How to Become a Foster Carer Rotating Header Image

Helping Children Move On

Most fostering requires carers to look after children and young people temporarily until they move on. There are various avenues that can be taken after a child comes into the care system : they can return to their parents or extended families, they can reach the age when they become independent and move to their own place, or they can move on to adoption or permanency with other carers.

Whichever route is taken, the child needs support in making the transition to their new home and the foster carer plays a significant part in making the move a success. All moves need to be managed carefully and to take into account the child’s age and ability to cope with change themselves.

When the plan is adoption, it usually concerns younger children. The foster carer’s job in this case is to help the child feel safe and secure while introductions to their new family take place. It is likely that these children, young as they are, will have experienced more than one foster home and so in order to convey the permanent nature of their adoptive placement, terms are used such as “your forever family” or “your new mummy and daddy” when referring to the new adoptive parents. Often, several meetings will take place between the child and their adoptive parents, including overnight stays and weekends in their new home before they actually move in properly. During this transition period, there is close liaison between the foster carers and the adopters to prepare the adopters. This period is also used to assess the child’s readiness for the move and the pace of the move can be altered to suit the child, depending on how well the introductions go. The task of the foster carer is to help a child transfer their attachment from themselves to the adopters and this of course brings sadness and feelings of loss for the foster carer. They need support at this time from their own network and importantly from their fostering social worker and agency so that their own feelings do not effect the child or the adopters. This can be a difficult time for foster caring families but generally they see the benefits of the move for the child and in the long term they often stay in touch with both the child and the adopters over many years. When successful, it can be a hugely rewarding experience for foster carers.

Children may also move on to independence when they reach 16 to 18 years and they need practical and emotional support from their carers in making this important transition to adulthood. As we know from our own children, “independence” is not achieved over night and it can take years of backup support from their family / home base before a young adult can really cope alone. Foster carers help with buying the correct equipment for a new flat, they also help with budgeting, cooking, washing, self care, dealing with employers, colleges, job centres etc and basic DIY skills. There is an awful lot to learn and hopefully this will have been on going from a much younger age. Young people will feel ambivalent about moving to independence – excited and keen, but also anxious and reluctant in some respects. Managing this ambivalence is the challenge for foster carers and they need the support, guidance and understanding of their own social workers.

Those children returning to their birth families will be looking forward to the move but also nervous about whether things will really work out and they need lots of reassurance form their foster carer that this is the right decision for them and their family. Foster carers will need to build good working relationships with the family members themselves, be they parents, grand parents, aunts and uncles, sometimes older siblings. Often in reality foster carers may have reservations about the plan for a child to return home, and they can voice these views at the planning stage, along with the other professionals. If, however, a decision has been made to return a child home, it is the carer’s job to work alongside the social workers and family to make a success of the move. This can be tough, feelings can be strong and it is at times like this that a foster carer really needs the support of their own social workers to help them mange the process in a professional manner.

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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