Are you a newly approved foster carer and waiting for your first arrival? Here are some top tips for you from experienced carers!
Being approved as a foster carer can be an exciting time. It can also be quite nerve-wracking, especially as you wait in anticipation for the first child or young person to arrive at your doorstep.
Just as with any firsts - first time at school and university, first day on the job - it is useful to have a little insight from people who have already been there.
‘We found this difficult as we had prepared ourselves and our birth children – as well as the fostering bedroom - for the first child arriving so actually felt pretty disappointed. It’s worth knowing that just because you get alerted that a child might be coming soon, it doesn’t mean that will actually come to fruition.’
Of course, you’ll feel the need to be well-prepared – and you do need to be - but it’s not possible to cover every eventuality when you don’t know exactly who will be coming to live with you.
Stella, another foster carer, suggests: ‘Don't think you need to know everything. Don't be afraid to ask. Everyone wants you to succeed and will help where they can. It won't all go to plan so accept it and go with the flow.’
Daniel says: ‘Don’t forget that your supervising social worker is there to help you and to answer any questions you might have – make use of them. And use the time before your first placement to get to know other local foster carers who will offer you very practical advice.’
And yes, the longer you wait, it’s inevitable that more questions will run through your mind. What if this was the wrong decision? What if the young person or child and I won’t get along? What if he or she never arrives?
The list of ‘what ifs’ is endless, and Simone’s advice is: ‘Don't over think it! No matter how many hours you spend thinking about the “what ifs”, there will always be something you haven't thought of. Go with the flow and enjoy having a child in your life! After eight years of fostering I am still learning from our children.’
And finally, something that every foster carer, new or experienced, thinks about: when to say yes and when to say no to a particular child coming to live with you.
Alyson encourages all prospective foster carers to ‘stand your ground’ as sometimes there ‘can be a hard placement for both you and the children.’
Gemma says: ‘It's ok to say “no” to a placement, it's better to know your boundaries. However, it's also important to listen to your gut about when to say “yes.”’
If you are waiting for your first placement it can be a difficult time but, as Alyson puts it, there’s plenty to be looking forward to: ‘Take everything in your stride. There will be highs and lows but no two days will be the same after 10 years I still love what I do even though at times it’s tough. A good sense of humour always helps!’
Good luck with your first arrival and thank you for choosing to foster.
You should also check with your fostering service that you are a member of The Fostering Network. Find out more about membership here.