Over the next few weeks there will be a lot in the press and media about foster care, as we embrace all the positives that come out of what this army of devoted carers do, day in day out across the UK. This is highlighted by Foster Care Fortnight™ The Fostering Network’s annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and to show how foster care transforms lives. It is also the UK’s biggest foster carer recruitment campaign. Over 8,000 new foster families are needed in the next 12 months alone to care for a range of children, with the greatest need being for foster carers for older children, sibling groups and disabled children.
Foster Care Fortnight 2019 will take place from 13 to 26 May.
Fostering is an amazing thing to do, I know, I am one, a foster carer that is, I am also a counsellor and am always struck with how these two professions overlap. In my experience the one thing that foster carers could get better at is their own self-care.
It could be that one of the underlying motivations for people to become carers is to put others first, to be selfless, but what happens when foster carers become so affected by the trauma of those, they are caring for they lose themselves? We need to heed the adage of the flight attendant, put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.
So how can foster carers get the right balance? Firstly, self-care, this may look like time out for themselves, doing something they enjoy, getting outside, enjoying a book or facial, going to a concert or spending one on one time with friends. Secondly, saying no, it’s a hard one but every professional around the child will pull on the foster carers time and resources, a last minute meeting here, a report there, the expectations are high, as they should be, but there is only one of you and you have to know your limits and have the right to say when something just can’t be achieved.
Thirdly, and actually the most important, is your mental health. Caring for others that have been abused and traumatised can lead to secondary trauma, burnout and compassion fatigue in foster carers. There is very little counselling for foster carers offered by local authorities or agencies. Counselling for foster carers and counselling for adopters should be equally as important as having your medical review or supervision. However very few foster carers come for counselling. This could be for similar reasons why they also do not go to the doctors, in fear of it coming out is there medical assessment and not being seen as ‘fit’ to foster.
Social workers and teachers, medical staff and government workers all have access to employee assistance programmes where they can access counselling support. As self employed foster carers that is not afforded to us, but you can find someone locally who understands the finer nuances of what its like to foster, someone to talk to confidentially, someone who will listen and help you work through any life issues, who understands child development and attachment theory, the highs and the lows.
Feathers counselling offers reduced rate sessions to foster carers and adopters, get in touch today to find out more on 0161 933 8020.