If you are new to fostering, you will have lots of mixed feelings from excitement to being apprehensive about the future and making a success of your chosen path. Fortunately, we at Care Visions use our experience in fostering to ensure the process is carefully structured to support foster carers at all levels of experience and all stages of their journey- from initial planning to preparing to welcome your first child into placement. While life as a Foster Carer can be unpredictable - there are still some steps you can make to help make the process easier and more enjoyable.
“It takes a village to raise a child” (or young person) - which is why it’s important to build that vital sense of support for you and your family. As a Foster Carer, you will establish connections with key people like social workers and other professionals who work as part of the Team around the Child. We will also connect you with other experienced Foster Carers in your local area who can offer you practical and emotional support. We know that those relationships you already have with close friends and family will go a long way to ensuring that someone is looking out for you and is available when you need that extra helping hand or some time out. It’s good to talk!
Fostering can sometimes feel lonely - particularly for single carers. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to grow your “village”, such as going along to your monthly support groups (peer support and a listening ear) or enlisting family and friends to help. Its good to know your own locality well in terms of local community resources e.g sports centres, leisure facilities, summer activity programmes, parks, children’s clubs and other groups.
A safe and welcoming environment starts with a clean slate: so to prepare your home for a child/young person coming to live with you, start early with a top-to-bottom declutter. Through ensuring your home is cosy, comfortable and safe, you’ll help them to feel more settled and secure. For the child/young persons bedroom, this is their own personal space so with that in mind- neutral décor is best until they arrive and can let you know how they want their room to be decorated. E.g. some children might want bright colours, or posters, or a favourite theme. When children move to a foster placement they will be in a state of high anxiety and being able to have control over their own wee space gives them a sense of control, of belonging and that you are happy to help them settle. Sharing the ideas about their room and getting this organized is a great building block to set the scene for your future relationship.
Imagine that you are told that you will be going to a new home in a couple of days and that “The Foster Carers are a nice family?”. You would have a thousand questions and no idea of what the reality of this might be. So now that you are in the child’s world let's think about what would help.
Putting together a Welcome Book is one of the most reassuring and personal things you can do to start to prepare a young person for what they might expect in coming to live as a member of your family. Think about it? Buying a house- what is being offered? Booking a holiday and need to know the detail to help you make the right decision. Buying a car - we look at lots of information before we make a decision.
So, here’s a great way to help the child feel reassured and start that connection with you from the start. Take some time with this. Photographs of you and your family - Hey this is who we are! Could include the family home, the child’s room, your garden, family activities e.g. Pizza night, local parks, places to go and things to do. Great to include a personal message to the child to let them know that you’ve heard so much about them and so looking forward to them coming to stay with you. As an adult- would that help you? I think we all agree it would.
On a practical level, Make a list and purchase any essentials you’ll need such as bedding and toiletries, but don’t feel obliged to grab everything in one go. Shopping for a few items with the child can help offer a sense of comfort and control, particularly if they have certain products or items, they use that are familiar. Where you may be fostering younger children, this list will be quite extensive as they need a lot of equipment - this will be provided to you. Again, be mindful that children may be used to certain food and smells, wherever possible this needs to be the same.
involving a child or young person in the process of budgeting, shopping and cooking can help them develop essential life skills and in situations where they have had experience of neglect then they might have anxieties about when their next meal might becoming.
Healthy freezer meals are great to have on standby when busy - so review any dietary needs or preferences children/young people may have, draw up a budget and plan ahead. This can be a great way to save money while taking the guesswork out of “what’s for dinner?” and gives children have a visual reassurance that it’s taken care of and there’s nothing to worry about.
6. Communicate With Kindness- The Name of The Game
Kind, effective communication helps to develop positive relationships with everyone involved in the process - including the children themselves. Listening and responding (rather than reacting) with empathy is a great way to nurture key relationships and teach valuable skills – while establishing healthy boundaries around what is and is not acceptable behaviour. This is central to our belief in all relationships - with our Foster Carers, our teams and with our young people.
In Care Visions, we are so aware of the impact of trauma for our children and young people (it is hard to even have the most basic trust in people when you have experienced neglect or abuse in your life.) Our core belief is that while behaviour is a form of communication we must listen and respond to trauma and need.
While Foster Carers come from all walks of life, the motivation to foster tends to centre on the desire to support and care for a child in need. While doing so you also need time to recharge: we need seven types of rest in order to function well (this quiz can help you determine which you’re most in need of such as physical activity or social time). This way, you’ll be rested, recharged and ready to provide the best possible care for your child or young person.
8. Care Visions Team; Welcome to Our Team!
Great, I am now an Approved Foster Carer with Care Visions - kind of scarey though?
Ok going to help you with that; we make sure that at your Panel we then allocate you one of our Therapeutic Family Workers (TFW), who will be alongside with you for the first three months of placement to offer advice on this young person’s trauma history and what strategies you can use to minimize this.