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Advice for New Foster Parents

Discover helpful advice for new foster parents from our team, including insights from a care-experienced young person and a therapist.

July 3 2024 - 6 min read

Being a newly approved foster parent can be both exciting and daunting. That's why we've created this guide to help you navigate welcoming your first child.

Care leaver Marwa and one of our Consulting Therapists, Maria, provide their advice to foster parents welcoming their first child.

Having left care, Marwa is training to become a psychotherapist and continues to live with her foster family; her insight is valuable because it comes from the perspective of someone with care experience.

Our tips to navigate your first child

As a new foster parent, you'll experience a range of emotions. But with ISP, you have an entire team supporting you every step of the way, including your social worker, fostering advisor, therapists, and even other foster parents.

We wouldn’t place a child with you if we didn’t believe you were capable of providing the very best for them. So take each step as it comes, believe in yourself, and don’t hesitate to reach out for extra support whenever you need it. We’re all here to help you make an incredible difference.

In the meantime, here are some words of wisdom from Marwa and Maria to help you prepare for those early days of caring for a child. We wish you the best of luck on your incredible journey.

1. Dig deep

So, if you feel overwhelmed, reaffirm why you decided to become a foster parent. You’re opening yourself and your home to nurture a child and want to help them. Remember that you and the child in your care are about to start this new chapter together. They may seem okay but are also likely to feel anxious and afraid; moving into a new foster home is a significant life change for them. Join the other foster parents in your area at your local centre; they can support you with the transition into having your first child.  

With ISP, you will never be on your own. Not only will you have a  peer support network of highly trained foster parents who have a wealth of diverse experience and expertise to share. You'll have an entire network of professionals to lean on from the moment you welcome a child into your home and beyond. Our professionals include a dedicated social worker, fostering advisor, therapist, advisory teacher, and further specialists who will support and assist you throughout your fostering journey.

2. Don't expect miracles

Marwa says, “My carer is so experienced, but she has to keep reminding herself that this is not an easy journey; there is not an easy fix. It’s going to take a long, long time.”

You may be eager to help the child in your care, but take it one step at a time and give yourself and them credit for the small victories, such as taking part in conversation during dinner or completing their homework. Small victories will build the foundation for more significant breakthroughs later. The child in your care will need time to heal from their trauma, so be patient; there is not a 'one size fits all' approach to healing.  

3. Listen with all your senses

Listening is more than simply hearing. The child in your care can convey a lot through their body language, tone of voice and behaviour, so be mindful of listening with all your senses. If they are expressing big feelings, try not to take them personally. 

Marwa explains, "When a child is angry at them, swearing at them, expressing their emotions, don't take it personally and please, please do not give up on that child”.

Use the PACE parenting approach when interacting with the child in your care. PACE is a therapeutic approach that means Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy; using this method will help the child in your care feel safe to share their feelings and can help you respond more therapeutically, even during moments of big emotions.  

4. Talk to people

Building relationships with the children in your care is essential, as is building relationships with professionals within your local team and other foster parents. Having others to share your journey with can provide comfort and support through the good times and challenging times.

Marwa advises that in challenging times, "When something doesn’t work out, they really shouldn’t take it on themselves. Sometimes it is really difficult."

ISP makes support available 24/7 from highly qualified professionals to assist you on your fostering journey. Talk to your supervising social worker or attend events in your local area and meet other foster parents who could offer valuable advice or strategies to overcome challenging situations. Your friends and family can also remind you of your small victories, so make sure you also lean on them for support. Seeking support, rather than giving up, will also help the child in your care learn to work through problems rather than run away from them. 

5. Take care of your mental well-being

We know that fostering children with complex needs can be both rewarding and challenging. So, don't ignore your mental well-being, and put time aside to go for a walk or take part in a hobby you enjoy. If you feel at risk of burnout, reach out for support and talk to your supervising social worker about respite foster care. Remember, self-care isn't selfish; taking care of yourself is vital to foster parenting effectively. 

6. Give the child some agency

Going into care wasn't their choice, nor were the difficult childhood experiences they may have encountered leading to trauma. Giving them agency can help boost their self-esteem and provide a sense of control. You could let them decorate their bedroom or decide on a destination for a day out with the family. Even smaller choices can be impactful, such as choosing what they have for tea or a game for the family to play. You can also further support their sense of control by creating a stable routine together. Knowing your home is theirs and that their opinion matters will help them feel safe and part of the family. 

7. Take advantage of training

Our therapeutic model equips you with the tools to foster children living with trauma. 

You will have already completed your 'prepare to foster' training. Over the next year, you'll complete your mandatory foster parent training in modules such as First Aid, Helping Children Succeed at School and The Health of Looked After Children. 

When you foster with ISP, you'll enrol in the City & Guilds assured Therapeutic Pathway programme that will further enhance your understanding of fostering therapeutically, giving you a toolbox of courses that broaden your knowledge of therapeutic care. You'll learn to use your knowledge in practice and participate in reflective sessions to recognise when something isn't working and help you stay on track. 

We also have additional training available on topics such as Promoting Sexual Health, Life Skills Development and Safe Social Networking. So, make the most of the training available by booking courses as soon as they are available, being present and taking notes you can refer to later. 

During your first year as a foster parent, you must complete the TSD Workbook. Don't worry; your fostering advisor will support you. We also offer TSD Workbook workshops, so utilise them; you are never alone on your fostering journey. 

Fostering is a journey, and Marwa wants you to remember, "Something really incredible could come out of it if you keep working with that child." 

Whether you are fostering or thinking about becoming a foster parent, our wrap-around support for foster parents will help you transition into this new season of your life. 

Transferring Fostering Agency

Download our transfer guide

We can fast-track your assessment in 12 weeks, so you can enjoy the benefits of our supportive community much sooner than you might think.

Download our transfer fostering agency guide to learn more about the process and benefits of working with ISP.


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