How to Support Foster Children

When you choose to become a foster carer the rewards can be great. Supporting a child through a difficult period in their life, watching them grow and develop into a well-rounded individual; it’s understandable why so many choose to pursue this worthwhile vocation.

However, as with any profession, it does come with some downsides. Primarily helping some children to cope with the trauma and stress that being in foster care can evoke.

So, how can you best support a foster child in a meaningful way? One that will be beneficial to the both of you.

Listen

Feeling like the most overlooked member of society can have a damaging and long-lasting effect on foster children. Meaning that the simple act of offering them an ear to vent their worries, experiences or anything at all can be extremely positive. It establishes you as a point of reason in their life.

You can’t always solve the issues that are brought up during these moments. Nor should you try, but it is worthwhile simply being there to hear. Because, at the end of the day, your foster children deserve to be listened to.

Celebrate

Birthdays. Christmas. Halloween. Important events can often go overlooked as a foster child. So, taking the chance as a foster parent to celebrate these milestones – no matter how little or big – can be the change that a child needs. Simple things such as helping put up a Christmas tree could be a moment they will remember for a long time to come.

And at the end of the day events like Halloween and Birthdays are fun – something every child needs a little more of in their lives.

Playdates

Your support is vital, but often the support of peers can also be invaluable for the wellbeing of those children in foster care. Setting up playdates – even for older children – can be a great way to help them interact and enjoy time with children their own age.

Older children or teens may be unreceptive to you making playdates for them. But, arranging ‘coincidences’ of kids their age coming over can always be an alternative solution. What they don’t know…

This can also be beneficial for any of your own children that may also be in the house. A disgruntled foster child can be a distressing presence in the home, so balancing this out with a familiar friend and playmate is often needed to offset this. All of the children in your home can benefit from socialising with others both in and outside your own home at times,

Getaway

Sometimes life can get a little too much when you are forced to come and go through a number of foster homes, which is a reality for many foster children. A day out – not even an expensive day out or holiday – can be a bright spot in an otherwise overcast moment in their lives. The zoo, beach, museum and even the park can be an adventure.

It’s not always clear what a child is going through, nor will they always express their emotions in healthy ways. Removing them from the environment which creates these feelings can be a relief in many cases.

Help with School

On average, foster children tend to do worse academically and behaviour wise in school than other children. The reasons are often self-explanatory, but it is something which you can positively influence whilst they are under your care.

Helping with homework, actively engaging with teachers over what you can do further to help and encouraging after-school activities are some ways to do this. Goals should be set, but ensure they are realistic and rewarded when surpassed.

Overall, being a foster parent is a big task but one that can bring so much enrichment to a child’s life. As a solid figure in their life, you can help ensure the rest of their life is more positive than the start. Supporting a foster child can be a challenge, but that makes it all the more rewarding when you see a positive effect on the life of a child.

What Can Be Done To Solve The Foster Care Crisis?

Young Family Having Fun In Park

In March 2016, there were 70,440 children in care throughout the UK. This is an increase on the previous year when 69,540 children were in care. With more children entering the system than leaving it, either by turning 18, returning to their family or being placed with a family permanently, it’s clear that more foster carers are needed every year. This problem isn’t isolated to the UK and countries throughout the world are reporting shortages in foster carer numbers.

One of the biggest problems facing foster carer recruiters is that there are so many misconceptions around how foster care works and who can become a foster carer. Many people go through life without realising that they could make ideal foster carers, meaning that some children will be left in children’s homes rather than in loving family homes. Let’s clear up some of these foster care myths once and for all…

Who can become a foster carer?

If you’re over the age of 21, have no criminal record and can provide a stable and loving home to a child in need, you could become a foster carer. There is no upper age limit, and you don’t have to be married or own your own home. Same sex couples are welcome to apply, as are single people or unmarried couples. You don’t have to have a job, either. Unemployed people are welcome to apply, and foster care can even be a brilliant way back into the workforce for stay at home mums. The foster carer allowance is very generous, meaning that it can provide supplementary income for retirement-age individuals or those not in work.

What professions make ideal foster carers?

  • Foster children need a stable environment, which is why ex-servicemen and women make ideal foster carers. Skills in leadership and teamwork that are developed in the military will mean you are well-placed for offering a troubled young person guidance at a difficult time in their life. Children in foster care often lack strong role models, so living with an ex-serviceman or woman can be vital to ensuring the foster child has a diverse selection of people in their life.
  • Social workers have an in-depth understanding of the foster care system, in addition to seemingly endless compassion and understanding, so they will bring a unique insight to the role. It also helps to be able to navigate the system and speak the lingo. The social care system can be overwhelming to newcomers, so those with experience working with the various parties involved in keeping children safe can be a huge advantage.
  • An appreciation for education is also essential, so retired teachers also make the ideal foster carers. Teachers are often accustomed to dealing with difficult behaviour and can also help to ensure foster children don’t fall behind in school. Teachers will be used to dealing with a wide-range of people, which is an essential skill if the child still has some contact with their birth family.

How do I know if I will be a good foster carer?

No one expects you to become a perfect foster carer overnight. Training is provided to help you develop essentials skills and learn to cope with anything the foster care system can throw at you. Whether you apply through your local authority or a private fostering agency, your will be given as much training as you need to be the best foster carer you can be.

Becoming a foster carer requires great emotional strength and maturity to be able to deal with the complex challenges. You will also require a good sense of humour, as you may find yourself faced with some unique challenges.

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