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Fostering Skills Spotlight: Problem Solving

Last month we wrote about how people often start fostering when they’re at a crossroads with their job.

Fostering is a career for people who want to help vulnerable children and make a difference in their lives. Like any career, there are essential skills, and you have most of them from other jobs and your life experience.

This blog post is the first in a new series looking at key transferrable skills involved in being a foster carer.

The first skill is problem solving.

Here are 3 approaches to solving problems as a foster carer

  1. Be able to ask for help

As a foster carer, it’s important to think: ‘There’s never a problem, only a solution.’ That’s a mantra many of us have. Because when you approach a situation with this mindset, you recognise that you never, ever have to solve a problem alone.

We always say to foster carers – call us! If you have any concerns, there’s a support network to help, so never keep problems or concerns to yourself. Whether it’s your supervising social worker, the out-of-hours phone line or your foster carer community, there’s so much help and advice available.

Success in fostering is about sharing information, so everyone involved in the young person’s care works together effectively to achieve the best outcome.

  1. Use common sense

You do training as a foster carer. It starts when you’re going through the assessment process and continues as part of your personal development plan.

This training isn’t like school where you’re taught formally and take tests. It’s training where you nurture your existing qualities and values and learn how to apply them to situations you experience as a foster carer.

We’ve spoken to many foster carers who say things like, ‘The nice thing about the fostering training is that it empowers you to use your common sense, it’s not about right or wrong ways of dealing with situations.’

If you have a practical approach to life, you have the making of a great foster carer.

  1. Always make the young person feel welcome when you’re solving a problem

As a foster carer, you need to be able to take a step back from the situation’s emotion and solve the problem in a way that reinforces the fact you care.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say a young person was supposed to be home by 11pm. He hasn’t come in, and when you ring his mobile it goes straight to voicemail. What do you do when he finally gets in late?

In the early days of training, lots of people will say something like, ‘Well, I wouldn’t be pleased with him and I’d tell him so.’

But you need to stop and think about it.

This boy might have come from a home environment where there were no boundaries. Maybe no one cared if he was late. Telling him off straight away will reinforce his underlying fear that he’s not wanted.

So what do you do? You make him feel welcome – after all, he made it back to you and that’s an important sign. You give him food, help make sure he showers and brushes his teeth and put him to bed.

Later you talk about it and find out why he was late. Maybe he missed the last bus and had to walk. Maybe his mobile phone battery died. So you tell him what to do if it happens again, setting boundaries for the future. For example, if he misses the last bus and his mobile is dead, he should find a pay phone, reverse the charges, and you’ll come collect him.

In all this, you’re making it clear that you care, he needs to care, and together you can get it right.

(And back to Point 1 – you should be in contact with the out-of-hours support line and later your social worker throughout all of this, so you can decide together on the best response.)

Whatever your background, your problem solving skills can help shape a child’s future

Whether it’s figuring out how to switch your energy tariff, negotiating with your own kids about bedtime, working out shift patterns or dealing with a tricky colleague – all these experiences help you make a difference in your foster child’s life.

To learn more about the practical elements of being a foster carer, download our new Guide to What Foster Carers Get Paid. In addition to finances, it discusses the training and support you get at every stage.


Your Guide to What Foster Carers Get Paid

FREE Fostering Guides

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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