*collaborative guest post
Becoming a foster carer is a big step and not one without its challenges but the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
It has to be acknowledged that a child’s past will impact on the here and now. A traumatic past can haunt a child, colouring their behaviour and response to situations that become increasingly difficult to manage, testing the skills and patience of the most experienced foster carer. Equally, there are times when foster carers need more informal support, from asking a question to discussing a concern.
The fostering agency or local authority with whom you foster will provide responsive support to help you offer the care that a foster child needs.
Fostering doesn’t happen in isolation
Fostering is not a case of completing an application form, welcoming a child into your home and being left to ‘get on with it’. There is a support package in place to support the child, the foster carer, and the rest of the family too.
Fostering support comes in different guises. These support services are not offered in isolation but rather as a mix that is fine tuned over time to offer the best support for the foster child and their carers.
This is a scaffold of fostering support that is put in place and grows as the placement progresses. The social work team will maintain contact with you and you can contact them when you need help or guidance on a certain issue. This proactive approach is one that is clearly successful, which is why leading foster care agencies adopt this approach.
Social work support
Social workers are the professionals who act on behalf of the child and in their best interest. Fostering agencies manage contact with their foster carers in different ways but in most cases, there is a supervising social worker who stays in touch with you throughout the placement.
They are the person you would contact when you need help and support but they too, will stay in frequent contact (as needed) during the placement. They will keep you informed of progress relating to the case of the child you are looking after, especially important for those carers who look after children in the short term or on specialist fostering placements.
The decision to remove a child from their birth families is not one taken lightly. In many cases, extensive efforts will have been made to support the family but when a child is being neglected, abused or is considered at risk, it is in their best interests to be taken into care.
The love and support that a foster carer provides is often the key and the foundation on which a traumatised child deals with their past, enabling them to look forward. But, as you would expect, this is not an easy journey. For the most experienced of foster carers and parents, there is a need for specialist fostering support and this can come in the shape of therapeutic support. As well as the foster child receiving specialist help and counselling, foster carers are trained to work with children in this way too.
It is a process through which a child explores issues about their past with acceptance and empathy, and in a way that is non-confrontational. Many foster carers themselves find this a cathartic process that helps them to become even better at fostering.
Foster children can find it difficult to settle in school or to attend regularly. When this is the case, the foster family are not expected to cope alone. With extra support around school, a foster child is better able to access learning.
Extra foster family and foster child support services
For any family, accepting and welcoming a foster child in their midst is a challenging shift in the family dynamic. But it can and does work, with looked after children thriving alongside their foster siblings.
Fostering is a process that is testing and difficult at times. But these are not necessarily ‘big’ issues. Sometimes it is the small things that need discussing or small adjustments made so that everyone in the foster family is safe, nurtured, protected and happy.
Do you have what it takes to offer a looked after child what they need to grow and thrive? The team at Foster Care Associates Scotland would love to hear from you.
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