FF Blog 5: What Makes a Good Foster Carer?
Amongst the main qualities that help make an effective and successful Foster Carer is the ability to connect with and have a genuine interest in children and young people, and a focus on the child’s best interests.
At The Fostering Team, we concentrate on a therapeutic approach to helping children and young people recover from past trauma – as we know that this is the key to helping them move on to have happy and successful lives. Therefore one of the essential attributes for every one of The Fostering Team’s Foster Carers is the ability to form meaningful relationships; the quality of the attachment between you and your foster child is the most important key to unlocking deeply buried and painful memories. With a strong, trustworthy role model who genuinely cares and consistently demonstrates dependability, reliability and commitment despite any setbacks, a child can learn that the world is safe enough to unlock the past and feel free to look towards a different future.
Good Foster Carers will have a warm and engaging personality which translates positively to a child, along with other qualities such as empathy, good listening and communication skills, patience, adaptability, self-motivation, energy, a non-judgemental approach, and a willingness to work with or alongside other people in the child’s life such as birth family, Social Workers and therapists.
Foster Carers must make children in their care feel that they are part of their family. This means more than providing a physical home but welcoming children with the same rights and responsibilities as anyone else in the family. But The Fostering Team’s Foster Carers see beyond that too; they are trained to realise that a child who has experienced a traumatic past may behave in very different ways than they’d otherwise expect for that particular age and stage of development. The Fostering Team’s Foster Carers allow for that and adapt their parenting style accordingly so that every child in the household is cared for as an individual with unique needs, whatever their age, stage or ability.
Foster Carers should not see themselves as replacing children’s biological families and sometimes they may provide a bridge for children to hopefully return to their birth home when the birth parents have made the changes necessary for safe return. Foster Carers should encourage and support family visits, providing regular contact and updates, whilst also being part of the ‘team around the child’ who make decisions about what is in the child’s best interests.
It is important for Foster Carers to facilitate conversations with foster children in a positive direction, nurturing the child’s needs for a reflective experience of family life. Adopting this type of reflective thinking helps the child to understand the meaning of behaviours and make sense of past experiences. The Fostering Team’s Foster Carers will quickly recognise when a negative situation could escalate into a frightening experience, and they will use their skills and knowledge to bring calm and defuse the situation.
Good Foster Carers demonstrate empathy and compassion for children. Foster children do not want Foster Carers to feel sorry for them, they just want their foster family to understand what they are going through and what it feels like to them.
Demonstrating good listening skills is another key attribute for Foster Carers. Not only taking the time to listen, but also working to ensure that the child knows that they are heard and understood. Good communication does not necessarily mean that the child will always get what they want, but it will help them understand why the situation can’t be the one they are hoping for. The Fostering Team’s therapeutic approach means that our Foster Carers are also skilled in ‘listening for what is not being said’, so they will pick up on a child’s body language and statements that the child does not really mean, but that come from a feeling of being hurt and upset.
The ability to build a solid relationship with the rest of the team at The Fostering Team and other professionals will also be key so that Foster Carers can fully understand the needs of the young person and what is expected of them in their fostering role to ensure that the goals for the child are met. Foster Carers should be willing to participate with necessary training proposed by The Fostering Team as we continually seek innovative ways to ensure that both the child and the Foster Carer receive the very best support.
Foster Carers should show a willingness to be flexible in their approach to childcare and apply their skills and training in their care accordingly. Good Foster Carers are also able to ask when they need help and seek additional support from The Fostering Team when they need it. This includes engaging in peer support and supervision groups with other Foster Carers, or perhaps mentoring another, less experienced, Foster Carer.
In some cases, the Foster Carer will need to work in partnership with their foster children’s birth families and be non-judgemental about the child or their background. Foster Carers should therefore possess a positive attitude to diversity and act as a positive role model for their foster children in the family home and within the local community.
At The Fostering Team, we encourage Foster Carers to interact with the children they care for effectively, to meet their emotional, intellectual and cultural needs whilst accepting that they may need to develop a flexible approach to their care, depending on the needs of the child. Using strong communication and listening skills to build a strong relationship will also build a child’s self-esteem. This will have an overall positive effect on the child so that they become more confident in their own abilities and develop a sense of self-worth and belief that positive goals in life are achievable.
Good Foster Carers are resilient. They understand that children will experience ups and downs, reflect on this so that they can bounce back from the tough days and start every day with a clean slate. It is important to remember that foster children have past relationship trauma and most likely had many negative experiences and constant changes in their childhood and may be struggling to find their way or to accept that any change can be positive or good. Foster children have often not experienced the kind of consistency practiced in many successful families, and so they struggle to be consistent in their various roles inside and outside of the foster family.
At The Fostering Team, our Foster Carers are supported so that they persevere. They not only hang in there through the good times and the bad, but they also let the child know that they will continue to be there for them. That doesn’t mean that Foster Carers never give up, but at The Fostering Tream we strive to have everything in place for foster families to be as successful as they can be, as we know that this also leads to a successful experience for the child or young person. Sometimes children and young people decide to turn their back on their foster family, and this can be hurtful, but therapeutically trained Foster Carers can often turn such a situation around, demonstrating to the child that not all relationships end the first time any difficulties or conflicts are encountered, that strong relationships can withstand these challenges and become even stronger as a result.
At the Fostering Team, there is a skilled and experienced team of people who are on your side and alongside you, and you can draw on their strength to get you through these times when you need a bit of support to get you through to the other side. The team alongside you will be the first to applaud you when you achieve these successes in your fostering work.
There are many positive traits that are essential for the most successful relationships to be formed between Foster Carers and foster children, but at The Fostering Team we know there isn’t one ‘secret recipe’ for the best Foster Carer, as every person is individual and brings their own unique life experience to every relationship they form, so, alongside all the ideal qualities and attributes listed above, we are interested in YOU, in what makes you tick.
If you would like to learn more, you can start your journey and find out more about what being a Foster Carer with The Fostering Team involves.
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