Foster carers come from all walks of life and for many different reasons.
Some have seen their own children fly the nest, some have been unable to have children of their own, and some simply have a spare bedroom and want to make a difference.
There is no experience required to become a foster carer, but there are many desirable skills and qualities. Here we look at 7 Essential Traits All Foster Carers Need.
But before we do, there are three requirements to foster in the UK which you should know about:
- You must have a spare bedroom
- Be over 21 years old (there is no upper age limit)
- British Citizenship or indefinite leave to remain in the UK
If you don’t meet all three of these requirements, you are ineligible to apply as a foster carer in the UK.
7 Essential Traits for Fostering
Fostering is a hugely rewarding role, but it is also a challenging one.
Make no mistake, there will be difficult times just as there are when raising any child. The difference is that foster carers are parenting the most vulnerable children and young people in the country.
To do this well, there are certain traits and qualities that foster carers should possess.
Empathy is defined as ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’. Without this, fostering is not for you.
Sometimes things do not happen as quickly as you want them to.
Sometimes meetings get scheduled or rescheduled at the last minute, or do not get appropriately attended.
Some children benefit quickly from foster care and the positive effects are obvious. Others take time.
Fostering is a challenging role.
Parenting children who have not experienced childhood as they should means foster carers must set and stick to boundaries and routines that a young person probably isn’t used to.
There are many challenges carers face, and they must be able to recover quickly.
You must be able to bounce back and keep your best foot forward.
Willingness to Learn
Every child is different and will have different needs.
Carers must be open to new ways of parenting depending on the needs of a young person.
Family Care’s in-house therapists guide our families to use different therapeutic strategies, and you must be open to adopting these.
Carers must also attend mandatory training courses every year. You will always be learning as you go through the fostering journey.
Emotionally and mentally strong
Within the role, there are times when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.
Then there are times when everything is going so smoothly you wonder what all the fuss is about.
Sometimes these see-sawing emotions are within the same week!
Carers must be emotionally and mentally strong enough to rise above this and see the bigger picture.
Not only building relationships with a child, but also relationships with their parents, with supporting professionals in local authorities, and with your own supervising social worker (SSW).
At Family Care, we adopt a Team Around the Child approach, involving foster carers, support workers, therapists, and SSW’s.
We all want what is best for the young person. Sometimes that means accepting constructive criticism and being encouraged to do something differently.
You must develop a professional relationship with your SSW so that you can have these sometimes-difficult conversations.
That goes both ways. If you feel your SSW is not supporting you properly, or something else is amiss, you must be confident enough to express this.
When foster carers feel properly supported, the children in their care will benefit most.
Love and affection
It’s obvious isn’t it. Foster carers should have this in bucket loads.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a bubbly, optimistic, glass half-full personality. Foster carers come from all walks of life and our carers are as diverse as our children and young people.
But they all must have a burning desire to make a difference in children’s lives.
Like empathy, without an abundance of love and affection, fostering is not for you.
We could go on and on with skills and qualities, there are so many which are important to the fostering role.
However, these 7 essential traits are a starting point for anyone setting off on their fostering journey.
The Fostering Network estimates a shortage of over 8,000 foster carers in the UK.
2021 Fostering Network recruitment targets
Every agency and local authority is slightly different and may look for different skills in their foster carers.
As a small family-owned agency, our focus is on enhancing the lives of the children and young people in our care.
To give those children the best chance, we feel it is our duty to look for the best foster carers we can find.
Joining Family Care means you will be fully supported by a team of therapeutic professionals rooting for your success. After all, your success means a happy and thriving child, which is our ultimate goal.
If you want to find out more about fostering, get in touch with our friendly fostering team today. Call 0800 5 677677 or apply with our online enquiry form. You really could make a difference.
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