How is fostering different to parenting?

1st August, 2023

Some of our best foster carers often tell us that when they foster, it teaches them to alter their whole perspective and approach to parenting.

So, how is fostering different to parenting?

  • The legal bit. Perhaps the most obvious is when you have your own children you hold the legal responsibility. When fostering, decisions regarding the best interests of a foster child, will be made between the foster carers, agency, local authorities along with birth parents, who along with the local authority retain parental responsibility.  


“Just because you could provide a child with more wealth, a better house, or more things, does not necessarily mean you should. Reunification is always the objective of fostering where possible.”


Your role as a foster carer is to provide safety, security, nurture, love and empathy. Some of which a child might not have experienced before.


  • Caring for the child in front of you. When you are a parent, in most cases, you will have raised the child from a baby, and you are relatively free to parent in any style you see fit. With a foster child, who may have experienced trauma, it’s the foster carers who must adapt their parenting approach to suit the needs of the child.

Time and time again when we speak to exceptional foster carers, they talk about how they tailor their approach to match the child that is in front of them. If a teenager has missed early development milestones due to neglect for example, they might alter their expectations and support them to achieve their goals as if they were a younger child. If the child is living with anxiety, they might take time to talk to them, explaining fine details of situations to help them prepare for events. If the child has experienced abuse, they might help them set clear boundaries and allow a safe space, ensuring they have locks on bathroom doors and highlight this to their child, taking things like personal hygiene extremely slow.


“When you foster your parenting style is a fluid and adaptable thing.”


Foster carers and the birth family

  •  Appreciate that the child is a unique, whole person when they come to you. Respecting the child and their birth family is so important. While children may have been removed from volatile situations and placed into care, never fall into the trap of underestimating the often-unconditional bond a child may have with their parents. Resilience is certainly an essential quality for all foster carers. Your foster children will have had a wealth of experiences before they arrive. A major example of this could be observing the cultural needs of a child who is from a different background. Learning and engaging in these different cultures can also be rewarding for you as a foster carer, along with instilling pride in the child with regard to their heritage. Celebrate the child for who they are.


“Every child is beautiful. Sometimes it is the role of the foster carer to see this despite their experiences and help bring this to light.”


Often children in care have had traumatic experiences that may have shaped them, yet with the love, nurture and understanding of a fostering family their future can become that much brighter. One of the most rewarding parts of fostering is seeing a child grow and reach their potential as a young adult.

Part of the role of being a foster carer is to break through any negative cycles and help the child see that they are capable of so much more and that you believe in them as individuals. Whether it is watching them be the first in their family to achieve a university degree, or to travel outside of the UK, or to achieve their dream of being a dancer. (All examples we have been lucky enough to hear about from our wonderful families.)


While there may be many differences between fostering and parenting, one thing is the same, you will feel just as proud of every incredible achievement your child makes with your support.


Could you provide the patience, love and nurture required to be a foster parent? Get in touch today on 0800 012 4004.

Thinking of fostering?

If you’ve got any questions or would like to find out more about fostering with Capstone, fill out the form below.
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