Foster carers come from all kinds of backgrounds. They can be of any ethnicity, religion or cultural background, married, single, separated or divorced. Many are now drawn from the LGBT community. But to be a successful foster carer, there are certain qualities that all will have in common. These are a genuine interest in children and young people - with a passion to help them succeed. Patience, commitment, dedication and a flexible approach - combined with a willingness to learn and adapt - are essential qualities. Stamina and resilience are important too!
One final quality is confidence. This is where we come in: Rainbow provide the training and support to ensure our foster carers know they are making all the difference in the world to those they care for.
Deciding to foster is a big decision
Anyone thinking about taking the big step of fostering children should think carefully about the skills they have - and those they are going to need. It is important to appreciate that a carer has responsibility for every aspect of a child/young person’s daily life. It is important, as well, to know that you are never alone: Rainbow are there providing support every hour of the day and night all year round.
We need people to train to provide foster care in the categories:
- sibling groups,
- young parent and child,
- children/young people with complex needs.
A foster carer should be someone who is:
- interested in children and young people,
- keen to support children in their education and ambitions,
- responsive, warm, nurturing and not easily upset,
- is able to carry on, remain tolerant with a ‘can do’ attitude,
- firm in manner and able to guide a child/young person,
- able to develop emotional resilience and flexibility,
- able, with training, to handle challenging behaviour,
- able to have FUN! Childhood is a special time and foster carers play a vital role in helping youngsters have happy memories of it.
Elements included in successful fostering are:
- having the expectation the relationship with a child will always survive,
- placing emphasis on the relationship and solving problems that may arise within it,
- maintaining a flexible parenting style - being able to set boundaries and keep discipline,
- where appropriate, facilitating contact with the child/young person’s ‘birth parents’,
- having empathy for a child/young person and ensuring that they do not feel rejected,
- able to provide consistent support, love and encouragement.
The importance of good communication
Perhaps the single most important thing is to always communicate positive expectations of a child/young person: to expect they will behave with self respect, as well as respect for others, to expect they will do well at school because you, as their foster carer, believe in their talents and abilities.
There is, past research suggesting that successful foster carers have the ability to focus on maintaining and developing relationships with children/young people. Remember: at Rainbow, you are always part of a team and we care for our carers. We know that for them to do their best, the support we give - whether from our clinical psychologist, youth participation officer, or case assigned social worker - will be there 24 hours a day.
The needs of children and young people
All young people tend to resent strict discipline.They tend to push at boundaries: foster carers need to create a sense of discipline which is consistent; consistency is very important as it is vital for creating a sense of stability and security. When these are present, the reason boundaries are necessary can be understood and respected more easily by children.
Research has shown that youngsters want and need to be listened to. They want their foster carer(s) to devote time to them and offer encouragement. Doing this demonstrates real care which in turn build a bond between carer and child.