The one thing most prospective foster carers are most apprehensive about is how they can be sure if the foster child will fit in with their family, and what happens if they don't. Before embarking upon becoming a foster carer, it helps to know what to expect, both from us, the foster care agency, and from the young people in need of foster care. In this section you can find out a little more about typical foster care placements and about our matching process. Reading through the testimonials will also help you to get an idea of what to expect from the fostering experience.
The Matching Process
One of the keys to successful fostering for both young people and carers is closely matching the needs of the young person with an appropriately skilled and compatible carer. For Acorn House, the matching process is central to achieving positive outcomes. During the application process prospective carers have the opportunity to agree with their case worker the type of child that would thrive best under their care, and this includes specifying age range, gender, ethnicity and religion if these are important to the individual carer. We always try to place children in homes that are culturally as similar as possible to their own family which helps to minimise the disruption and alleviate the young person's sense of dislocation as far as possible. Where possible we offer every child an introductory period to a proposed foster carer so that he or she has the opportunity to give their view too.
Actively Involving Young People and Carers Alike
Although ultimately it is the Local Authorities that decide wither a placement goes ahead or not, we ensure that both the prospective foster carer and the child is actively involved in the matching process. We evaluate all the information received about the young person and best matches are achieved by sharing this information between everyone involved - the child, their family, the proposed foster carers, their families and any other children in placement and their social workers. Foster carers always have the opportunity to decide whether they want to take a child into their family home or not, and their opinions, preferences and decisions are always respected.
Our ethical approach to the matching process can mean that finding the right placement for each carer may sometimes take a little longer, but in our opinion this is a small price to pay in the interest of ensuring we have contented carers and happy cared for children.
About Young People in Foster Care
Young people may be in need of a foster home for all kinds of reasons, such as a sole parent being admitted to hospital through to custody disputes or more serious family problems. What unites them all is that they are separated from their parents and sometimes their siblings until their home circumstances change. Many may have been taken into care at short notice or as the result of a traumatic event or series of events. Some may never have known what it is like to live in and contribute positively to a family unit. Almost all of the young people requiring foster care will be feeling confused, angry, betrayed, hurt, insecure or uncertain about their future. And as with all children, negative emotions can lead to challenging behaviour. There are very many more teenagers than infants requiring foster homes, and typically it is boys more than girls that struggle the most to find secure long-term homes.
Hard Work But Immensely Rewarding
Acorn House believes it is important for prospective foster carers to know what to expect from foster placements so that they do not have a rose-tinted view of life. However, as you will no doubt read in our testimonials, often it is the simplest things like sharing a family meal, or going along to watch them play in a football match that can bring such joy to these young peoples' lives. Most foster carers say that they feel the opportunity to improve young peoples' lives is a privilege and an immensely rewarding experience that far outweighs the hard work and challenges.