One of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) that we receive is “what are a foster carer’s responsibilities?” Well, the obvious answer is that it is to care for a youngster. But if someone has never considered foster care before, the question has to be asked, “What do we mean by caring for?” Everyone will have a different idea of this. So it is important to think more deeply about what is meant by the term ‘caring’ in the context of foster care. Without this, we only have a set of vague assumptions that will mean different things to different people. By thinking about the term caring, we can see just how many elements there are in foster care.
As well as imparting useful information – perhaps helping someone to decide if fostering is for them – our aim is to support the work of the leading fostering charity – The Fostering Network. It is committed to elevating the status of foster carers. Their goal is to continue to seek to professionalise the role of foster carers – despite the authors of the recent foster care stocktake expressing a different view.
Many of the elements required to look after a child properly are listed below. As the rate of change – both societal and technological – is so rapid, the list will almost certainly grow. For now, it is a helpful guide providing an impression of what foster care entails. It is not exhaustive, and many of the following points should stimulate further thought as well as actions.
What foster carers must consider in addressing the emotional needs of a child.
- Aim to give fair and equal treatment for all the children in your home;
- take a keen pride in a foster child’s appearance – how they present to others;
- try always to respect the confidentiality of a foster child or young person;
- express affection often and be confident about demonstrating affection in age appropriate ways;
- avoid speaking negatively about a child’s family or their personal history: be prepared always to listen and empathize, but avoid making judgements;
- always take into account a foster child’s feelings and try to understand them;
- find positive things to say about the child or young person to other people;
- attempt to listen in a non-judgmental way to the thoughts and feelings of a child;
- if it is deemed in the foster child’s best interests, attempt to establish a supportive relationship with child’s biological family;
- be willing to transport a child to all their appointments, assessments, medical and dental appointments;
- help a foster child to progress through the grieving and adjustment process that goes with their being removed from their family home.
- attempt to provide plenty of fun recreational activities – this a child to be fit and healthy;
- show willingness to always include your foster child in all your family activities.
Caring for a foster child’s educational needs.
- When caring for a young child, you have to enrol them in school;
- always express interest and monitor the foster child’s educational achievements and progress;
- make sure the child’s school attendance is regular;
- a quiet place where the foster child can do their homework undisturbed should be made available;
- communicate with teachers to make sure the child is participating, cooperating, making friends and achieving good progress at school;
- be prepared to provide necessary equipment, or funding, to enable a child to participate in team activities, or outings and school trips.
- be committed to attending any school meetings – such as open days and parent’s evenings;
- be in a position to help the foster child engage in after school activities, sports, clubs etc.
Meeting a foster child’s physical needs.
- take care to meet the foster child’s most basic needs – food, clothing, warmth and shelter;
- ensure proper supervision is maintained on a 24-hour a day basis. (If you cannot always be present, you must ensure the foster child is under the supervision of an approved adult);
- you must provide adequate space for the child – as well their own room with a bed there should be plenty of storage space for their belongings;
- check regularly to see that the child’s clothes are clean and in a good state of repair. Children should be provided with warm winter clothing;
- provide opportunities for regular exercise: make sure a foster child does not become overweight through poor diet and a lack of proper exercise;
- ensure a foster child has regular and nutritionally balanced meals – the consequences of poor diet across the nation now costs the National Health Service approximately £6bn annually;
- check the foster child’s personal care, health and hygiene needs are always met;
- check a child is clean and well-groomed: instruct them on the importance of personal hygiene – such as washing and dental care;
- always be prepared to take the child to medical and dental appointments.
Encouraging the development of self-discipline.
- Be present to provide consistent discipline and guidance that is always age appropriate: it should under no circumstances involve corporal punishment;
- try and encourage anger management skills;
- help the foster child to assess and respond to challenging situations in an age appropriate way;
- try to make use of effective praise techniques to encourage positive behaviour;
- always try to encourage the child in their social interaction skills;
- provide encouragement for the child to develop their own effective time management skills;
- teach them how to start being responsible for their own lives (this should always be age appropriate.)
Working to meet a child’s recreational needs.
- try and encourage the child’s involvement in recreational activities such as sports: this promotes the development of social skills;
- Be willing to provide the necessary transport to social or sporting events;
- always be available to encourage the child to develop hobbies and personal interests.
- always recognise and celebrate their achievements – this is essential to building their self-esteem.
Our special ‘Rainbow Rewards’ – a valuable incentive.
Support and guidance is available to all our approved foster carers twenty four hours a day. To show how much we value their commitment, we are paying a £500 bonus if a foster carer can give us a referral.
The bonus will be paid when the applicant has been approved and has received their first foster care placement from Rainbow. If you already an approved carer then you might consider transferring to us. We have been established twenty years, so we have all the experience to make the process simple and easy. And transferring could also mean you qualify for a generous bonus. Contact our recruitment team on 020 8427 3355 for the details.
If you care…foster care!
Remember foster care is not for the feint hearted. It can be tremendously rewarding, but only as a result of the devotion and commitment that has to be shown. More children are coming into care who have been abused or neglected in some way. This means they can be traumatised as a consequence of their experiences. Providing care for such children requires additional training in supporting therapeutic programmes designed to aid their recovery. Carers who have this training are called therapeutic carers and are paid enhanced rates in recognition of the demands placed upon them.
Some good news at the end of our rainbow…Autism Week is successfully focusing attention on the challenges and rewards of providing care for a child with ASD.
Rainbow fostering: this week in the news –
A carer from Crawley is recognised
27th March, 2018
Prince Charles has awarded foster carer Barbara Bower, aged 73, an MBE at Buckingham Palace. It was given to acknowledge her commitment and dedication to fostering. When she was asked what motivated her to foster, she stated –
“I just love children. I’ve got four of my own, one of which was adopted, and seven grandchildren. They’ve all grown up around our fostered children and it’s been really good for my family.”