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3 tips for new foster carers. 

Fostering your first child can be challenging. Training classes are very informative but there is a limit to how much can be covered in a short period. It is important to be as prepared as possible prior to fostering your first child. If you just starting the process, consider these three things:

  • Fostering is all about the children. This might sound obvious, but it is important to remind yourself of the invaluable service you are providing to neglected children. There will be occasions when the children in your care will take all their trauma out on you. This can be disheartening and might make you want to give up. Developing the resilience and patience to manage these periods of doubt takes time. Foster children deserve somebody to stick with them throughout the tough times. Consider how difficult it must be for the children, as they struggle to adjust to a new family dynamic and process their trauma.
  • Do not be afraid to seek help for yourself. Yes, fostering is difficult. Just as foster children need support, so to do foster carers. If you are struggling to cope you will not be able to parent to the best of your abilities. The children in your care will likely need a therapist to help them through the transition from their biological family to their foster family, but you may need one too. It is important to not be ashamed of seeking help. There is no stigma regarding it. Fostering professionals recognise how difficult this career can be. A therapist can provide you with advice, calming strategies and encouragement. If possible, seek a therapist who understands the nuances of the foster system. 
  • The trauma of your foster children will affect you. Foster carers can experience a condition called secondary trauma. Whilst all foster carers are educated on how trauma can affect children’s development, not many are aware of how it could affect them. Foster children can externalise their trauma with disruptive and challenging behaviours. Alternatively, others will internalise their struggles which could lead to depression or anxiety related issues. For their foster carers, it can be difficult and a challenge to understand their behaviour. Despite realising that their child is suffering, they might feel overwhelmed and helpless at how to help them. Raising a child who is suffering directly exposes foster carers to their grief. This can have a negative impact on a foster carer’s mental health and sense of wellbeing. It is essential for carers to be able to recognise the symptoms of secondary trauma. Once diagnosed, as discussed above, it is important to seek help. Counselling and support can help carers manage secondary trauma and support the children in their care. 

Prospective foster carers can often feel overwhelmed by the amount of content they need to learn. But try not to worry. Nobody enters fostering 100% prepared for all the challenges they will face. The most important attribute of successful foster carers is their ability to learn as they progress. Remember to practise good self-care, approach each obstacle calmly and you will be fine!