Just like any form of parenting, being a foster carer can be incredibly tough at times. Luckily, there are plenty of support options available to you so when you’re at your wits end and feeling like you may explode, there is always someone there to lean on
When you’re looking after someone, it’s important that someone looks after you, too – which is where fostering support comes in.
There are many different ways in which you can receive support – whether you prefer to speak about your experiences to someone you’re close or confidentially to someone you don’t know.
When you’re in a tough patch, the best thing to do is choose the style of support that suits you best.
Just like any personal situation, your friends and family can be the best group of people to support you emotionally through your fostering journey.
Choose the friends who you know give you the grounded advice needed when you’re struggling or losing perspective
‘Family and friends can be really helpful during times of stress and can also help to keep your feet on the ground,’ says Alan Wood, director of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering. ‘They obviously know you best and can lend both practical and emotional support.’
Choose the friends who you know give you the grounded advice needed when you’re struggling or losing perspective. You family, meanwhile, will be great for rallying around and helping out with things like the nursery run.
The agency that you work for will assign you a social worker who will visit you once a month to check up on how everything is going.
‘The majority of agencies offer 24-hour support – should there be an emergency with the child you are fostering,’ Alan explains. ‘Local authority and independent agencies are required to offer on-going training for foster carers, which is designed to help you in your task of being a foster carer and puts you in contact with other foster carers.’
The agency will also provide cover when you need a break, a holiday or just some ‘me’ time. Don’t feel guilty about this – a break can often make you more useful in the long time.
Joining a support group is a great way to share your troubles and concerns in a completely non-judgemental environment. There are groups all across the country and your agency will be able to locate your nearest one for you.
‘Agencies almost always offer the opportunity to take part in support groups for foster carers,’ says Alan. ‘Support and advice from other carers can be invaluable, as you can share ideas and look at possible solutions to issues that are common between many carers.’
If you can’t get out of the house to meet and chat with other foster carers, you can use an online forum to chat with other people in your situation.
‘There are some online forums which can prove a great way to listen to other people’s experiences and share your own,’ says Alan. ‘But it’s really important to respect the confidentiality of the child you are looking after.’
Don’t use the real names of you or the foster child and refrain from sharing information and stories that are really personal with strangers.
Most of all, it’s important not to feel like a failure if you need support as a foster carer. Everyone involved will understand and be proud to support you in the amazing job you’re doing.