Foster care requires being able to communicate effectively

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Foster care requires being able to communicate effectively

Foster carers and communication skills

Foster carers need communication skills

Foster carers are no different from the rest of us when it comes to the act of communication. It’s something we all do. And mostly we don’t give it a second thought. This is because, for most of the time, we are engaged in low-level communication. The matter at hand is not critical unlike; for example, conveying accurately the positional grid references for people lost in the mountains to the rescue services. Happily, most of us do not have to deal with life and death situations on a regular basis. And getting by in day-to-day life, mostly means that we can be – and mostly are – casual in the way we communicate. Context is key. In a court of law, effective communication is fundamental. Every last word or phrase may be subject to the most detailed scrutiny. Sharp senses are required to pick up nuance both from verbal and non-verbal language.

Happily, most of us don’t live lives under such strictures. But this does not mean that sharpening up basic communication skills is not important. In fact, it definitely is – especially if you are a foster carer. Why? Well, firstly, please note the term ‘carer’ and not ‘parent’: Kevin Williams chief executive of the Fostering Network is on the record as saying – 

“Foster carers are so much more than parents. Here’s just a short list of things foster carers, who are at the centre of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals, do that parents usually don’t have to.”       

The list that’s then provided covers; amongst other things, the writing of reports, making assessments, involvement with the police, having regular supervision, completing life story work, managing the contacts with birth families, being subject to an annual review and undergoing training and professional development. And remember that’s not all. 

Foster care requires competent communication skills.

So thinking about how we communicate is important. For foster carers, there are definite benefits to communicating well. This is because effective communication can enhance the chances of success, mutual or group understanding, gaining respect, functioning in a team, sound decision-making, problem-solving, gaining trust generally and strengthening relationships. There is research to show that having good communication skills – being able to convey thoughts and feelings – can play a large part in helping to protect personal relationships.  

There are eight simple communication skills that most effective communicators have in common. And these are:

  • the ability to build a relationship;
  • knowledge of what they are speaking about;
  • the ability to listen more than they speak;
  • the ability to understand another person’s motives;
  • being able to ‘listen’ to nonverbal communication;
  • the ability to identify patterns, inconsistencies as well as consistencies to avoid misunderstandings;
  • the ability to take ownership of one’s own emotional reactions;
  • being open to new ideas.

Being a foster carer will mean, inevitably, having a great many conversations. It goes with the territory. And, ideally – and hopefully productively – most will be with the children and young people being cared for. 

The role of the foster carer is likely to become increasingly professionalised. It is changing in response to the needs and demands of children coming into care. Today, foster care is a very long way from simply putting a roof over a child’s head. We now have therapeutic foster carers who will have received special training. This will help them to create a supportive environment for children who may have suffered trauma. Part of appreciating the experiences of the child and their negative impacts will involve keeping accurate and well-written records of the progress made.

In future blogs, we will look more closely at the individual elements that go into making someone an effective communicator.

Train to be a therapeutic foster carer with Rainbow

Today fostering has become far more than just a job. We see it as a professional career. One which offers many different paths and opportunities. This is certainly so in relation to providing therapeutic foster care. This means offering care and support for children who may have a range of complex behavioural and emotional needs. 

Remember too, Rainbow support your efforts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 365 days a year. If you want to find out more, then contact us on 020 8427 3355 or you can try our National Line – 0330 311 2845. There is no pressure or obligation.

There is a shortage of 8,600 foster families in the UK. We hope you will consider becoming a foster carer and change the life of a vulnerable child or young person. If you want to see a detailed breakdown of the figures visit https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/advice-information/all-about-fostering/fostering-statistics

Joining Rainbow means you will receive a FREE annual subscription to FosterTalk magazine which is a great fostering resource. You can also keep in contact with Rainbow and see what a vibrant and diverse community we are by simply looking out for us on social media. Just remember to add the hashtags #fostercare  #fostering #children #foster

Finally, we would be interested in any comments or reaction you might have regarding our web site. We are always looking to improve it – so your feedback is most welcome. Pages you might wish to visit: http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/therapeutic-foster-carer/

and an interesting blog – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/foster-care-understanding-autism/

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