It took many years for foster parents to habitually be called foster carers. At the Fostering Network we thought this a significant and positive change in language because it reflected an increased understanding of the role. The responsibility – and the complexity – of the task has grown exponentially over the four decades the network has been in existence, and the change of title was an important step in recognising this.
But following the fostering stocktake in England, that important change appears to have been undone. Over the last couple of months the Department for Education and others appear to be using the term “foster parents” as their descriptor of choice.
We believe that, while foster carers fulfil a significant parenting role, looking after a fostered child is not the same as being a parent. It’s a much more complex, professional role and being called a foster carer is a small but significant way of recognising that.
Foster carer is a job description, it explains what the role is, highlights its complexity and shows its importance. Being called a foster carer doesn’t, of course, preclude strong personal relationships (indeed they are at the very heart of being a good foster carer), fostered children being given the opportunity to be a full member of a family, or fostered children calling their carers mum and dad or aunt and uncle or Janet and Phil. Being called a foster carer and showing love and compassion are not mutually exclusive. You can read more about our concern about the change in title in a blog from our chief executive Kevin Williams.
We believe that being a foster carer is being #morethanaparent. By this we mean that the complexity and breadth of the role is more than for most parents - we're not seeking to imply that foster carers are 'better' than parents.
Below are just 12 reasons why foster carers are #morethanaparent.
We would love to hear from foster carers about what you do in your role as a foster carer that is more than being a parent? Tweet using the hashtag #morethanaparent or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Foster carers are experts in attachment issues and work towards restoring a fostered child’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.
- Foster carers undergo pre-approval training and continuing professional development to maintain and develop their skills.
- Foster carers complete life-story work to help fostered children know about their past in order to develop emotionally and socially.
- Foster carers help implement the child’s care plan which may include meeting with birth parents and others who are important to the child.
- Foster carers are part of the fostering service and work with other staff within guidelines, policies and procedures.
- Foster carers go through a rigorous recruitment and vetting process and have regular supervisory meetings including an annual review.
- Foster carers prepare children and young people to return to their birth parents, to move to another family or, eventually, to independent living. :
- Foster carers are experienced in play therapy, speech and language development, development of gross motor skills, sleep training and much more.
- Foster carers attend and participate in reviews, case conferences and court hearings, as well as countless other professional meetings.
- Foster carers provide accurate written records of their fostered child’s life and pass any relevant information to the most appropriate person.
- Foster carers are experts in working with children who are likely to have experienced trauma, abuse or neglect.
Foster carers are experts at looking after children who are separated from their own families, many of who have additional needs.