Fostering Communities – supporting each other when foster parenting therapeutically matters
There’s an old maxim that “it takes a village to raise a child”. Nowhere is this truer than in fostering!
Foster Care Fortnight is The Fostering Network’s annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and show how foster care transforms lives. This year’s theme is #FosteringCommunities: to celebrate the strength and resilience of fostering communities.
Our foster parents agree that community is critical to fostering, and that it’s key to helping them feel supported, happy and to have fun. One of our foster parents told us recently that
Changing Futures has built a fantastic community for the foster parents here. If I have one regret about becoming a foster parent, it’s that I didn’t do it sooner.
People who become parents usually have a network of people around them who’ve been parents themselves. They understand that becoming a parent comes with some big changes. They smile when they think and talk about the fun and happy times, they sympathise with you when they remember the challenges. They can often help out with some good advice, a shoulder to cry on and by giving a helping hand.
Foster parenting is super parenting – with its own unique challenges
We like to say that foster parents (sometimes called foster carers) are super parents! There are loads of similarities with bringing up children generally and bringing up foster children, but in fostering there’s some extra challenges too. Unlike with parenting a birth child who you watch grow and change bit by bit, as a foster parent you have to get to know and support a child or young person you usually don’t know, a child who has an unconnected and sometimes unknown past. Many foster children have experienced traumas like abuse, or neglect. Most have unwillingly been taken into care and are grieving the loss of their home and everyday surroundings. Just think about how frightening any child would find this… to find yourself away from what you know and are used to with entirely new people in a place that’s not your own. It’s not a surprise both fostered children and foster parents can find things tough. Jack, 13, told us:
It was tricky settling at first, I felt like I didn’t belong. But my foster parents listened to me and made me feel good about myself. I feel at home now.
Why training and support from the fostering community really matters
Because children have experienced change and trauma, the way they behave might very understandably be hard to intuitively understand and respond to. Trauma can actually change the way the brain develops, so helping people heal from it and to stop using behaviours that were really important for their protection can need a special sort of understanding and culture. Changing Futures Fostering gives people therapeutically informed training right from the off, but the real trick is putting understanding and skills into practice… and that’s where the fostering community really comes into its own. Dan told us:
Being a foster parent can be tough, but being part of a community of foster parents has been a game-changer for me. It’s incredibly helpful to have people who understand what I’m going through and can offer advice or just listen when I need to vent. It’s also been great for the children in my care to have a network of adults in their lives who are all working towards their well-being
It’s not all about supporting each other through the tough times though! Fostering changes foster parents lives for the better as well as children’s, and you need to be able to share this with your community too. Susan told us:
When times are good, we get together, celebrate and have fun – as foster families and as adults. Informal get togethers with other foster parents and staff are just as important as formal fostering supervision.
Our foster parents meet up socially, have outings as families and with our staff team, and get buddy coaching and mentoring support 1:1 or through our fostering group meetings.
Foster a child!
Our small but growing fostering community wants other special people to join it. People who care about children. People who want a vocation, not any old career. People who can open up their hearts and homes to children who desperately need it, and who will be an active part in a thriving fostering community.
Would you like to change children’s futures, as a big part of a small close knit community in? If you’ve been wondering about joining a “fostering agency near me” and you live in Tees Valley (Hartlepool, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Darlington & Redcar), Sunderland,
Durham and surrounding areas, give us a call. Now’s the time to take that first step into a special new world.