Not everyone considers that fostering is a professional role. Understandable. Caring for children in your own home..as with parenting…is not a ‘job’ but a life choice. Fostering is indeed a life choice. It represents a massive lifestyle shift and indelibly changes the meaning of ‘family’ for those who take the step into becoming foster carers. Becoming an approved foster carer is the desired prize, most certainly….but it is not the end of the (fostering) road. You see, fostering IS a professional role and as such, foster carers need to keep attending learning and development activities, such as training and research and reading and reflective supervision. Without intending to minimise the importance of learning and development for foster carers, this piece highlights just three main reasons for the crucial role that learning and development has:
1) Fostering is a part of the wider social care landscape and as such, is subject to constant change. Learning and development enables foster carers to keep abreast of these changes, which may relate to government policy, legislation and/or good practice matters. To not actively engage in learning and development activities, foster carers are compromising their ability to offer the best service to the children and young people they care for.
2) Complacency is NOT our friend! Sometimes, when a person has been doing something for a significant amount of time, they (and others) can assume that there is nothing more to learn. Not true! Complacency is the seedbed for poor practice and needs to be counteracted by good supervision and regular engagement in other learning and development activities.
3) Fostering is a highly skilled role. No doubt. Children and young people who enter the care system, often do so with a range of needs and vulnerabilities and the foster carer is charged with their nurture and care. Yes…there are many personal skills and traits that foster carers will find useful in their toolkit and these are enhanced by learning and development. For instance, an understanding of the impact of attachment patterns and how it relates to communication…or understanding how a child may react to experiences of neglect or other forms of abuse…or how to administer first aid treatment in an emergency.
At Chrysalis Care, a varied learning and development programme is provided for foster carers. It includes online and face to face sessions, as well as support groups and forums, seminars and links to local safeguarding children boards. Participation in the learning and development programme IS crucial to the role of the foster carer and to the high quality foster carer that Chrysalis Care provides for children and young people who really need it.