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Fostering Skills Spotlight: Listening

Fostering Skills Spotlight: Listening

When you’re thinking about fostering, have contacted an agency and are learning more, you attend a 3-day workshop called The Skills to Foster™.

During the sessions, we discuss common situations you find yourself in as a foster carer.

I say, “What’s the first thing you do in this situation?” And people say things like, “I’d tell the child to do this…or that…” or “I’d take away screen time” or “I’d go to hospital.”

And you may well do these things.

But the first thing you do in any situation, upset or crisis is “listen”.

You need to form a balanced, measured view of what’s happening in order to make the best decision on how to react – and you need to listen to achieve that.

Listening is about showing the child you’re available

You need to focus on the child and really hear what he or she is saying. It’s not necessarily about responding to what’s said – it’s about confirming you hear.

And that means you need to try not to react, pass judgement or ask leading questions. This can be difficult – fostered children have had challenging experiences, and it can be hard to hear about them.

But being emotionally and physically available to listen shows you care, and that you’re offering a safe space.

You need to pay attention to what’s unspoken as well

Body language, tone of voice and silence tell you a lot about what a child is feeling. You need to take these cues on board, too.

As part of your fostering role, you keep a daily log about the child. You need to listen to these unspoken cues and keep a record of them in the same way you do the actual conversation.

Listening helps you build a portfolio of information about the child

You’re part of a team responsible for the young person’s safety and security. And that means paying attention to who their friends are, where they like to hang out, what they enjoy and what they’re worried about.

All these details help you build a relationship and help the social worker optimise the care plan, both of which help make the placement a success.

Listening leads to confident decision-making

The more you know about your foster child and the current situation, the better placed you are to respond.

And remember – you never have to make decisions on your own. A social worker is available 24/7 to listen to you and give advice.

To learn more about what’s involved in becoming a foster carer, download our new Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Foster Carer.


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Download our free ebooks to learn more about becoming a foster carer. View Fostering Guides


During your lunch break, or the time you spend checking Facebook, another child will come into care. Right now, that child is thinking: 'Who cares?' More Videos
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