It is a question that many foster carers ask. They know that adoption involves a very careful process of matching a child and an adoptive parent, but what about fostering? Might you have to accept any child who needs a foster carer?
The answer to this question is no. Which particular child you foster will always be a mutual decision between your fostering agency, the Local Authority and importantly, you. We know that having a child come to live with you and your family is a very big commitment, so making sure that you have a child who is the right match is crucial for you and for the child you foster.
Matching a child and a foster family
When a child is placed in a foster home, it is vital that we match their needs with the foster carers’ or the families’ situation. At Little Acorns we have had potential foster carers come forward who are concerned that they might, once approved, be forced to foster a child that they feel doesn’t fit with their family and circumstances. But they need not worry; none of our foster carers are ever forced to accept a foster child that they do not think they can help.
You are in the driving seat.
The bottom line is that you will always be in the drivers’ seat when it comes to selecting the level of need and the age group of the children as well us other parameters that might impact on your ability to offer the best foster care.
You will never have to go-it-alone
In addition to the selection process you will never be left to feel that you are ‘going it alone’. At Little Acorns a wealth of support is offered to every foster carer and their family. One of our team will always be available to help you handle any unexpected situations. You and the child you are fostering will have a team around you who will be qualified to work with the issues that might affect the child you are caring for. Those issues might be around loss, anger or other behavioural issues. In addition, we hold regular support groups where you can meet and get help and advice and exchange useful experience with other foster parents.
What is required of you when you are a Foster Parent?
As well as providing a safe and nurturing environment for any child (or children) that are placed in your home, you will form part of the child’s team and an advocate for the needs of that child. There will be some documentation that you will have to keep. There may be further specialised training that you need. There is always the requirement that you renew your CPR/First Aid certification and keep it up to date. Little Acorns provides regular training in our purpose built training centre to help keep you on top of the skills you need.
Keeping your cool
As a foster carer you should be able to remain calm, patient and objective in some difficult situations. This can be a challenge as foster children often come from difficult or upsetting situations and might express their anger or confusion in ways that can be quite testing.
As a foster carer your goal is to support the ultimate aim of reunification with the child’s birth family. Wherever possible this is the outcome that is sought but sometimes foster children can remain in fostering until they reach 18. It is important that a foster child is not made to feel different to any other child in your household.
Has every foster child got special needs?
The fact is that many children who need to be fostered do have special needs but this is not necessarily in the physical sense. They may be frightened and confused at having been separated from their parents. Some will have feelings of anger and others will see the fact that they have been placed in a foster home as some form of punishment. If you are patient, show understanding and demonstrate that the child is safe and can trust you, you can really make a difference to that child’s life chances.
Do foster parents ever adopt the children they have fostered?
The primary aim of fostering is to return the children cared for to their own birth families wherever that is possible. Sometimes, however, for a variety of reasons it is simply not possible for a child to go back to their own family.
If the permanent plan for a fostered child does become adoption, if that child has been living with you in your home, you may be given an opportunity to consider adopting that child. Since Little Acorns has already approved you for Foster Care, you would already have met many of the requirements necessary for being an adoptive parent.
Saying goodbye can be hard. In fact this is probably the hardest part of being a foster carer. There is no doubt that you will feel sad and feel a sense of loss for a time. It is natural to feel this way, as that child will always be in your heart. This is where support groups and speaking to other foster families can help a lot. Often foster carers are comforted by the fact that there will always be new foster children who need to be cared for. Other foster parents feel a great satisfaction in helping a family to become united again. But all will go through a grieving process, hopefully tinged with the pleasure of a job well done.
Is Little Acorns the right foster care agency for me?
Any agency may seem to offer a couple of things that might meet your needs better than another. At Little Acorns we look for foster carers with passion and commitment and are drawn to foster caring because they almost feel that it is a calling for them. We believe in matching children with families properly and as an agency we have extremely high standards and expectations for our staff and our foster carers too. Above all, we are committed to supporting our foster parents in every way that we can. Becoming a foster parent takes a lot, but the rewards can be enormous.