These insights will give you a better understanding of fostering

27 March 2020

woman and children smiling

If you want to understand how fostering works, you should speak to somebody who is directly involved, like a foster carer. Because not everyone knows someone who fosters, we asked Brent foster carers what are the main insights they would share with prospective foster carers. We collated all their answers and created this article to help you better understand fostering.

We hold monthly information evenings where you can speak to approved Brent foster carers. Feel free to attend the next event by signing up here: http://bit.ly/2ZXH61i  

According to our carers, these are the things anyone who is interested in fostering should know:

-         You need to be patient if you want to foster. If your motivation is to change somebody’s life immediately, you should know that this is not how it works. Change does not happen immediately, it takes time and effort and you should not be disappointed when it does not happen. Do not give up when you do not see the positive effect of your actions. Regardless of the outcome, we will support you so you can continue to look after other children.

-         Babies and older children have different needs. You can make babies happy by satisfying their immediate need for food and affection, but things are a bit more complex with older children. They need to feel safe, understood and supported. Those who have been let down by adults have built a wall to protect themselves from future disappointment. Your role is to help them regain their trust in the world by making them feel safe and understood. In this situation, overt displays of affection do not yield results and you will need to take a different approach. By pairing affirmations like ‘I am here for you’, ‘I am listening’ with actions and by equipping yourself with patience and tact, you will eventually succeed. Take our quiz to find out if you would are more suitable to care for babies or older children. 

-         Some children do not do things the way you would expect them to, especially those who have experienced trauma. They will behave differently from a child who grew up in a loving, safe and stable home. If you want to help them, you need to keep an open mind, not take things personally and adapt to various personalities. You should always look past their actions and understand what causes their behaviour. This approach together with the right support and training from your fostering service are the tools you need to succeed.

-        The general expectation is that through fostering you will change a child’s life. The reality is that this is not always the case. Some children will change while others not so much. It is OK, either way. Regardless of  how a placements ends, if you truly want to continue, you need to keep your eyes on the real prize of fostering, which is the difference you are making in your community. You are proactively supporting a cause you believe in and setting an example for others. A major side benefit is that fostering will definitely change you and your family. 

-         Children need an empathetic carer who is also a good listener. However, do not expect them to open up right away, but with patience, you can earn their trust. Once they feel comfortable around you, they will start sharing thoughts and feelings. Through this practice, you also help the child develop empathy, which will come in handy in building strong relations with others.

-         Fostering involves teamwork. You need to be able to work independently, take initiative and find solutions but also follow guidelines from professionals (doctors, teachers, etc.). This strong network around you and the child will help you to provide a high standard of care. Moreover, you should seek help from these people where necessary.  At Brent, we offer continuous support to all our carers and have a team of approachable social workers who will check in with you regularly.

-         The best part of fostering is seeing children make progress. The signs of progress are visible in the long-term in the little things they say or do. Some children will call you ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, some will say ‘thank you’ when least expected, others will say ‘please’, or ‘I love you’. Basically, children will overcome difficulties and succeed in areas you least expected them to whether that is work, family life or other social settings. To see progress you need to be patient and resilient; but as we said before, sometimes progress is not obvious or does not happen and this is fine, too.

-         Before you apply to foster, think about your family, the age of the children you want to look after, how many of them and whether it is for short or long term. If you have children of your own, you may consider looking after a foster child of a similar age. As a Brent foster carer you have the freedom to choose a preferred age group which matches your skills, experience or lifestyle.

-         Be resourceful and proactive. Even though you need to have a support network around you, you cannot always rely on others for help. As a foster carer, you should always look for solutions; listen to children’s needs and find the best way to help them. If you are stuck at home or children cannot go to school, similarly, to how it has been during the lockdown, you need to find ways to entertain them and to continue their education. You also need to sign up to attend training and support groups where you get or offer help. The key to success in fostering is to be open to learn new things and look for innovative solutions to challenges.

These things are the ones our foster carers thought would be useful for you to know. However, there are loads more to be discovered. It is impossible to cover the whole world of fostering because every story is as different as its protagonists. If you want to start your fostering journey with us and play a part in helping local vulnerable children, please contact us.

If you want to learn more, attend the next fostering information evening. Check the date of the next Brent fostering event and sign up.