Training and support for foster carers
Before you can be approved as a foster carer you are required to attend the ‘Skills to Foster’ training programme. Sessions usually take place in the evening or at the weekend. This course will help prepare you for fostering and hopefully you will feel more ‘ready’ once you’ve completed it. It’s also is a chance to meet other new foster carers.
Your support network
As an approved foster carer, you will be allocated your own supervising social worker who will visit you on a regular basis and is there to offer advice and support. This is an important relationship, and a positive partnership that can make a big difference to you and the children you care for.
Your social worker will form part of a wide support network with a number of other professionals. This team around the child will include, among others, your child’s social worker, their legal guardian, their teacher at school and the designated contact supervisor who will be present when children spend time with their birth families. All these people are there to support the child in your care and, by extension, to support you.
As part of Greater Manchester’s commitment to our foster carers, all our local councils have signed a code of conduct and commitment to ongoing training and support to existing and future foster carers.
Your foster support network will also include other foster carers and there will be opportunities to meet informally to give each other advice and encouragement. Fostering services arrange coffee mornings and other social events, but foster carers also form their own networks where they can talk openly about their achievements and their challenges.
To get an idea of the support that exists in this community why not put your question to our foster carers in Greater Manchester on the Fostering Unfiltered Facebook group?
A recent innovation in foster care is the Mockingbird programme, which has been adopted by a number of local authorities. Mockingbird creates hubs of foster carers who can help each other with things like short breaks and baby-sitting, peer support, regular joint planning and social activities. The idea is to replicate the practical support that a non-fostering family might receive from friends and relatives.
Every child you foster will be unique and will have particular needs. You will learn to shape your support network to help you meet their needs.
As an approved foster carer, you will be expected to complete a certain amount of training. There is a mandatory training programme that includes seven ‘core skills’ courses covering subjects such as first aid and managing behaviour. These courses can make a big difference, giving you confidence as you begin caring for children for the first time. You will also get a sense of what other foster carers are going through and how they address challenges they face.
Access to training, particularly modules that will be of clear benefit to you in the work that you are doing, may take time. It definitely pays to be patient!