Find a supportive fostering agency 

However competent you may become at fostering, there are always times when you need guidance and reassurance. Each foster child will have their own emotional difficulties to overcome and, as foster parent/s, their challenges will be yours too. At evolve, we always place high value on accessible professional support for our foster parents.

“evolve is honest, open and transparent in their approach and practice”

Get full information about your foster care role

Sometimes it is hard to find out what exactly you need to know before you start. As with any job, there are likely to be a few surprises. Connecting with colleagues who are already in fostering is likely to provide information that is gained from experience which may help you cope more easily from the beginning. 

Being emotionally prepared for fostering 

Many children that need fostering have experienced trauma and, as a result, their behaviour may reflect that. It takes a lot of patience to understand and work with these children – each will respond to their circumstances in different ways. Some may be angry; some may be particularly quiet. The ambition to love them straight away can put pressure on foster parents but, through sharing the challenges, the reward comes to both foster parent and child with each milestone achieved. In this way, new, strong bonds are created.

What support can I expect from a foster agency?

Support should be practical, financial and emotional. While you may be given a comprehensive placement plan, make sure you have secured a workable financial package.  Know who you can contact if you are finding certain situations difficult to deal with. Foster children may have more behavioural problems than your own and it can be stressful. At evolve, there is a 24/7 advice service to support you at all times. In addition, there are organised support groups. It is important to recognise when you need help and not be afraid to ask for it.

Who will make decisions for my foster child?

In the main, you will be able to make day-to-day decisions for your foster child such as whether they need a haircut or if they can go on school trip. However, longer term decisions, such as what school a child should go to, may be made by the local authority. Significant decisions, such as whether they should undergo hospital surgery, may be made by the local authority and the birth parents. 

Keep up to date with foster care training

Most fostering agencies offer training to a certain level, but some offer ongoing training which can lead to advanced professional qualifications. If this is your preferred route, check what is the norm for your agency. At the very least, it is important to keep up with changes in the law. Bear in mind that foster children with more complex issues demand increased knowledge for the parent so they have the right expertise to manage.

Allow the foster child to become part of the family

Whatever the needs of the new foster child, the aim of fostering is to offer a loving, caring environment in which they can thrive. By treating the foster child as one of your own, you’ll assure they feel cared for and secure.

Set workable rules and routines for your foster child and your family alike

A few easy rules for the fostering household to follow can really help the family and the new foster child. Even though you could offer a degree of flexibility, household rules could be invaluable in helping you create the right sort of boundaries you may need to help you.

Make sure you take your agreed foster carer respite weekends  

Everyone needs a break from their job at some point but it is often hard to put this in to practice when you are fostering. Firstly, be clear what respite you are intitled to, then diary it in well in advance. Planning can be key to achieving a successful weekend off. Respite care often has considerable benefits for both foster parents and foster children. The children are aware that it is simply a couple of days away and often consider it as a mini-break or adventure. Often, they will visit the same place and look forward to it. 

Understand the needs of the child you will be fostering

Specialist training will give you many of the skills you need to become a foster parent, but it is very likely you will find issues you will need to deal with for which you have not been prepared. If additional training is needed to give you knowledge around coping with specific situations, raise it with your training team or supervisor. These may be focused on children with mental or physical disabilities where plenty of support is needed.

Keep on top of the fostering admin 

If you are opening up your home to foster a child, make sure you are organised. Prepare a file for the child, or for each child if you are having more than one, to assure all the details you have been given are in one place. As you may be asked frequently about your foster child’s background information, it is best to have this file readily available.

Be ready to receive your foster child

Make sure the foster child has plenty of space for anything they bring with them.  Bear in mind, they will probably gather a lot more personal possessions as time goes on just as your own children do.

Prepare to say goodbye to your foster child 

One of the toughest things about fostering a child is the knowledge that you will have to say goodbye to them at some point. Sometimes you may have cared for them for just a year or two, sometimes much, much longer. The foster child needs to know it is exciting that they are moving on – a new adventure. So, however much you feel like breaking down in front of them, stop yourself and hold the tears until they are out of the door and on their way. Many children stay in touch with their foster families and the relationship can remain strong for the years to come.
 
With time, everyone in the house will settle into the routine you have set and learn to allow space for each other. They will also provide comfort for each other and the benefits of fostering will begin to show. Fostering can be one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of your life – just follow the guidance above to be prepared to home your first foster child!

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