We don’t have enough foster carers for all of our children and young people to enjoy family life. And I know that we’ll always struggle to find people who can take on this role – because it’s not something that just anyone can do. I believe that not everyone has the right skills, attitude or the circumstances to be in a position to do it. So for local authorities and agencies to find and train the right people will always be difficult. But still recruitment is the easy part. It’s keeping carers going that’s the real challenge. My experience has shown me that supporting carers to the maximum, as well as helping them to find ways of ensuring they are able to support each other - and care for themselves - that’s the key.
Being a carer can be very rewarding and a really enjoyable experience. But it can also, at times, be hard work, isolating, frustrating and create stress, which is not good for the carer, the young person or any other family member.
I’ve managed a centre for ISP for many years. It’s a therapeutic agency and we’ve always tried hard to find approaches that work. Like supervision, planned respite. The things that most agencies now do. But we’re always ready to try something new. So in our centre in Teynham we also bring carers together for group supervision – and to have lunch, and for other social events for them as families. Most recently we’ve built on this by introducing good nutrition, yoga and meditation. All with the aim of giving carers extra strategies. Helping them as a group and as individuals to keep feeling healthy and happy. Feeling good about themselves and what they do. For me that’s the only way we can ensure positive outcomes for us all.
As an agency, yes of course there are costs. But in the long-term it makes sense. We have a very low rate of placement disruption, and are achieving growth in foster placement numbers. Most important of all we have the satisfaction of having a happy, committed work force who are in a far better place to cope with the needs of our young people.
Andrew and the team at ISP Teynham introduced yoga, meditation and good nutrition as additional support for foster carers - with some positive results. These tried and tested strategies can be found in a new JKP publication with material and experiences from the project - Caring With Vitality - Yoga and Wellbeing for Foster Carers, Adopters and Their Families by Andrea Warman and Liz Lark (Jessica Kingsley, 2016)