The role of a foster carer is both diverse and intense. There is no other role like it. As a result, the most successful foster carers are those who have been supported through a training programme, and who continue to access continuous professional development.
There are two predominant types of training for foster carers. Firstly, there is the training that all potential new foster carers need to meet government requirements. As well as meeting the basic government requirements, this training is essential to ensure a new foster carer is equipped to meet the needs of children being placed in their care. This training will cover things such as safeguarding.
Secondly, there is foster care training which offers ‘higher level’ training. This training can be in greater depth or extend a foster carer’s knowledge into a specialist area.
It’s also vital that we recognise foster carers as the professionals that they are. Training is a critical part of this. For this reason, we offer foster carers a fully-comprehensive training programme. They may also choose to undertake formal qualifications, which may include the Level 3 Diploma in Child Care.
The nature of fostering training
Many foster carers face logistical difficulties when it comes to training, precisely because of the nature of the role. Training for fostering, therefore, needs to have a flexible approach and be community-based. Courses should be local or be able to be accessed through online e-learning or webinars.
The training required may also depend on the specific needs of the foster child in your care. For example, you may need specific training on working with self-harm, preparing a foster child for leaving home, or particular special educational needs.
Foster training also brings with it some other unique benefits to foster carers. Fostering can be a challenging role. Being supported by other foster carers who have ‘been there’ is enormously beneficial. Training courses give fosterers a chance to meet others doing the same thing, and to learn from one another.
How to decide what training is needed?
Basic training will be required for all foster carers. This will cover things such as safeguarding and basic childcare. Your foster agency will see this as vital to you being approved as a foster carer. This basic training will need refreshing over time, likely prompted by the agency you foster through.
Beyond this training is usually pursued on two levels: self-directed and social worker recommended.
With self-directed training, you should feel confident to approach your fostering agency and highlight your need for a particular type of training. You are the one ‘on-the-ground’ and are often best at identifying where you need further help and support. The agency will then discuss with you the best way for you to develop the skills you need.
Additionally, your social worker may recommend particular training courses for you, particularly if they want you to take on a more specific role (for example, caring for children with disabilities, or mums and babies). They will direct you and the agency with how to access the training you require.
Training your way
It is helpful to think about how an agency offers training before choosing which agency to use. Think about your experiences to date and what training you will need. Consider how you prefer to learn, and how best to access training in your situation.
To see what it’s like to learn via webinar, you can watch our free webinar here. This webinar is about caring for young people in their GCSE year, but it is a good example of how training can be tailored to suit you. You can also find out more about fostering training here.