We are told that this is national shortage of Foster Carers. This has been the case since I started out my Fostering career in the 90s. So why is there a shortage? Why don’t people want to Foster? There seems to be a misconception on what is involved in Fostering which I hear from friends and family members. Although people do have an appreciation for the job I do there also appears to be the feeling that you are working with wild feral kids who are going to wreck your house and cause all sorts of mayhem. We all know that, in the main, placements aren’t like that. So how do we change people’s perception of what’s involved in being a Foster Carer? I often think that it would be great idea for somebody to make a ‘fly on the wall’ documentary about Fostering. Obviously the identities of the young people and their families would need to be hidden but such a programme would show the realities of being a Fostering carer. A number of years ago I took part in a nationwide recruitment programme where various organisations went all out to publicise Fostering in mainstream media organisations. I went to the studios of Capital Radio and gave an interview about Fostering which was used as a part of the recruitment programme. With input from many other people, involved in Fostering, the recruitment drive was reasonably successful. Does this need to be repeated? Probably yes.
So how would you describe the idea candidate for a Foster Carer? Well, experience in child care is a great benefit but I know a number of fantastic carers who do not have their own children. A caring and understanding attitude is a must. Patience is a huge virtue and the ability to work under pressure is certainly helpful. Good life experience helps you to appreciate the problems and issues surrounding a placement. As previously stated, there are so many different reasons that young people come into care. Some are quite straightforward but some are very complex and there will be times where the background of a placement can be quite ‘disturbing’. There have been times in my career where I have been shocked by the reasons and stories about why young people are coming into the Foster Care environment. This can make working with the parents a difficult task, knowing the way that young people have been treated and abused. Probably the most difficult meeting I have had, as a Foster Carer, was with a parent who had badly abused their child. I had to sit in a meeting and be abused by the parent as she didn’t feel we were providing the right level of care for her child. Every part of me wanted to shout at her and say ‘what did you do to this child’ but I remained calm and said nothing. Afterwards I was praised for being ‘professional’ but I remained angry for a couple of days after as I felt I hadn’t had the opportunity to speak my mind. However after a long chat with my Supervising Social Worker (SSW) I was unable to get it off my chest and move forward. So there are many attributes to being a Foster Carer, you are not just a ‘glorified baby sitter’ as somebody once told me. Remember you are a fully trained professional and that training never stops. You will get to know a lot about various behaviours and various health issues. You will see the good, and bad, in people and gain a wealth of experience of working with young people.