Fostering series continued:
Back in January, our foster carer Archie began writing his mini series on the alternative, unofficial guide to fostering. We are really excited to share his next chapter.
Since leaving University, 20 years ago, I have done the odd bit of training, as part of my career in Finance and IT; probably half a dozen, tops. But, as a Foster Carer, the training will never stop… NEVER! There is a set amount of training that you are obliged to take, each year, covering a range of topics, including Paediatric First Aid to Safeguarding. Some of it is even interesting and you may even retain some of what you learn. But, even if you forget it by the time you walk out of the training room, you will have a wad of notes and hand-outs to stick in your file.
On top of the compulsory training, there will be enough discretionary training to fill the Library of Congress. Some of this training will be in a classroom, some of it will be online. Some will take two or three days, some of it will take 30 minutes. But every single one will be a feather in your cap and is worth doing, especially if you have chosen Fostering as your career and can make the time. My wife is the primary carer, in our house, and laps up this kind of stuff; I’m pretty sure she is the most qualified and educated person in the country, now. Most of the training is now provided through an online portal (virtual classrooms, self-paced courses, etc.) and gives you instant KPIs and a speedometer type dashboard to show how you are doing. I’m pretty sure things are going to start getting competitive between my wife and other, like-minded, carers. In fact, as I type this, she is completing a training session about preventing radicalism in children – pretty heavy stuff, I admire her determination.
I, on the other hand, as the secondary / support carer, am very much in the ‘minimalist’ category – less is more. I couldn’t do what my wife does, in the training or the actual caring; she is a legend. I fix things, play with Lego, say “what she said’ a lot and I am a shoulder to cry on.
Anyway, training. You will, no doubt, underestimate the importance of the training; I know I did. The training will not enlighten you with ground breaking revelations in psychiatric research. Indeed, you will often find yourself thinking, “Oh my word, this is so obvious”. But, it is the context of the training, having someone telling you “this will definitely be something you can relate to, at some point in your life as a Foster Carer” that makes it pertinent. And they are right. At some point, you will find yourself saying “We covered this in one of the training sessions. There’s nothing to worry about. This is normal behaviour; Daisy told us to expect this”. And, even if you don’t know how to resolve the particular situation, just knowing that you are not going mad and your ward is not an alien from a distant galaxy, will really help. Remember, your Supervising Social Worker is always on hand to help, if you can’t resolve a situation. And, remember those badly produced hand-outs you stuffed in a file at the back of your wardrobe, last year? You can always dig them out and give yourself a quick refresher.
And, if all else fails and you simply can’t remember anything you were taught in the training, remember one thing… you are human. At the end of the day, you were approved as a Foster Carer by someone who got to know you inside and out and thought you’d be good at it. Trust your gut, you’re not a fool and you have been trusted to look after some of the most vulnerable young people in the country… you’ve got this! Don’t worry about doing the ‘agency approved’ thing, just do what you feel is the right thing and you won’t go far wrong. The important thing is always to do what you think is best for the child, in a particular situation. Just acknowledge that you might not have officially done the right thing but will remember for next time.
The training will stand you in good stead and, as I said before, each of the discretionary training courses will be a feather in your cap. It is always good to stay in your agency’s good books and show willingness to learn and be a better carer. You hope you will never hear of a disabled, orphaned, teenage, asylum seeker with links to a radical Bhuddist group but, if they are ever in need of your help, you will be prepared and your agency will know exactly where to turn.
Out in the ‘real world’, “Knowledge is Power”. But, in fostering, knowledge is the fuel for the power you already have.
Find out more about the training we provide.