If it takes a ‘village to raise a child’, it takes a town to raise a foster child. Whilst the foster carer is the child’s main carer, this is a demanding role that needs both foster carer support and support for the child. Foster carer support should be a primary factor to consider when choosing which body to be a foster carer through.
The nature of foster carer needs
Being a foster carer is like no other job out there. It’s not defined by neat working hours. It’s 24/7 for long periods of time, often months or years.
Furthermore, it is by its very nature, ‘relational’. This means that successful placements are dependent on the positive and successful relationship between the foster child and the foster carer. In an arena where there may be past-trauma, loss, behavioural difficulties or complex health needs, this relationship needs support and nurturance to work.
The reality is that without exceptional foster carer support, placements break down which is damaging for both the child, and often the foster carer.
An excellent independent fostering agency (IFA) should therefore place immense importance on the support they offer to their foster carers.
What should this care look like?
It should be timely
With the 24/7 nature of the role, support cannot be limited to office hours. Foster carers should be able to access support when they need it. This means that you’ll need access to emergency support around the clock.
It should be community-based
Foster carers and their families are a distinct community within a community. The best and most understanding support often comes from other foster carers themselves. This is because a knowledge and experience pool is an invaluable resource for others. IFAs should recognise this and actively encourage and enable the networking of all of their foster carers.
It should use professional resources
Foster caring is a specialised task and only successful when a range of professionals work together to support both the foster carer and the child. At the FCA, we have our unique Team Parenting® model, which ensures that the right team of professionals works cohesively to therapeutically meet the care needs of each individual child.
At the heart of professional support, should be a very close working relationship with your own social worker who acts as your main point of contact.
It should equip you
Much of supporting a foster carer is about giving the carer the tools and resources to meet the needs of the child. This takes many forms including financial support, training and access to services your foster child may need to thrive or learn to cope with a troubled past.
Therefore, it is vital to consider what financial support an IFA offers, but also look at the training and access to services you will be able to rely on. For example, does the IFA offer access to trained therapists that you can access for the child in your care? Does the IFA offer specific education support to assist with the foster child’s education?
It should offer respite when needed
Being a foster carer is draining. You can’t ‘get away’ for a break easily. Therefore, choose an IFA which offers holidays and social activities for the foster children in your care. This can provide you with the respite you need to continue giving your foster child the care that they need on an ongoing basis.
Foster carer support
Foster carer support is absolutely pivotal to successful foster care placements. Therefore, don’t be afraid to find out more about the support offered, before choosing an agency.