If you’re fostering for the first time, or simply considering the idea, the prospect of the first year of fostering may be overwhelming.
There may be unknowns such as what to expect, which placements you’ll likely foster and what support will be available to you.
Our guide provides advice on what to expect during your first year as a foster parent, along with some helpful tips for foster parents during their first year from our very own foster carers - Marina and her husband.
Your first foster child could be a long-term, short-term, emergency or therapeutic placement, based on your unique experience and training. There are many reasons why a child would be placed into foster care, which could be a daunting prospect for them during these times.
Your first few weeks as a foster carer is likely to be an adjustment period for the both of you. This may present a vulnerable and emotional time for both you and the child in your care, as you are both on the same learning curve, navigating through this experience together. The first year of fostering can be the most challenging part. Establishing a routine and boundaries based on the needs of the foster child in your care can help you to both adjust to a new environment and surroundings. It is important to remember, each foster child will require different treatment as they may have experienced trauma or developed issues from their past.
As a foster carer with Capstone, you will receive ongoing training and development that will help you along your foster care journey. The initial step during your training will be our ‘Skills to Foster’ course, which covers topics such as first-aid, what foster carers do, understanding the needs of children in foster care and managing challenging behaviour.
You will also get the opportunity to meet our staff, other people and families who are already fostering with Capstone – allowing you to meet like-minded individuals to gain knowledge and experience from to help you on your journey.
Many people interested in fostering wonder what it is like to become a foster parent, why people become foster parents, and what it is 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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
‘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 to book a nail appointment, watch a sports event or catch up with friends is important to retain that work-life balance.
Marina, along with her husband have adapted to life as a foster parent. Having had their own three children fly the nest already, Marina and her husband are now 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.”
Marina and her husband haven’t been without a placement for long. After just five days from being approved their first foster placement, three girls, entered their lives during December.
“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, Marina replied:
“The older sibling had a tendency to control the younger sibling.This habit took around 5 months to break – but the older sibling 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 control 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 many 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.
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.
If you’ve got any questions or would like to find out more about fostering with Capstone, fill out the form below.
An experienced fostering advisor from your local area will then be in touch.