Children's views - What does a good a foster carer do and what are their responsibilities?
At 11 am on the last Saturday of the third UK lockdown, we met on Zoom with a group of 7 to 11 year olds. They got together as part of a Junior Care In Action online meeting to play some fun games but also discuss more serious issues. We decided to join the group because we wanted to find out from the children what they expect from a foster carer and what they thought are a carer’s main responsibilities.
As soon as the little ones logged on, the Zoom call filled with laughter and giggles. They were all full of energy despite suffering through the last week of a long lockdown. When we explained our presence in the meeting, the children seemed glad that we wanted to hear their opinion on something that involves them directly like fostering.
It did not take us long to realise that the children talking to us were bright, funny, creative and extremely honest and open, which is what they said they expected from everyone around them, especially their foster parents. They added they appreciate carers who are sensible and behave responsibly. Amir honestly told us that he knew how some carers spent the money for the children on themselves, which was not a very responsible thing to do. He also added, “a good foster parent needs to be able to say ‘no’ to me. For example, when I play on my computer for too long or I eat too much chocolate, my carer needs to be able to tell me to stop.” Amir, like all the rest, knows he is not doing everything right and expects the carer to be firm but fair and set boundaries when it is in the interest of the child.
In Chloe’s opinion, a good foster carer should be sensible and treat her with respect and fairness even though she is just a child. They would also need to ‘be supportive and encourage me to follow my dreams,’ said Chloe. Some children do not know that they are strong and talented so they need carers to inspire and help them achieve their undiscovered potential. Amir wants to be an engineer, Chloe dreams of becoming an MP like Dawn Butler, Sarah wants to be a footballer or a vet, and John dreams of becoming a successful businessman. These children have clear goals and need someone strong to be by their side, inspire and help them when things get tough.
Being supported is as important as feeling loved. Saying ‘I love you’ is easy, but the children want to really feel the love. For Sarah this is ‘to ask me how my day’s been after school, to make me my favourite meal or to come to me and ask me what is wrong when I am sad.’ Anna said that when she is down, she prefers to be left alone, and thinks a loving carer would absolutely understand this. She would also appreciate growing up in a household where the carer is a good role model and promotes strong values like honesty, friendliness and compassion.
Even though there is no age limit to fostering, a foster carer needs to have stamina and the willingness to entertain the children. Everyone we spoke to said they would love to do fun activities with their carer, like organising a picnic or a Sunday barbecue, riding the bike or walking in the park. Small things like these create the impression of a stable family life, which is what someone like Sarah or Chloe needs.
‘I’d like my carer to help me get ready for school, set the bath for me, make me food, or ask me how my day’s been,’ said Saabira. A good foster parent, she told us, would need to be involved in the child’s life every day to discover what they like and meet all their needs because fostering is equally about offering shelter, food and clothes but also about making them feel part of a family.
Life for a child in care is not easy. It has its challenges but with the help and support of a loving foster carer, the children have access to the resources and opportunities available to anyone else. Having a foster parent that is honest and open, kind, understanding, respectful but also firm, can change a child’s life for the better, and help them achieve their full potential.
If you believe that you fit the profile of the ‘ideal carer’, get in touch with us. Call 0800 001 4041 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how you can become a foster carer.
We wold like to send a special thank you to all the lovely children we spoke to who shared their views on what makes a good foster carer and what are their main responsibilities.
Next visit >>> brent.gov.uk/fostering