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Published on: 2015-04-29 13:47:00
We often hear people saying they’d like to offer ‘short term’ foster care. When questioned what they understand this to mean, they are sometimes unaware of the different types of short term fostering. So, here’s some more information about short term fostering and the foster carer’s role.
Short term can mean anything from days to months to years!! Placements are needed for children for a few days when their parents are in hospital etc. In such cases, it’s important to keep the child informed of what is happening, to support them keeping in contact with their parent and reassure them that they will be returning home.
Often, short term care is needed at the point of crisis – usually when there are concerns about the care a child is receiving. Foster carers need to give the child lots of reassurance as sometimes children blame themselves when things go wrong. Carers need to settle the child and then work with social workers to put plans into action. Such changes in a child’s life are scary. Helping the child keep a sense of normality by taking them to their usual school or clubs can be important in helping them keep relationships with people they know; and helping them feel more secure.
When offering short term fostering, there are often ‘care proceedings’. This means the child’s case is in court for a judge to decide where, in the longer term, the child should live to promote their welfare and safety. Court proceedings can take up to 6 months, and for all or some of this time the child may be anxious about possible outcome and could display a variety of behaviours the carer will need to sensitively manage. Foster carers need to ensure the child has regular contact with family members (often taking them to a contact centre where contact is supervised).
Foster carers need to keep records, attend meetings and share information about the child’s progress. It is important for foster carers to ensure the ‘child’s voice’ is heard and that they have some say in their future. Providing an environment where the child knows they can speak and be listened to without challenge, is important. When able to talk without reprisal or ridicule children can feel safe to disclose distressing information to the foster carer, such as abuse they have experienced. The carer will need to offer comfort and reassurance to the child that they will keep them safe, whilst ensuring that such information is promptly passed on to social workers.
At the end of court proceedings, there can be various outcomes. Sometimes the foster carer will need to support the child to return to their family. Sometimes the foster carer will introduce the child to adoptive parents (particularly if they are younger). Whilst these will be planned arrangements, both can bring challenges and a range of emotions for the child and carers.
In some cases, when the child is not returning home but they have developed a positive relationship with the foster carers, it can be planned for them to remain with their foster carers, changing the placement from short term to long term.
It is always important to help the child feel secure whilst they are with you which means you will need to set fair and predictable routines and boundaries dependent on the child’s age and understanding. As mentioned, the child may display a variety of emotions such as anger, sadness, relief, anxiety or denial. The foster carer needs to accept that the child has the right to ‘let out’ these feelings, whilst ensuring that the child is kept safe from harming themselves or others. The way they behave is as a result of how they have been treated – it’s not their fault
Providing the child time for play, activities, meeting friends or developing interests will support their self-esteem and give them a way to balance their emotions and feelings whilst providing opportunities to focus on positive experiences during challenging and sometimes traumatic times.