The decision to foster is a big one and you need to be sure that you have what it takes to offer a child a home. How do you decide if fostering a child is for you? It is important to come to fostering with your eyes wide open and that means asking yourself some questions.
Do you have a strong support system?
Fostering can be stressful at times and so you will need to lean on others. This could be family and friends as well as other forms of informal support. You will have the fostering agency to fall back on, alongside the superb support offered by social workers and other professionals. There are also fostering forums that can be helpful, as well as the opportunity to access training to improve your skill set.
What are your personal reasons for fostering?
You will continually give to your foster child, day in and day out, and for a long time, it will feel like you don’t get anything back. This is a test of patience that will drain you, leaving you feeling downhearted.
If you are fostering to fill a gap in your life, you may find that it is a process that lacks the attention you crave. But if you can celebrate the small improvements that happen over the term of the placement, and give without the need to get back, then fostering could be for you.
What are your expectations?
Do you think a child, rescued from a traumatic situation, will fall through the door into your arms, grateful at their rescue?
A neglected or abused child has known only neglect or abuse – it is their norm. They find it tough adapting to kindness and love. They can fight against it, not understand it and find it daunting. If you are expecting a child to be grateful or to adjust within days or weeks of being in your lovely, safe home, you need to find out more about fostering.
Can you not take things personally?
Abuse, neglect and trauma manifest in different ways in children. Resentment, hyper-vigilance, inappropriate behaviour, grief, pain, odd behaviour patterns, swearing, silence, moodiness and lashing out are all symptoms of deeper issues.
A foster child even with all the professional support along with your love and patience will ‘lash out’, verbally or physically, and in other ways. And you will bear the brunt of it. It is not aimed at you. It is not personal. It is a damaged child pushing back at the world.
Are you willing to open your home?
And not just to a child but to social workers and other professionals? When you apply to foster, home visits are an important part of the process. They will look at how you manage your home, how you communicate and so on.
What about your own children – what do they think?
You cannot expect to make such a big decision on your own, especially when fostering impacts on everyone in the home. The good news is, fostering works not just for the looked after child but for your own children too.But there needs to be clear communication, an outlet for your own children’s concerns and development, as well as opportunities to continue spending time with ‘just them’.
Can you say goodbye?
Leave the rose-tinted spectacles to the side for a moment and consider this – when the child you have fostered and loved for the last few weeks, months or even years moves on, either back home or to their adoptive parents, can you say goodbye with a smile?
You may be able to stay in touch or you may know that deep-down, the best thing is to say goodbye and trust that they will be happy, loved and safe with their birth or adopted family.
Do you have a lot to give?
From hosting birthday parties to working with birth parents, to carving pumpkins at Hallowe’en to holding them as they cry hot tears of anger, how much do you have to give to a child who needs a stable, secure and caring foster home?
If you are considering being a foster care, you will have many other questions about fostering and what’s involved. Contact Fostering People for the answers.