Skills to Foster

Last week I had the privilege of standing in front of a group of prospective foster carers on the second day of their Skills to Foster training and telling them a little of what it means to be a foster carer day to day.

There were around 20 people, mostly couples, some singles, so perhaps 12 new foster families in the offing. If they continue past the training. If they are approved. If they last beyond their first placement.

Some of them were already caring for someone else's children - I could tell that from their knowing looks and wry smiles. Others were completely new to it, and baffled by some of what I said.

"Why would they return a child to a birth parent if it wasn't going to work out?"
"Why would they place a child with you in the first place if they couldn't speak your language? Why not just place them with an appropriate family straight away?"
"Why didn't they give you more notice? Don't they plan these things?"

I spoke a little about my experiences, the children I've cared for, the timescales, interventions and outcomes for them. I majored on talking about transitions, both at the beginning and end of placements, and especially on transitioning to adoption. I know the lady who was running the course fairly well, and she knows quite a bit about us, so she encouraged me to talk about OB and some of the issues he faces as an adopted child. Towards the end, I urged those of them who would be fostering younger children to make contact with adopters, either in real life or online, and to learn from them as I have been able to do thanks to communities such as The Adoption Social. Learning the issues faced by adopters way down the line over such practical things as unlabelled memory box items has definitely changed my fostering for the better.

Remembering back to my own training, I also admitted to them that there had been things that I had mentally resisted when they were discussed in training. I heard the speaker talk about them, but I put up a mental hand of denial towards them. I think many people have a tendency to do this. For me, it was the amount of contact I might have with birth families. I was nervous about it, so I clung to some imaginary hope that I could limit it to a few words exchanged at contact drop off. What was I thinking? I have spent hours and hours and hours with birth family members, sometimes at the worst moments in their lives. I have been there when their children were removed, when they got the bad news that they weren't coming back. I have seen tears and heard rage and denials and pleading. I have maintained diplomatic cool when, after missing 5 consecutive contacts without a word, a birth parent gets shirty about re-arranging one contact at my request. I still get nervous about it. It's still unavoidable.

I was sure that in that room were people who had mentally stiffened at some of the things they had heard. I am sure that happens at every training session, both for fostering and adopting. It's so tempting to hold up the hand of denial against the things we don't want to hear. But they can happen whether we want them to or not, and recognising that we are resistant, and understanding the reasons why will be the key to working out how to deal with it if it does come to pass.

Anyway, I was just one of many faces, speaking just a few of the many words that these prospective foster carers will be bombarded with over the next weeks and months. We had a few laughs and I answered a few questions, and hopefully threw a little light on it all, at least for somebody.


  1. I love the Skills to Foster course it's always fleshed out by the lived experience of actual carers and often that is the bit that is most helpful and remembered.

    1. I certainly found it so, and it was the same at my adoption prep course where the story of the adult adoptee who came along stuck with me long after all the other talking was done.


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