At Flourish Fostering we focus on the quality of relationships between foster parents and the children and young people they look after. The majority of children looked after have suffered some kind of relational trauma especially if they were significantly harmed in their early years by the people meant to protect them.
We specialise in helping foster parents to understand the internal world of the child so they can look behind the behaviour and understand some of the motivations of foster children. We also help foster parents become more resilient by helping them to understand their own reactions and how they can stay in control of the emotional tone of the household.
Foster parents will often say that they feel helpless or hopeless or powerless in the work that they do and they begin to think that maybe they are not cut out for fostering. Sometimes those feelings don’t actually belong to the foster parent, they are being picked up from the child being looked after because it is how they felt too when they could not stand up to adults who were cruel to them. They have brought those feelings with them into your home and they can be triggered whenever they are reminded of the past. Feelings can be transmitted without words and it is this kind of awareness that helps foster parents to become resilient and potent adults for the children they foster.
One of the hallmarks of a good quality relationship is the ability to have empathy – to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the other and view the world from their point of view. This kind of insight can help a foster parent to know what the child needs rather than what they may want. Empathy combined with the safety that a warm, friendly foster home provides helps a child to begin to relax and take in some of the goodness that foster parents have to offer. As one foster parent said recently in a research interview:
“The relationship bit is not understood, the reverie between the mother and baby…People will say ‘oh look they didn’t have any clothes and now they look gorgeous’ or ‘they had scabs all over them and look at their beautiful skin now’. But nobody says they had no idea how to relate to me and look how they are understanding it now, that bit gets missed.”
How to relate is a key skill in fostering. Most of us think we know how to do that but there are always ways to fine hone those skills especially when looking after children who maybe don’t trust adults to look after them or keep them safe. I always think we have more potential than we ever fulfil in life – why not come and join us and see what you have to offer that you are not even aware of at the moment.
Mica Douglas is managing director at Flourish Fostering, a newly registered therapeutic fostering organisation.