Being approved as a foster carer is just the start of your fostering journey. Once approved it’s time to prepare to welcome children and young people into your home. You might have a child come to live with you immediately but, depending on the needs of your fostering service, there could also be a period where you don’t have a child or young person living with you. Whatever the situation, it’s good to be prepared for the time ahead – here’s some advice from existing foster carers.
Your fostering service should assist with the process of welcoming a child coming into your care, by sharing all the information you need to know about them - although in emergency placements this may not always be possible. If you experience a ‘false start’ – where you’re told that a child will be coming to live with you but then that doesn’t happen – don’t worry, it is not a reflection on you. It could be as a result of something procedural such as a court order not being granted.
You should also remember that your fostering service has selected you to look after a certain child because they believe you are best placed to meet their needs and be confident about your ability to provide a stable, loving home for them.
Preparing and laying down the ground rules
Once you get a call from your fostering service about taking in a child, everything can go quickly. A child could be with you within hours, and it’s best if some things – such as their bedroom room or their favourite meal – have been prepared in advance. However, it’s not possible to cover every eventuality. You will have plenty of opportunities to discover the child’s likes and dislikes during the first few days and weeks.
When a child arrives, they will need information from you – about the house rules, and basic details of your family. Many fostering households have a family book which sets out how the family operates. It can include things like bedtimes, mealtimes, the kind of food everyone in the family likes or dislikes and the activities and hobbies they enjoy – and can be prepared in advance.
You must also be clear about behaviour expectations. Children need to feel safe, to know that no one is allowed to hurt them – there are guidelines for foster carers in our Safer Caring publication to protect foster carers from the risks of their action being misunderstood. You and your family will need to consider this and draw up house ‘safer caring policies’ to make sure that everyone in the home knows the rules and guidelines. If you are waiting for a placement you can use this time to sit down with your family to think about such guidelines. Your social worker should also help you with this.
Ask for help
If you are worried about the first placement, remember that you have a supervising social worker you can approach with any questions you might have. You can even get in touch with other local foster carers for some practical advice. They know how you feel and will be happy to share their experiences with you to make the start into your fostering career as easy as possible.
Trust your gut
If you’re concerned about saying yes to a particular child coming to live with you, do not be afraid to say so and stand your ground if necessary. Fostering will often push you to the edge of your comfort zone but your fostering service should be able to provide you with continued training and support to meet children and young people’s needs. However, if you still believe that you and your family are not best placed to meet the needs of a child then you should raise these concerns and decline the arrangement, rather than add to the instability of a child’s care experience.