Lucy Stevens - 18th June 2022
Matching children and foster carers is one of the key factors that ensures positive fostering experiences for children and foster carers alike.
Faultless matching is difficult for many reasons, perhaps the greatest being that you can’t foresee character dynamics until foster carers and children are living together day in, day out. However, having a robust and thorough matching process allows Eastern Fostering Services to give things the best possible chance.
What are the principles that allow for good fostering matches?
At Eastern Fostering Services, our fostering matching process hinges on some key principles:
- Understanding our foster carers and their families
- Being as well-informed as possible when it comes to the needs of the children
- Anticipating practical considerations and obstacles before the child is placed
- Where possible, working hard to ensure the child is prepared as well as possible for the move
- Supporting our foster carers
- Communicating well with other fostering professionals
Understanding our foster carers
Eastern Fostering Services takes time to understand the unique circumstances, needs and expectations of each foster carer. Upon approval, every foster carer will have a conversation with the fostering placements manager. They will discuss what the carers feel would work well within their family dynamic. They will seek to understand the characters and needs of any birth children. Foster carers can be open about their levels of comfort around behaviours, age ranges, gender or care requirements for the children we look after. Foster carers will also be able to discuss the practical elements such as working arrangements and logistical or practical considerations.
These conversations help us to understand what sort of factors would make poor matches and enable us to refine the positive matching criteria. We do this by sharing anonymised referrals with foster carers and seeking their feedback. What were the positive points? Were there any behaviours described with which you felt uncomfortable? If you were considering this child, what additional questions would you have? What additional information do you feel you’d need? This helps foster carers pick out the most relevant information to them when considering future child referrals and gives them the freedom and encouragement to ask any questions.
The quality of fostering child referrals that we receive varies greatly. “Good” referrals give a depth of information on the child’s history. This helps us to understand the level of trauma and loss a child has experienced and can help us foresee and mitigate potential challenges. Strong referrals will communicate the wishes and feelings of the child. For us, this is really important, as we would never knowingly promote a match that went against the needs or wants of the child. Ensuring children are listened to and understood is vital in building fruitful fostering families.
Referrals should also detail arrangements for contact with birth family, education, health and additional emotional needs or provision.
When we feel there is not sufficient information detailed in the referral, we will speak to the child’s social worker and spend time understanding the child and their unique circumstances. We always keep a record of these conversations so that we can advocate for the children once they are placed with our foster carers.
The practical elements
There are a great many practical considerations when it comes to fostering and when matching children and carers:
- How frequent is family contact?
- Where does this take place?
- Is contact supervised?
- Where is the school or education provision?
- Can the foster carer transport them?
- If not, can we make alternative arrangements?
- Are there regular health appointments and where are these?
- What therapeutic input is there and how can we support or enhance this?
- Are there any locations where the child is not safe to be placed?
- Can they live with pets?
- Can they live with other children?
We aim to identify these practical considerations before putting foster carers forward. Where there are obvious obstacles, we will work with the Local Authorities to agree solutions.
Preparing the child
We’re limited in what we can do to prepare children for such a momentous move because this is really the domain of the child’s social worker. However, we do work hard with Local Authorities to promote introductions between foster carers and children, and we do provide as much information as possible about our foster carers, including a child-friendly welcome book which the social worker can share with the child.
Sometimes, children are moved in an emergency. A match may be agreed, and the child move in on the same day. We will go to every effort to understand the child’s likes and dislikes so at the very least the foster carer can ensure that the child’s first meal is a firm favourite!
Supporting our carers
Welcoming a new child can be an anxious time for foster carers. From the very beginning of the matching process, the Eastern Fostering Services team communicates with foster carers, seeks to understand their worries and to be as responsive as possible. Information is relayed openly and honestly with carers and any resulting worries are heard and responded to.
The foster carers’ supervising social worker will be there with the foster carers when the child arrives, unless this is not possible in the event of an emergency move. Where it is not possible, one of the team will always check in on the carer when the child arrives and on the following day. Supervising social workers will be present at all placement planning meetings and will advocate on behalf of the carers and children.
Accessing consistent and comprehensive support is a must for foster carers and it is something we feel we do very well at Eastern Fostering Services.
Perhaps you foster already and do not feel you are getting this support? If so, please get in touch with us or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact us via facebook or you can call us on 01206 299775.
If you would like to find out more about fostering, you can contact using the details above. We’d be delighted to hear from you!