I have been thinking about what children and young people who cannot be safely cared for at home need from their foster carers. I want readers to adopt a broad definition of foster for the purposes of this post, including all carers and care arrangements that the child or young person might enter into during the period of time that they cannot be safely cared for at home. I choose to use the term foster as foster carers remain the main focus of child welfare agencies to provide care for these children and young people, and the greatest challenge to recruit and maintain. I hope, nonetheless, that this post is informative to all carers of children and young people who are recovering from a tough start to life, and those who are considering taking on the role.
I started to make a list and have found it has grown quite long. I do not want to over-complicate the matter, so have chosen to include what I think are the key characteristics and considerations. Others may wish to add to this list or develop their own list. That’s ok. I guess I just wanted to make a list based on my experience interacting with children and young people in out-of-home care across the past 26 years.
Children and young people in out-of-home care need carers who understand that they are hurt rather than broken, and that they need patience and time to heal. They need carers who will make and maintain connection with them, at their pace. They need carers who are warm, playful, kind, and caring. They need carers who are resilient, who can hang in there during inevitable tough times. They need carers who are prepared to take the time to understand them.
Children and young people in out-of-home care need carers who are open and receptive to learning and adapting their caregiving practices. They need carers who believe in them and advocate for them. They need carers who support connection to birth family and birth culture. They need carers who acknowledge their strengths, and who support opportunities to them to succeed. They need carers who support their interests.
Finally, children and young people in out-of-home care need child welfare authorities and fostering agencies to insist on these qualities in foster carers. They also need for their foster carers to be meaningfully supported.
What would you add to the list?