This is a question that every Foster Carer would answer differently. It would depend on the type of person they are. What motivates and drives them, what kind of background and upbringing they had, and what support networks they have around them.
What I can say with some certainty is that most will tell you, “it’s tough, but it’s worth it!”
Reading a thread on Mumsnet today (which inspired me to write this blog), a lady posted that she was “petrified” having started her Skills to Foster course. She added, “idealistically I want to help someone, but I’m scared of making the situation worse.”
That got me thinking. I know for sure that there are so many people out there that consider fostering, but never quite pluck up the courage to take that first step, probably because they have similar feelings.
What was interesting, was one of the responder’s comments. They expressed shock and surprise hearing from their foster child’s teacher how much he had changed in the few week’s he’d been with them. They went on… “I didn’t feel like we’d done anything ‘special’ with him… just provided him with good care, good food, opportunities, love, routine, security. All of those ‘little’ things that we do as normal and take for granted”.
That summed it all up for me. Fostering isn’t some academic vocation that you need to be good at maths or physics for. It is doing what comes naturally to the vast majority of people, providing love, empathy and security to a child that may not have experienced it before.
Another poster commented, “foster carers shouldn’t have these great expectations that they can turn a child around. They just need to provide that nurturing that every child deserves, and not overthink things”. I agree with this, as a foster carer, your goal is to provide that love, care and safety. You’re not alone, there are other professionals around a child i.e. Social Workers, Clinicians etc, that work towards those goals. Of course, as a Foster Carer, your agency will provide the training you need to gain skills in these areas. But the primary role is to care and keep safe.
So, getting back to the original question, “What’s it like being a foster carer?”, I really don’t think there is one answer. Some posters commented at their frustration with the system; others candidly expressed that as long as they did their bit, they were proud to be part of it.
Besides providing the care that we talked about here, there are reports to make, training and meetings to attend (school, health, reviews etc). Your agency will help you with all of those things, and talking issues through with your fellow Foster Carers is also a valuable tool in giving you the help you need.
It isn’t always an easy ride, it can get very bumpy sometimes. When children come into care, it is a frightening experience for them. They are unlikely to trust easily, and that can be challenging for a Foster Carer. But you can make sure that they are cared for and, given the right guidance, that trust will come. That’s when you know it was all worthwhile!
You can see the thread that I was reading here. It makes for an interesting and revealing read 🙂