When starting a new venture, it’s standard practice to research your roles and responsibilities. After all, preparation is the key to success.
While applying this adage to fostering might sound odd, it is essential because caring for vulnerable children is an all-consuming vocation without traditional start times and clock-offs. Alongside possessing certain qualities, you must understand what local authorities, agencies and social workers expect before making an application.
In this blog, we’ll explore eight vital roles and responsibilities of foster carers. As you read, remember there’s a wealth of support and training courses available to develop your skills and equip you with valuable tools.
8 roles and responsibilities of a foster carer
Fostering is multi-faceted and incredibly rewarding – no two days are the same, and your responsibilities change depending on a child’s needs and age. However, generally, you should:
- Provide a loving and safe home
- Support a child’s physical development
- Promote a child’s emotional wellbeing
- Encourage learning at school and home
- Maintain a relationship with birth families where possible
- Prepare a child for life after care
- Understand the impact fostering has on birth children
- Attend training courses
1. Provide a loving and safe home
Above all else, carers must provide a loving and safe environment in which foster children can thrive – this includes allocating them a bedroom to honour their need for security, privacy and individuality.
Additionally, you should reinforce free movement. Making a child feel welcome means allowing them to prepare a snack, switch on the TV or computer and retreat when they need some headspace. Ultimately, your home is now their home too.
Lastly, we recommend giving foster children the same responsibilities as birth children to establish reliable routines, rewards and repercussions. Not only will they feel included in family life, but predictability enhances feelings of stability.
2. Support a child’s physical development
As a carer, you’re responsible for keeping your foster child physically well, which means taking them to doctor’s appointments and implementing at-home care if necessary.
In fact, according to research from The Fostering Network, the UK’s leading fostering charity, around 70% of children in care have learning difficulties, physical disabilities or long-term conditions, highlighting that healthcare plays a pivotal role for carers.
If you’re considering looking after a child with special needs, agencies and local authorities offer comprehensive training programmes and an increased fostering allowance to cover additional costs.
3. Promote a child’s emotional wellbeing
There are many reasons children enter the care system, including abuse, neglect and unsafe living environments. Sometimes, birth parents request temporary help while they recover from illness or deal with crises. Other times, social workers arrange long-term placements where a parent-child reunion isn’t possible.
Whatever the circumstances, many children suffer from complex emotional issues when they enter care. Pre-care trauma combined with separation from the family can provoke outbursts or withdrawal, and it takes time to unpick these challenging emotions.
Social workers and therapeutic professionals support carers to improve a child’s psychological wellbeing. Alongside providing tools to use at home, they’ll arrange therapy sessions to inspire healthier coping mechanisms and behavioural patterns.
4. Encourage learning at school and home
Children can’t focus on homework or grades when they’re worried about arguments or they’re going hungry. As a result, many come into care with educational delays and need extra tuition to catch up with their peers.
Carers must take an active interest in their foster child’s education and work closely with schools to identify gaps in learning. By collaborating with teachers, they can organise extra-curricular activities and better understand how their child learns.
5. Maintain a relationship with birth families where possible
In most cases, the goal of fostering is reunification with the birth family. As such, carers should facilitate visits and communication between foster children and their birth parents wherever possible.
As well as making the transition back home easier, allowing foster children to maintain these relationships strengthens their sense of identity and belonging. Plus, children become more trusting when they realise carers aren’t trying to replace their birth parents.
There are often noticeable behavioural changes after contact because it brings challenging emotions to the surface. If this happens, give children space to express themselves and comfort them without criticising (chastising birth parents can lead to divided loyalties and resentment).
6. Prepare children for life after care
If you’re caring for teenagers, your job is to prepare them for life after care by teaching them valuable skills like budgeting, cooking and cleaning. You’ll also have to liaise with care teams to produce a Pathway Plan once a child turns 16 – this outlines everything from accommodation to future aspirations.
While it might feel harsh to give young people extra responsibilities and chores when they’ve been through so much, it teaches them about independence and self-sufficiency.
7. Understand the impact fostering has on birth children
Welcoming a foster child is usually exciting for birth children because they get a new playmate and confidante. What’s more, they benefit from an emotional maturity far beyond their years.
However, happy placements depend on birth children feeling comfortable with the arrangement, and carers should thoroughly prepare them for the journey ahead.
The best way to do this is by allowing birth children to be part of the fostering process – they could contribute to the welcome book or arrange a basket full of creature comforts when their new friend arrives.
8. Attend training courses
There’s a treasure chest of training courses to help carers develop skills to look after children from all backgrounds. Pre-approval and induction courses cover preparation and expectations from care providers, whereas ongoing training tackles attachment and loss, safeguarding, building identity and more.
For specialist placements, carers must complete the relevant training – this might include autism awareness or how to support children with a history of sexual abuse.
Interested in becoming a foster carer?
Now you understand a carer’s roles and responsibilities, are you ready to start the adventure of a lifetime? To begin your application, contact our friendly team or call us on 01706 558910. Alternatively, we’re happy to answer all your questions with no obligation to go any further.