I have often been asked why I Foster, especially now being a single man. My answer is quite straightforward, I enjoy it and I feel like I am making a difference. Being a Foster Carer gives me the chance to help young people (in my case young boys) achieve their best outcomes. Unfortunately a lot of young people, in care, come from a single parent household and it is normally the father who doesn’t live in the household. Therefore having a male influence in their young lives is very beneficial, regardless of the young person’s age. Most of my placements, as a single man, tend to be between 8 and 16 whereas as a married man we could take both sexes and any age from new born to teenagers.
There are those who don’t think that single men should be able to Foster but my career as a Foster Carer has been enjoyable in both situations. My training has been as detailed as any other Foster Carer and the checks that are undertaken on me are as strict as any profession that works with young people. Also Fostering is basically looking after and providing safe care for young people and I have carried out the same task with my own children. Talking of my own children it is very important to involve your own children in the whole Fostering situation. If your own children live with you then they will play an important part in providing a safe environment for the young person in care. if your own children don’t live with you then they can still play an important part by regular visits and helping the young person become part of the family. A successful placement means a young person who feels happy and comfortable in your home and he or she feels that your home is their home, even for a short period of time.
Setting out the house rules is an important to undertake pretty quickly. I normally do this at the first meal time. This should be done in a relaxed and friendly fashion whilst making sure the house rules are set out firmly. The rules revolve around boundaries and how those boundaries work as well as giving reasons why we have boundaries in place. A word that always comes up in those initial discussions is respect and it always surprises me how many young people understand the concept of respect and what it actually means. Enforcing those house rules has to be done with consistency and, if possible, with humour and a certain amount of firmness. Learn what works for the young person as different people respond to different methods. Observing and listening to young people is a huge part of being a Foster Carer. You won’t always get it right but getting to know how a young person reacts is a massive plus.
So with your young person in your home you will know the background of why the young person is in care, what the school situation is and when, or if, contact is taking place. I tend to spend a lot of time with a new placement, getting to know them and finding out their likes and dislikes. After such a conversation I tend to make a few notes so I don’t forget and always have the notes to hand. Also find out what clothes have been brought and where the young person has shortages on their wardrobe. If you know how long the placement is going to last then you will have an idea of what new clothes are required.