Fostering in a Forum
At Perpetual Fostering we pride ourselves on the support our foster carers receive, but we also like to encourage our foster carers to give each other peer-to-peer support. This is why we have our monthly foster forum, so our carers can come together and share their experiences and understanding of foster care.
We may initiate the forums, but the participants determine the topic of each occasion. This is key, as forums are held specifically with the interests of foster carers in mind. No matter how supportive and experienced a social worker may be, they are not the ones directly facing the issues foster parents are confronted with everyday. We’re well aware that every experience is nuanced; as facilitators we endeavour to stay sensitive to that.
By having the monthly forum – this space in which you can freely interact with fellow carers – you are sharing your experiences with the people who have made similar choices in becoming a foster carers, just like you. They’re in exactly the same boat as you, and know what you’re going through. By sharing stories, receiving advice, and asking questions of other foster carers, you can learn and develop yourself.
Over the years, we’ve observed how these forums help promote and nurture a community spirit, which often leads to other group activities. There have been camping trips, Christmas parties, and sponsored walks. These events are a great way to reaffirm a sense of community among our carers, maintain friendships, and welcome new foster carers into the fold. All levels of experience and backgrounds are of course welcome: the outreach of foster carers into the area around them is only increased when backed by a community.
We also have a buddy and mentoring system, which allows for more experienced foster carers to have one-on-one time with newer foster parents. We also encourage our carers to gain national qualifications in mentoring, so as to be fully equipped to help their buddies, and so enrich the community.
For more information on our fostering community, visit this page or contact us via email or phone.
It is not unfair to say that foster carers have previously been the unsung heroes of the fostering experience. The bureaucratic rules that prevented foster carers from assuming a more ‘natural’ parental role have been lifted, and it has been acknowledged that carers themselves often know the children better than most. These changes have facilitated what is known as ‘delegated authority’, meaning foster carers now have the autonomy to be more involved in key, day-to-day life decisions faced by the children.
Previously, key decisions would be made by:
- The child’s social worker
- A team manager
- Or an assistant director.
This meant that appealing activities for a foster child, such as a school trip or sleepover at their friend’s house, could only be signed off by one of the three figures listed above. For foster carers with their own children, this tended to contribute to a foster child not feeling like a full member of the family. It could also alienate foster children from their classmates, as their family ‘system’ was in some way different from the norm.
When you ask experienced foster carers for their opinion on the matter, they frequently state that moving away from the previous system has been the best development they could have hoped for. It is now easier for foster carers to firmly embrace newly placed children within the fabric of their family. The whole experience, from beginning to end, has become more natural.
Many foster carers choose to give up their job to foster, however the new structure has more leeway for those who don’t leave work, or simply aren’t able to. Due to the responsibilities carers take on regarding their foster children, there clearly has to be some degree of work flexibility – and this can influence the types of placements available. These factors are fully taken into account during the matching process.
Some benefits of normalising foster caring in this way are as follows:
- It means the experiences of foster children more closely resemble those of the majority of other children, whose parents are all likely to be in work.
- Children are encouraged to join after school clubs while their carers are still at work.
- With foster carers now able to behave in a more naturally caring way, the matching process is a lot more straightforward in offering placements.
Given that the recruitment of foster carers has slowed down, the need for placements is as real as ever. Regardless, the increasingly widespread acceptance of foster care as a viable option has huge benefits. On top of that, government policy now reflects this development, and greater confidence in the fostering system reflects this, leading for a better fit for foster children in the homes of carers going forwards.