Our current foster carers will be the first to tell you how rewarding it is – and how challenging. Below are tried and tested ways of tackling three of the most common issues.
Don’t forget, we’re with you every step of the way, so if an issue is concerning you, get in touch with your Supervising Social Worker for more advice. You can get support from other foster carers too, by getting involved with one of our local groups.
1. Managing challenging behaviour
Foster children are complex individuals with complex needs and backgrounds. Sometimes, to come to terms with what they’ve been through, children manifest these needs in the form of seemingly antisocial or self-destructive behaviours. Such as violence and tantrums, self-harm and running away from home.
To help them deal with what they’re going through, and to overcome or manage these behaviours, it’s important to bear in mind the possible reasons behind them: physical or mental health issues, abusive relationships during early development, or trouble adjusting to a new way of life.
How should you react to these behaviours? Although every child and their behaviours are unique and should be treated as such, you always need patience and preparation. During your training with us you’ll be given critical thinking and behaviour management tips to help you approach the task in general. And you’ll always have a Supporting Social Worker and peer groups to learn from when dealing with specific behaviours.
2. Interacting with biological families
One of the primary aims of a foster placement is often to reunite parent and child when it’s safe and beneficial to do so. This means continued contact is vital, although it’s not always easy. Sometimes biological families are well aware that they need help from a foster carer while they work through their issues, but other times they can be more resistant.
Anger and resentment might be aimed at you, with parents refusing to see you as someone who’s trying to help. But stick at it and give them a chance. Maintaining these relationships can have long-term benefits for the child’s wellbeing, so it’s important to see past previous parental challenges and focus on the future.
How can you manage these relationships? Most importantly, make sure you always liaise with your Supervising Social Worker before making contact. They’ll be able to give you background information and help make sure you don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with. Keep to any appointments you make, remain positive and be honest. Over time you may break through and begin to work together as a team.
3. Experiencing exhaustion in your own life
Burnout can be a real problem for foster carers, especially when caring for multiple children. You put so much effort into helping others that you could become overwhelmed when also balancing your social life, relationships and responsibilities.
If you begin to feel run down, unmotivated or depressed, it’s time to call your Supervising Social Worker to find a solution together and make some changes as soon as possible. After all, if you’re too exhausted to care for yourself, you’ll have a difficult time giving a foster child the love and support they need.
How can you keep on top of exhaustion? If possible, make time for yourself each week when a partner, backup carer (respite care) or someone else in your support network can take on your responsibilities. (Your Supervising Social Worker can help you set this up – you never need to face things alone.) In addition, keep yourself fit and healthy, eat well and get plenty of rest. Combined, these simple activities are incredibly good for you. And what’s good for you is usually good for your fostering household too.