Lucy Stevens - 3rd March 2022
Foster parenting in the UK can often seem like a complex and difficult thing to get your head around. From whether you can even foster in the first place (hint: check our FAQs and you might be surprised) to what it actually means emotionally to be a foster parent.
To foster a child or children is a wonderful thing; not only are you providing love, care and support but you’re giving young people the chance to have a stable and enriched upbringing, something they may have been lacking previously. So what are the main responsibilities when it comes to fostering a child?
What does it mean to be a foster parent?
There are challenges with looking after and raising any child. When it comes to fostering, the first thing you need to provide is compassion and love; it sounds simple but we’re looking for people who can really help bring out the best in a child. You will, of course, receive training and support from Eastern Fostering Services on your journey but an open mind and an open heart is the most important thing.
Many children in the fostering system might not have had the same experiences as other children and this can be a wonderful and enriching part of your journey as you learn and explore together with the child. From baking cakes and cookies for the first time to taking them to the playground, or helping older children to learn independence skills, there are many activities you can do with your foster child that will open up possibilities for them. To allow a child to safely explore and flourish is what it really means to be a foster parent.
You might also be wondering what it’s like to be a foster parent. We have a multitude of carers who have happily shared their own stories about what it means to be a foster parent.
Jim recently spoke to us about fostering with Eastern Fostering Services.
“We’ve been with Eastern Fostering Services since we started fostering. What impressed me from the start was the pastoral care they give to foster parents. It’s not always easy to foster, but the staff are always on hand to give support and advice. They put the interests of the child first, of course, but in the context of supporting foster parents to give the best care possible in the prevailing circumstances. There’s always plenty of training. And if we’ve felt the need for any specialist help, Eastern Fostering Services have been there to provide it. We’ve also benefited from a great network with other carers in the area which Eastern Fostering Services is instrumental in supporting. Finally, they have supported our wider family, including our children, and I think that has helped us make a success of fostering (so far).”
Do I have what it takes to be a foster parent?
There are questions you’ll need to ask yourself about whether you have what it takes to be a foster parent and whether it’s right for you.
- Are you a patient person? It sounds simple but patience is key when it comes to foster parenting as you explore and experience different challenges. Whether it be the perils of getting your head around maths homework (we’ve all been there) to dealing with a long term health condition, being able to stay cool and calm under pressure while showing unwavering love is a necessity.
- Do you have a solid support network around you? From friends to family and even colleagues, the fostering process isn’t something anyone should go through alone. As well as support from us, we’d suggest you have a strong support network on hand who can share the highs and lows with you. An understanding workplace is a must as you take leave to adapt to a life with a child and all its tribulations to family who can rally around and help blow up balloons and make delicious cakes to celebrate a child’s birthday. And any parent is allowed to let off steam so make sure you’ve got a best friend on hand to encourage and cheer you on along the way.
- Can you deal with difficult subjects including child abuse, sexual exploitation and emotional abuse? As a foster parent you’ll be dealing with children from all sorts of different backgrounds so it’s important you get to grips with a range of subjects, all with our support of course. Children you take on may have experienced abuse at the hands of their parents or other people close to them and it’s important you can talk openly and honestly about heavy subjects. Many children may still be feeling the burden of abuse and/or exploitation, and will do for the rest of their lives. Remember, though, you are never alone in this and you can always contact us with any questions or concerns.
- Are you resilient? Resilience comes in many forms, it’s just about finding your balance and where your strengths lie. For example, resilience to you may look like being able to keep calm and carry on as the saying goes, or it may look like never missing reading a child a bedtime story no matter how much work you’ve got on.
- Could you open up your home and your heart to a child who needs you? Opening up your world to include a child or children in an inclusive space is so important to the fostering process. While we’re not expecting you to turn your home into a fully fledged two storey nursery, it’s important you’re willing to create a cosy space full of love.
- Do you have a deep-rooted desire to make a positive difference in the lives of children? This is the most important thing. You’re dealing with children who may have had difficult backgrounds and never experienced a positive role model in their lives- this is where you step in. From your work ethic to the way you express love and the every day details that make up the tapestry of care you’re offering, you need to have a desire to leave a lasting impression.
One final thing…
The most important thing about being a foster parent is that you can give yourself wholeheartedly to fostering. After all, the best thing about fostering is the relationship and bond between you and the child which offers them a secure base from which to thrive. If you want more information, there’s a plethora on our website or you can contact us via Facebook to find out more.