Being a Foster Parent

As its foster care fortnight, I thought it would be appropriate to reach out and give my first-hand experiences on being a foster parent.
Initially we attend training courses that are designed to teach us about young people and prepare us for when we welcome the first young person into our home. Calon Cymru Fostering provide training in all areas and encourage external trainers to further their carers knowledge. Yes, we must do them, and it is an important part of foster care, but learning is so much more than these sessions.

Most importantly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Relax. This is a difficult time for all involved. Calon Cymru Fostering provide a 24/7 service where we can contact a social worker at any time for help and support. This is alongside the supervising social worker who visits fortnightly and again easily contacted.

Follow your gut and remember it’s not a race. Don’t crowd the young person but ensure they know you are there. I always let the young person choose what we eat as a family the first few evenings and wrap a welcome gift – a night light, a worry monster cuddly toy, anything. I also arrange smellies and towels in their room.

The style of language we use – I’m not talking bad language! As foster carers we need to be fair, not only in talk but also in what we write. I have written a daily log after a stressful day and when I have re-read it realised what I had written was unfair, very one sided and I have altered it after a period of reflection. I now write my logs the following morning. We need to build connections with these young people and being positive is a must. It can be difficult talking positively about the family that hurt this young person, you may know more than the young person, but it must happen. Negativity will result in barriers being built and unfortunate consequences.

Some young people will arrive with little or no belongings. I found this very difficult the first time. I treat this as if its day one of the rest of their lives. I take numerous photos and print them out. We collect items and make memory boxes. The young female living with us is currently collecting sea glass – less to store than shells. We find things that interest them. She was the girliest girl you would ever meet. She now participates in kickboxing and is currently an orange belt and we SUP in all weather. Understanding her past would emphasis what a milestone these male dominated activities are for her.

Most importantly we must remember to acknowledge every success. By this I mean even the tiniest of successes – using cutlery to eat, getting washed, going to school, or feeling happy. The first young person who lived with us had only ever eaten from the floor and never sat at a table to eat. I wish you could have seen us the first time we ate at a restaurant with him. He looked smart, gelled his hair put on my partners aftershave, his eyes were shining, his smile was infectious, we were so proud, happy, and just like everyone else.

Give these children an opportunity, it may not always work but we are doing a very difficult but outstanding job. I do believe that one day he will come back and visit.

Remember, every child is one caring adult away from success.