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The Qualities Of A Good Foster Carer

Fostering children brings rewards as well as challenges and training is essential if you are to do a good job, but there are certain qualities that make a good foster carer. Foster carers these days are looked on as fellow professionals and expectations of them are high.

First and foremost they need to have time and space in their lives to give to children. Children who come in to foster care have more than likely been through damaging experiences and will certainly be traumatised by the separation from their parents; they need a huge amount of attention. A busy household where both adults work full time would not be a suitable environment to place such a child. A family where there are several birth children under the age of 12 would probably be advised to wait until their own children were older before embarking on their fostering career, because of the impossibility of juggling the needs of many children at one time. There are exceptional families who can manage this but they are rare!

Apart from having the time and energy to devote to fostering a child, a foster carer needs to be able to listen and empathise with what a child might be feeling, and to think about their response to a child’s distress before acting on it. An ability to think things through and an understanding of the “unspoken”, ie what lies behind what a child is saying or how they are behaving is a valuable quality in a foster carer. A simple example is when a child starts to misbehave just before or after a planned visit home to see a parent. Foster carers need to pause for thought before reacting to the change in behaviour. They need to be able to consider the underlying cause : for instance the child might be anxious about seeing their parent, they might feel torn between the carer and the parent, they might not really want to go, but feel obliged because they worry about how their parent is managing without them. All of these things might be going on for the child unconsciously, and foster carers who have the capacity to see this can offer the appropriate support to that child.

Fostering children do much more than care for children. They attend meetings, they make written records (daily diary) about how a child is doing in the foster home, they complete various questionnaires about the progress of a child in their home. They liase with schools and other support services for the child, and they often make a relationship with the child’s parents in order for the child to settle with them happily. Meetings often take place in the actual foster home and offering a warm welcome and some refreshments helps to make everyone feel comfortable during these times.

There is no such thing as a “typical” foster carer. There is never a dull moment in fostering, and with the right training, and an understanding of the qualities outlined above, people from ALL walks of life could foster. It is a FULL time job and the financial rewards should reflect this.

South African born Keith has lived in the south of England for most of his life. After graduating from University with a degree in Business Information Systems Management he decided to start Strawberrysoup a website design company based in West Sussex and Dorset. Keith successfully gained entry into the Southampton University Air Squadron and spent over 12 months training to fly. Since then he has continued to follow his interest in flying and has now began his own training in the form of a Private Pilot\\\’s Licence. Keith also spent 13 months working within the Image and Printing Group at Hewlett Packard in Bracknell. Throughout his time there, he was responsible for many activities including events organisation and website design and maintenance.

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