Re-engaging a foster child in life, school and social time is a task for all carers to excel at. There will be challenges, but nothing so insurmountable that dedication, nurture, and time cannot overcome them. Whatever the profile of the foster placement child in your care, there will always be positive routes ahead when a collaborative approach is taken and all aspects of engagement are considered in the strategy. Here are four tips to help foster parents enable their placement child to re-engage.
One of the most valuable routes to re-engagement is trust building between the carer and child. When a child who has come from a turbulent background discovers the person looking after them is on their team, they are organically better able to see what’s in front of them and find ways to get involved.
Top tips for building trust include:
- Taking things at a comfortable pace for the child. It will take time, and you have time to give.
- Not overwhelming the relationship, and being able to take a step back where necessary.
- Being their biggest advocate and most confident but reasonable ally in all areas.
- Setting clear boundaries and following through on affirmations, expectations, and routines.
- Staying neutral in the face of extreme behaviour. You are their safe anchor, so that has to be reflected through both good and bad times.
Lean on the Experts for Advice and Strategies
Find guidance in your social worker team, because that is what they’re there for. Experienced agencies like thefca.co.uk understand how best to support a range of circumstances. They help carers adapt against adversity, and they understand that bringing a child to the heart of a home is a team effort.
Be a Safe Haven
Foster carers are expected to regulate their emotional responses, react pragmatically in all situations, and never respond in anger. These three actions will lead the way to become a safe space for your foster child. This is new for them too, and they may have had negative experiences before they reached your care. Therefore, you need to shine through as a positive, secure base for them to come back to whenever it is needed.
Advocate in School
Engagement in school is often varied from placement to placement. Keep a constant, insightful line of communication with all pastoral leaders and teaching staff. This is especially relevant if there are particular problematic relationships in school whether that is peer friendships or teachers. Be a presence, and show them you are their biggest believer there to help them navigate education too.
Boundaries are extremely important in all varieties of parenting models. Foster children need boundaries to feel secure, engage with everything that is expected of them, and form healthy relationships. Positive boundaries to set could look like consistent curfews, family home learning sessions, recreational tech time and never sinking to the level of power play. You are the responsible party, so model the behaviour and remember it’s not a battle it is a journey.
Helping a foster child engage with their life while they are existing in this transitional period is something that foster carers must navigate with grace, respect, and authenticity.