overcome life challenges. This means you are always there for them, you try to understand and meet their needs, and support them to improve every day. There will be times when you feel that things are tough, that you are not seeing results, but patience and resilience are key. It is important to know that even though you try, some children will not change. You need to accept this. It is not your fault, and this experience will only make you stronger.

If any of these insights was useful and now you feel more prepared to foster, give us a call. If We are here to answer other questions or advise you on the first things to do in order to apply for fostering.

Call us on 0800 001 4041 or email fostering@brent.gov.uk.

Next visit >>> brent.gov.uk/fostering