When children are unable to live with their birth family, they sometimes need to be looked after by a foster carer. Given that these children will have been removed from their parent’s care, for a lot of them, this will be their first impression of what it is like to live in a safe and positive environment.
So, what is a foster carer’s role? Ultimately, the role of a foster carer is to care for the children or young people in their care. But what does this really mean and what does ‘care’ actually involve?
There are several different types of foster care, which will determine the specifics of the role of the foster carer. Sometimes, foster carers will care for a child in an emergency, which will be for a relatively short period of time. Other times, a foster carer might have a long-term arrangement whereby the child will live with them for a few years. Although the latter is most common, it is important to know that the role of the foster carers will vary, depending on the circumstances of the fostering arrangement.
Provide emotional support
A foster carer provides emotional support for their foster children and young people. As they are their main carers, they will be there for them during not only the most difficult times in their lives, but as they navigate their childhood as well. A foster carer is the first point of contact a child will have when they come home, and when they feel their most vulnerable. Providing emotional support for foster children is essential to ensure a stable and positive upbringing, where the child feels safe and supported.
Encourage contact with families
Although a child will have been taken out of their birth parents’ care; it is still important to keep communication open, where it is safe to do so. Contact with birth families is extremely important for children and young people in foster care – and it is the responsibility of the foster carer to help maintain this relationship. This can be quite a difficult thing to comprehend, especially if the foster carer has certain opinions of their foster child’s birth family. The role of a foster carer means they need to set aside these opinions for the sake of the child.
All foster carers will receive training to help with this management and support will be available throughout the whole process.
As a lot of children in care will not have come from a stable home, their behaviour can be a bit questionable at times. The role of a foster carer is to help teach them right from wrong and put in place behaviour management, where appropriate.
It is important for the foster carer to ensure that they know that any behaviour issues are not the child’s fault, and discipline needs to be handled with sensitivity and compassion, while also teaching the child that what they have done is wrong.
There are a lot of people involved in the fostering of a child and this can be quite overwhelming. The role of a foster carer is to keep a good working relationship with everyone, to ensure the child does not have to worry about these things on their own. A foster parent needs to ensure that everyone is involved that needs to be and kept up to date about the child’s progress as and when appropriate.
Become an advocate and manage information
Of course, a large part of being a foster carer is the emotional wellbeing of a child. However, there is a lot more to take into consideration. Along with the daily care a child needs, foster carers need to be able to advocate on behalf of the children in their care. This will include attending meetings, supporting them through their education and working with the wide team of people involved in the child’s life.
A foster carer needs to provide a healthy, reliable family unit for every child that they welcome into their home. They need to be prepared to take on the role of teacher, parent, teammate, and confidant. Foster carers help children to cope with many complex needs, such as neglect and loss; their job is much more than just ‘care,’ it is giving children a safe haven to grow, learn and enjoy life.
If you still have a few questions, or are interested in learning more about how to become a foster carer, you can contact us on 0800 566 8317 or request a digital brochure today to find out more.