As a foster carer there are many times when friends and family want to help and support you but they don’t know how. You might be in the middle of a crisis and you can’t see the wood for the trees – so you cannot even begin to think what help you even need. Sometimes, well-meaning people you come across in your life ask inappropriate questions which put you in a very awkward situation.
The saying is true that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. It is a good idea to think ahead of some of the ways you need support and think through some of the answers you might give in those very awkward situations. Perhaps there should be a fact file of do’s and don’ts to give to friends and family when you start fostering!
“What can we do to help?”, is a question probably said quite genuinely and with the best of intentions, however, it often triggers a very British response. “We are ok thanks”, “we’ll let you know if we need anything”.
What we need rather than generic questions, is something more specific. When asked questions like “Can I bring you a meal?”, “Can I do some ironing” Can I help with the gardening” “Can I help you by taking your birth children to school, clubs or activities” “what paperwork needs to be filled in so that I can babysit for you”.
“Can I babysit so that you can have a break” “do you need any toys, clothes equipment for your new foster placement” there is often a very different response. It is very unlikely, however, that people will be so specific.
Therefore, we need to think ahead about what would actually help us, so that when we are asked the question (which will inevitably be vague) we have an answer at the ready. So here we go..
What can we do to help? Would you be able to bring a meal to us?
What can we do to help? Would you consider babysitting for us so that we can have a break?
What can we do to help? Would you be able to give my birth daughter a lift home from after school club?
What can we do to help? Would you be able to do some of my ironing?
Whatever it is that would help you in your situation – have an answer ready.
There, that’s not so difficult is it? The truth of the matter is – people want to help. I know that it brings me a sense of joy when I am able to help someone else. There is a blessing in helping. Therefore if we do not allow someone to help us when they ask, we are in fact denying them that joy and blessing. By letting them help we are in fact giving them joy. We are sharing the load.
So often foster carers get to the point of crisis or burn out and they haven’t even asked for help. Before you get to that point, think ahead, rehearse the answers if necessary, but don’t say you don’t need help.
There is an ancient African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child.
We are not islands, we should not be doing this job on our own, let’s include our community of family and friends so that we can get the best outcome for both our foster child and us.
For more information go to Fostering Network page.