Different phases in fostering (foster carer perspective)


Annie Shafi

Had an interesting phone call the other day, a potential foster carer rang to inquire about fostering. We had a good long chat about fostering and meeting the criteria set out etc one thing we always like to find out is the motivation behind fostering, like why foster? and why now?. This person had a really strong reason for fostering, she had lost someone really dear to her, through the grief it really got her thinking and that really inspired her to foster a child.

She said ‘having lost someone close to me and going through the grief and bereavement, I had a thought for some of the children who are separated from the parents. It is a really hard predicament. I still feel I have a lot of love to give and thought of putting it to good use by looking up fostering.

This conversation generally went on to the person finding out more and the daunting process involved. This had me thinking that there are a lot of people that want to become foster carers, but are daunted by the process of becoming a foster carer.  In general, there are about 5 stages of fostering a child.

The stages are mainly from the foster parent’s viewpoint and generally apply to full placements rather than respite.

1. Beginning the process

The prospective foster parent has begun the process of gaining approval to foster. Now the excitement begins, but as the process is quite long and drawn out there’s always fear of not getting through to the other end. Apart from the feeling we also start asking ourselves if ‘I am still up for it’.

2. Joy

Yay You’ve been approved! now you can finally get a placement!. This is your chance to help a child get out of the trauma and give them a family as well as support so they can carry on the trajectory to a bright future.

The question at this point is who will the child be? What will the child be like?

3. Fresh Beginning

At the beginning when you get your placement the child will generally be shy and respectful, co-operative and compliant. The foster parent learns mainly about the child’s brighter side.

4. Signs of stress

Some foster children build up such a rapport with their foster parents that they let their true feelings out. A family’s breakdown even though it wasn’t the child’s fault can have a huge negative impact on the child, they often feel it was all their fault and can’t understand what they did wrong. Helping a foster child surpass this emotion of guilt and injustice is paramount to our work, I know it can be daunting but it is fundamental to being a foster carer to get the child past this through our help and support.

5. Testing limits

once the child has settled into your home and knows the boundaries etc, there will be times where the child is testing you and pushing the boundaires. This is where the core work begins, you wont always feel if the child’s heart is warming up to you but through social workers you will be able to see progress you are making. There will be times when you would want the child to leave your care and want to give up the placement, this is when you need to re-new your intentions, also speak with your supervisor social worker and have honest meaningful conversations with them, they are there to support you.

6. Breakthrough

once your past the testing stage this is a time of when the real bonding will start to come through and you will get to see the identity of the child through them opening and seeing into their hopes and dreams for the future.

7. Ending

Through the placement the child will hopefully be at a much better place than they were when they had come to you and now there are only two outcomes, either the child goes or stays.

with the first they go, hopefully back to their home, or they go to another foster home or to some other form of care.

The second resolution is that the child stays. You get to celebrate the holidays with that child and build up landmarks and milestones in their foster family year.

You either get a child who becomes part of your family in one capacity or another, or a complete newcomer arrives and you start the job again.

However it goes, the end feeling of this journey ends in satisfaction, knowing you have helped a child.

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