Becoming a foster care giver is undoubtedly one of the most important and significant changes you can make in your life, but many of us spend months, if not years, considering whether it is right for us before taking the plunge. Having a young family, renting a house that may not be suitable, or the thought of giving up your full time job, are all common factors that delay fostering applications.
As with any great the experience, fostering it is at times difficult and not for the faint hearted, so taking a look at what we consider to be the five most essential skills to foster successfully could help you decide whether life as a foster care giver is right for you. If you are considering a change of direction here are some of the most important skills and personality traits you’re going to need:
A love of children
This might seem obvious, but if you have a real passion for children life as a foster care giver is going to be a lot more rewarding. A warm, nurturing and paternal/maternal nature will make a foster child feel cared for.
Although not essential, it is preferable that you have past experience of caring for children; whether as a teacher or a nurse or through having biological children; otherwise you may not be prepared for the experience of caring for a child full time.
Patience and emotional strength
At times every child will test your patience, but you need to remember the suffering and distress a foster child has likely experienced and think about why this might make them behave the way they do.
You need to remain committed to the children through both good and bad times, and you need to be able to create and stick to boundaries that your foster child will respect. Although kindness is important the child needs to see you as an authority and somebody they respect as well.
A good listener/communicator
As a foster care giver you will need to be able to communicate effectively with the child you care for and show them compassion and interest. You need to be able to gage the level of communication appropriate to an individual child, especially if they have special needs that make communication difficult, such as autism or other special needs.
It is often helpful and therapeutic for a child to be able to discuss the tough experiences they have been through with you. If you are a person who is approachable and a good listener you can facilitate this.
As well as communicating effectively with the child, you will also need to keep in regular contact with your fostering agency, the child’s teachers, therapists and social workers, and encourage the child to maintain contact with their friends, family and community where appropriate.
Fostering requires a lot of energy, both physically and emotionally, to keep up with the child. There is no upper age limit for foster care – anyone over the age of 21 can foster with the FCA, but you should consider whether you have the energy to do your best for a foster child day after day if you want to take up fostering in retirement.
Adaptability/Easy going nature
Becoming a foster care giver can mean dropping everything at the last minute to help a child. If you undertake emergency placements, a child who needs somewhere to stay urgently could arrive at your door in the middle of the night, and stay for a couple of days or a number of months.
The welfare of the fostered child has to come first, which can interfere with your social life and your regular routine. Luckily you can find support in fellow foster care givers in your area by getting involved in events and support groups, and there is always an agency staff member or social worker on hand for help and advice should you need it.
Having the chance to turn a vulnerable child’s life around and provide them with a safe and loving home is a special opportunity. You don’t need to be rich, part of a couple or have any special child care qualifications to be a great foster care giver, but you must possess determination, strength and love for children to succeed.
If you think life as a foster care giver could be right for you why not enquire today?
Current (or past) foster care providers, what else would you add to this list?