The many faces of a ‘Foster Carer’ - An Advocate - Countryside Carer
27 February 2023
27 February 2023
Being a foster carer involves you playing a variety and multitude of different roles on a daily basis. I thought that, over the next few months, I would try and explain and share my experiences of being in these different roles. Look at the highs and lows and reflect on how well (or not as the case sometimes is) I manage these roles.
Being an advocate, at the beginning of a fostering placement, can be quite tricky. The young people have just arrived, obviously having suffered trauma, and, despite what you think you may or may not already know about these children, really, a lot of it is hear say. Until you have spent time getting to know and understanding your young people, it’s very difficult to represent them or their voice in meetings. However, once you are aware of their likes/dislikes, wishes/views it really is down to you to speak for them.
My three young people came to me with very little ‘voice’. They hadn’t been allowed opinions, they were told to think and feel in a certain way and that’s what they did. The local authority, in the grand scheme of things, knew very little about their history or situation and they arrived, with us, in the middle of lockdown where we were very quickly spending vast amounts of time together. My supervising social worker credits (to an extent) the lockdown to how quickly the children settled and how close we became. For the first few months, disclosures came thick and fast. Their trust grew and so did their confidence. I remember very clearly sitting in my car on my driveway making a call to the on duty social worker to share their disclosures, coming off the call, and sobbing. Being a professional in your own home, with children who you are emotionally attached to is a huge internal conflict. You have to constantly separate your feelings and views based on your own emotions and search for what is right for the children. What’s going to be in their best interests, not yours. You create a family unit then have to contemplate life without them in it. It’s the biggest ‘heart vs head’ dilemma I’ve ever been in.
The best advice I can give to anyone coming into the fostering profession is, don’t be afraid to make your voice heard.
Foster carers spend a considerable amount time either in actual meetings or discussing your young people with a variety of different professionals and it seems within these meetings that those professionals all look to you to share how life is going, to explain what’s going well and what could possible need an improvement. It’s also so important as a foster carer to be able to challenge these professionals when you don’t think what is being done or said is what’s right for your young people. With my teaching background, I’m used to challenging, in a professional capacity, authority. I’m all for professional dialogue and expressing my views and that’s where using your voice to echo the voice of your young person comes into play. You are speaking up for the young people in your household who might not be able to represent themselves. Who might not be able to share their views or wishes. It’s down to you to do what’s in their best interest and it’s down to you to be their advocate.
27 February 2023