Fostering carries many different challenges. Caring for a child is nor simply about meeting the basic needs of food, warmth and shelter. It is about so much more – especially as so many vulnerable children come into fostering households having experienced abuse of one sort or another. Fostering involves rebuilding a child or young person’s sense of the place they occupy in the world. A world that was turned upside down when they found themselves taken into care. The sense of home and place is a fundamental human need felt just as much by adults as children. Looked at through this prism – which foster carers naturally understand – it becomes quickly obvious just how devastating can be the effects on a child of being removed from their family home. When this happens a child’s entire sense of identity is almost certainly lost. Foster care, at its best, is all about restoring that sense of self. And this cannot be done quickly. Before it can even be attempted one thing has to be made an overarching priority: building trust. Without this process being underway, foster carers will struggle to promote a sense of wellbeing – the vital precursor to creating self-esteem. The fostering household is where this happens. Children will arrive at a foster carers home with little or no idea of what to expect. Feeling normal in an obviously abnormal situation is not possible. Normality and trust are closely linked. Fostering a sense of normality is perhaps the first and most important goal of a foster carer. And, slowly at first, it is achieved over time by the countless exchanges and conversations that take place while a child is in a fostering household. Foster carers understand that communication rooted in day-to-day living – simple things like favourite meals or television programmes will slowly create a new normality for a child. This vital work continues not in a single day but over time.
What is identity? We all have one after all, but how often do we think about how it came into being. Probably never and that’s quite healthy. It is not fixed but has an elastic quality changing according to the situations we find ourselves in. So it’s probably truer to say an individual has a core identity that becomes nuanced as circumstances change around us. But we all need to have a positive identity as this drives our general sense of wellbeing and esteem. Our identity will have arisen from the accumulation of events throughout our personal history and how we have reacted to these life experiences. Our age, ethnicity, faith, gender and sexual orientation interact with and shape our identity as it develops. Identity is not fixed but to be healthy it is based on what we perceive and feel to be positive. For a child that has just come into foster care for the first time, their experiences have probably been negative. That is not the point from which to develop a sense of self-worth. Much of the training that foster carers undergo recognises this. The aim is to make the foster care household the setting where a child can slowly develop and acceptance of, and contentment with, who they are and aim to become. This only happens when they feel free to express their personal hopes and needs without fear. Driving conversation and communication is vital to work done by foster carers. It is a key part of the strategy for helping looked after children gain a more positive view of themselves. They should be helped to realise that their situation is far from unique and that they should see positive in other people who are like them. Today, there are a great many positive role models who have achieved success who spent time in foster care. Some will have suffered abuse, perhaps had learning difficulties or even been afflicted with a disability. There are positive stories about such people to be told, many from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Exposure to these narratives will show a foster child how they can also aim to achieve worthwhile things – to set personal goals.
A foster care household should have its owns sense of continuity to be felt by all its members. All of us need to feel this and it is especially important that a foster child can get a sense of their past, present and future or they all go to make up their identity – even those events associated with discontinuity. This can be problematic for foster children and they need close understanding and support to think about important events – both positive and negative – they have undergone. Some of these will be times of happiness and contentment presenting few problems when recalled; others will be upsetting and possibly even traumatic. There may be occasions when foster children might try to reject their past or anyone associated with it. This might mean some or all of their original birth family. Emotions can run high but not usually forever so foster carers need to be able to support a child to keep their options open. This calls for particular care and sensitivity. In time, a child who is feeling more confident may be able to reconnect with family who has caused them pain in the past. This all has to be closely monitored by the foster carer and supervising social worker within the context of safer caring. But when a child feels able to revisit problematic relationships it is the proof they feel supported in the fostering household. And even if they can’t be articulated, it is a sign of improving self- worth and emotional wellbeing.
Everyone’s identity is bound up with memories of the past and how they have been processed and interpreted. No one can shed their past. It is delicate work for foster carers to help a child ‘open doors on to their past’ then make connections with the present. Carers should look for subjects to discuss that are not loaded: what were mealtimes like in their birth family; favourite foods; trips or outing could also be talked about. This has to be done with care but should not be avoided. A child or young person can feel guilty or inhibited if their foster carer seems reluctant to allude to their life and events before they came into care.
