Foster Parent Advice: What to expect in your first year of fostering
If you’re fostering for the first time, or simply considering the idea, the prospect of the first year of fostering may be daunting. There may be unknowns such as what to expect, which placements you’ll likely foster and how your support network will work.
However, through our guide and case study, find advice on how to be a foster parent, the challenges of fostering and tips for foster parents in their first year.
Tips for foster parents in year one
A lot of people who are interested in fostering may be wondering, what is it like to be a foster parent? Why do people become foster parents? And what is it like to foster to a child?
To help answer questions for first-time fosterers, one of our foster carers, Marina, has kindly offered to speak to us regarding her fostering experiences.
Life of a foster parent – Case Study
Marina is currently in her first year of fostering and has been fostering for the last 10 months. With three girls to look after with her husband, Marina has fully adapted to life as a foster parent – having had merely 5 days in between being approved and her first foster care placement.
Having had their own three children fly the nest already, Marina and her husband are now in their fifties and looking to change the lives of young people in need. “We enjoy having children around. We always said once the children have grown up and left, we’d have some time to ourselves and then go on to foster. Fostering has always been on the horizon for us.”
Top tips for foster parents in their first year
Through our interview with Marina, she highlighted some important foster parents’ advice that would be beneficial for foster carers in their first year:
- Patience – things take time. Whether that’s getting the children settled into their new home, establishing a connection and bond with them or being patient when enforcing new routines. Patience is key in successful integration with your new foster care placement.
- ‘Me time’ – one of the most important things to remember is to take time out for yourself. Your time may be filled up with different events and activities that involve taking care of the children – but making time for a nail appointment, hair appointments or catching up with friends is important to retain that work-life balance.
- Be open – when you get the chance to meet the birth parents, it’s important to be open-minded. Do not look down on them – despite the decisions they’ve made and the life they’ve chosen to lead, they are the child(ren)’s parents – and showing a good relationship between you all can have a positive influence on the children. It’s also good to be prepared to be available for many questions – especially from social workers during the approval process, so being open to this will allow for a more seamless process.
- Time – one of the most important things to be prepared for is how much the placements will take up your time. Not just looking after the children themselves, but the contact time, courses and meetings that you’ll have to attend, too. The stuff behind the scenes should be taken into account – so it’s good to be prepared for that when embarking on the first year of fostering.
- Use your support network – it’s helpful to have a support network of friends and family around you to help. And when they offer to help, Marina’s advice is to take them up on the offer! You can have as many friends and family as you like checked over by social services to ensure they are safe to look after the children – so when family or friends offer, you can take some of that well-needed ‘me time’.
Marina and her husband haven’t been without a placement for long. After just five days from being approved, the three girls entered their lives mid-December 2018 – “I thought I was prepared for Christmas, turns out, I was not! We bought the girls Christmas presents, laid them out under the tree and on Christmas morning, they walked straight past them and went to have breakfast. They didn’t understand or know what the connotations of Christmas presents were – they’d never experienced it before. They were used to having nothing.”
Creating an environment where your foster children can feel comfortable and safe is important but can also take time. Regarding creating that important connection with foster children, Marina’s advice was: “Get to know the child – don’t smother them, stand back and let them come to you for comfort. Me and my husband want the children we have to fit in with our grandchildren’s ages – it would be nice to have that age group so they always have a friend around to speak to.”
When asked if she’d picked up any useful behaviour management techniques, she replied: “The older sibling (4 years old) had a tendency to control the younger sibling (2 years old). This habit took around 5 months to break – but the 4-year-old wouldn’t let her sister do anything – get dressed, have a cuddle, speak. It took a while to control this – but by sitting with her and encouraging her not to bully her sister, this behaviour was controlled.”
In terms of support, Marina speaks of her experience with the support she’s received from Capstone Foster Care: “They’re always there at the end of the phone. All the Capstone social workers are – if there are any problems, I know they’ll be there. There’s always someone there to give advice and to speak to. I’ve also been put in touch with another foster parent who’s been fostering for 9 years – she keeps in touch with me which is great.”
Marina and her husband have said they’ll continue to foster for as long as they can. “Seeing how the children have developed is definitely the best part about fostering. Especially the older child – she came from neglect, was in nappies and couldn’t speak – although she’s still 18 months behind, her communication is a lot better than it used to be. She used to tantrum as she couldn’t understand, but now her communication has improved enormously.”
Being able to see the changes and development of young people’s lives in your care is one of the most rewarding aspects of fostering, and why many choose to do it as a career. Are you interested in becoming a foster carer? Learn more about the fostering requirements and get in touch with a member of our friendly team today for more foster parent advice and support.See more articles…