Support is absolutely essential for a Foster Carer regardless of your experience and the amount of young people who have been in your care. Essentially there are three main types of support you can use as a Foster Carer, there is your Supervising Social Worker (SSW), your family and friends and also your local Foster Support Group. Each one of these is beneficial to you, as a Foster Carer and I will explain why.
Your SSW is your first port of call in most, if not all, situations when you are caring for a young person. They know the case, they know you and they know the young person involved. They can advise on all aspects of any situation and will provide useful advice and will also be able to provide a connection with the young persons’ Social Worker, if required. Building a rapport with your SSW is essential for the reasons given above. You can discuss any matters with them and they will help. I have always been lucky, as a Foster Carer, that I have had excellent SSWs and always had an excellent relationship with them. They have come into my home, sometimes uninvited, and have always been respectful and helpful. Your family and friends are an important part of your support network. They know you as a person, your moods and the way you deal with certain situations. Having a family network is an excellent way to resolve your own emotional feelings about working with young people. Even the most experienced Foster Carer will go through a whole range of emotions during each Fostering Placement. Anger, happiness, separation, disappointment and anxiety can come into play and I have experienced all of these at one stage or another. For a lot of Foster Carers separation can be a major issue and there is no shame with that. In my career it was always the babies and toddlers that I struggled with emotionally. Looking after a new born baby, feeding it, changing it and watching the baby grown up means that you form a bond, which may not happen with an older child. Having to watch that child then go back to birth parents or adoptive parents was very hard. Having family around to talk to and share your emotions with then becomes very useful and will help during the weeks and months after separation. I always say to Foster Carers to join a Support Group as soon as they go through panel. Your local Support Group will be made up of Foster Carers with varying degrees of experience and knowledge. Talking situations through within a Support Group can a huge asset. A situation that you feel in unusual maybe more common than you think and something that other Carers have been through. Obviously you need to respect the confidentiality of the young person, or people, but it’s paramount that you use all the tools you have at your disposal and your local Support Group is a great tool. You’ll be amazed how quickly people then come to you for advice and will raise issues that you, yourself, have experienced. Obviously training helps you in most situations but there will always be something that comes along with you will be unsure how to cope with and that’s where support comes in handy. Use it whenever you need it, don’t be shy or think that it’s a sign of weakness; it’s actually completely the opposite. A problem shared is a problem halved, so the saying goes, and that is particularly true with Foster Care.