Foster Carer Training
The training of foster carers is a crucial part of the process, when considering the developmental needs of children and young people who are living in the care system. Abused and neglected children have a huge array of unmet needs which play a significant part in the developmental issues they experience as they grow. These issues can be negatively reinforced through the care provided by foster carers who do not have a knowledgeable understanding of the children they are working with and the impact their previous experience has had on the child’s development. Significant attachment issues are common for children living with foster carers and there is a need to work and care with these children in a particular way. Dan Hughes’s PACE theory of parenting children with Attachment difficulties can be extremely helpful in overcoming some of the issues mentioned.
Playfulness: The foster carers interact with the child which invites curiosity, exploration and spontaneity. Foster carers use lots of expression with the children including facial expressions, touch and use of voice, being creative and making it fun! Foster carers have not got to take themselves too seriously; they need to find their inner child and run with it!! Humour and doing silly things can be reciprocated with the child and laughing together is really a good place to be with a fostered child and so very useful for their ongoing development.
Acceptance: Acceptance is a major part of the PACE system in that unconditional disregard for a child’s previous negative behaviours, actions and rituals, is key to relating to the child’s sense of safety. The child’s inner self must not experience shame, guilt, rejection or disappointment from the carer if at all possible, as this may reinforce the negatives models of self the child has developed. Clarifying for the child that that they are not their behaviours and their behaviours past and present are separate and can be modified as they learn and develop. Acceptance is one of the keys to moving forward.
Curiosity: Providing an element of curiosity within parenting a fostered child, enable foster carers and children and opportunity to be continually involved in acts of discovery together. This is something that is picked up by fostered children quite quickly, as a curious parent is a caring parent. ‘I think you were probably angry with Jonny at school because…………. Does that sound about right or am I totally of the mark? Why don’t you tell me what you think? Children investing and analysing behaviours discussions are more likely to adhere to disciplinary action taken by the parent.
Empathy: If as a child we do not experience empathy from a secure care giver, we then find it difficult to empathise with others as we grow and develop in the world. Foster carers need to provide and narrative to the work they do with fostered children. This may include statements such as ‘you know when you called Jonny a fat……………. And he got really upset. Why do you think he got upset when you said that? What would it feel like for you if someone called you? Discussions on emotions and feelings should be a constant with fostered children, to try and help with some of the emotional developmental delay. Foster carers nee to show real empathy on a daily basis, role modelling the required expectations.