The foster care setting will determine the way a child’s sense of self-identity develops over time. It must be a place of safety and stability. It is here that they will start to form relationships through play and peer relations. These will contribute to their social, emotional and cognitive development. When in balance and healthy these will foster a child’s self-esteem and create the foundation for future relationships with others. And these, in turn, will play an important part in developing identity.
Fostering with Rainbow provides choice.
There is no reason why you cannot apply to become a foster carer with us right now. The pandemic has imposed certain limitations on us all. But we have streamlined our recruitment process to enable applicants to benefit from our online path to fostering. Where before we would conduct an initial home visit in person, we have adapted this to be held over Skype – something which is easy for us to set up for you. Then in parallel, we can take up references etc., process your DBS – all just as normal. When circumstances permit, we will, of course, want to make a home visit. It is important that you understand that there is no barrier to your applying to become a foster carer right now.
At Rainbow, we provide all the foster care training you will need – along with extensive support and guidance; we pay generous allowances and fees; we have short and long-term placements available if you are living either in London, Birmingham, Manchester or Hampshire. The referrals we receive can be for babies, children and teenagers of all ethnicities ages between 0 and 18. This is why all our foster acres receive the initial training to foster children 0 – 18. Some youngsters will remain in their carer’s household beyond the age of 18 as part of what is called ‘Staying Put’ arrangements.
Most people start out as mainstream foster carers. For those interested in further developing their careers, we provide additional training to facilitate the care of teenagers, parent and child placements, sibling groups and children with complex needs. Being trained to deliver therapeutic foster care will mean working within a team but also qualifying for enhanced payment rates. There is a real need to find people to foster therapeutically because of the numbers of children who have experienced trauma. They may have been neglected or abused. This can make it hard for them to trust other people and build relationships. This can result in challenging behaviours because their needs are complex. Depression, anger or withdrawn behaviour can be common amongst such children. In such cases, we seek to place a child with a carer who has been trained in therapeutic foster care. The child then has the chance to build a trusting, enduring relationship with their carer. Whilst in placement, a child may receive additional therapy, which can enable them to overcome the traumatic experiences they have undergone.
At Rainbow, you are never alone – all our foster careers have the same shared mission: to rebuild the lives and prospects of vulnerable children and young people. And to work to provide our children with the best in terms of individual outcomes. Especially important as the UK is currently short of over 8,000 foster families to look after some very vulnerable children and young people. Over 65% of children coming into care now have suffered some form of abuse – making the work of foster carers even more challenging: many children in care suffering from stigma and issues connected to mental wellbeing. And still, only 6% of looked-after children go on to higher education which is far too low.
Who can foster?
Foster carers are ordinary people doing extraordinary things for vulnerable children every day. Foster care households are made up of people come from all walks of life and experiences. Rainbow Fostering welcomes everyone with a commitment to foster care irrespective of their gender, sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability, gender identity, race or religion. By law, you can foster from the age of eighteen. At Rainbow, we usually accept applications from people over 21. We want very much to encourage younger families into fostering as there is a shortage of cares. There is no upper age limit to foster but you need to enjoy reasonable health and fitness to cope with the challenges of providing foster care.
Currently, if an applicant decides to proceed and we are in agreement, the process to becoming an ‘Approved’ foster carer usually takes around 16 – 18 weeks. Please feel free to call us on 0330 311 2845 to have an informal chat about fostering and what it involves. Or you can leave your details online and arrange for us to call you at a time that is convenient.
There is plenty more you can find out by visiting our website. Here we discuss and cover issues such as general foster care/ foster care near me/ foster care adoption/foster care agencies near me/foster care children/foster care jobs/foster care statistics/ top 10 fostering agencies/best foster care agencies.
We are always adding to our Blog section, today’s recommendation –
Coronavirus is an enormous challenge. Now that children have returned to nurseries, schools and universities, checking the latest advice and guidance to stay safe are more important than ever – https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus And please leave your details on our contacts page. http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/contact/
Rainbow putting the focus on fostering.