Many foster carers volunteer for fostering a child in the hopes that this will be a long-term placement. This is a rewarding scenario for the foster carers as it enables them to be a family, attain stability in the family, and make a difference to a child in care. For the foster child, long-term care allows them to feel that they belong to a family and are cared for. This relationship may even go beyond the child’s eighteenth birthday and result in the foster carer continuing to be involved in the child’s life after graduation, when they get married, and when they have children.
Foster children in long-term care have the same needs as other children. The basics of parenting are the same and all aim to provide the child with a loving home, to impart important values, and to learn life skills. We will unpack these steps for you below.
Your body language and tone of voice can express approval or disapproval. It is important for children to know that, even when they overstep boundaries, you believe in them and are not disappointed with who they are. Unconditional acceptance combined with healthy boundaries allows foster children to thrive and improves their self-esteem. You can also teach other life skills, such as independence and compassion. Never compare one child with another.
Find Things to Praise
If you are constantly criticising your children, you will knock their self-confidence and make them believe that they cannot do anything right. Instead, consciously look for things to praise. Thank them for keeping their room tidy, helping with the dishes, or playing patiently with a younger child. Take note of any improvements in their schoolwork and make sure that you compliment them. Don’t be false. Practice giving natural compliments.
Praise is far more effective for shaping behaviour than scolding. Use rewards for achieving goals. For example, if your foster child gets a good mark on a test, you can give them a pre-agreed reward. Surprise gifts can also be encouraging.
Set Healthy Boundaries and be Consistent with Consequences
Healthy boundaries teach children to respect others and to opt for acceptable behaviours instead of wrong ones. While they may test the boundaries you set in place, if you are consistent in your response, they will come to see that you are being fair, and they will want to please you. Make consequences clear. This could be time out, no phone time until homework is done, or a period without certain privileges. Link the consequences to specific behaviours and not to the person.
Make Time for Your Children
Children need regular quality time. Although you can encourage sharing over family dinners, each child in your care needs time set aside for them. Look for things that they enjoy, such as reading a book together at bedtime or playing a board game after supper. Even if you have to alternate these activities, keep up with them as your foster child will look forward to this time with you. Your foster agency, such as Fostering People, will be able to help you plan activities with your foster child by telling you about their skills and interests. This enables you to provide them with consistency. Encourage communication so that your foster child can share their preferences with you. The basics of parenting must be applied consistently, with