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9 Skills of a Care Worker That Make Them Great Foster Parents

Thinking about changing your career and using the skills you already have to give children and young people the love and security they deserve? Find out why carer workers make great foster parents.

November 19 2021 - 6 min read

The responsibilities of a care worker go beyond the day-to-day tasks and routines. People in this profession are naturally empathetic, selfless and driven to make a positive difference in someone’s life. This means care home staff share a lot of the same qualities as a great foster parent.

Why a foster career could be for you 

Foster care careers are extremely rewarding, as you get the opportunity to help transform the life of a vulnerable child. More than 30,000 new children come into care each year, most likely having experienced abusive and neglectful environments. With a national shortage of foster parents right now in the UK, it could be the time to think about changing your career and using the skills you already have to give children and young people the love and security they deserve.

Transferrable skills of a care worker

You’re compassionate 

Compassion and empathy are vital traits of anybody caring for another person. As a care worker, you’ll have had to put yourself in the shoes of a vulnerable person as a way to understand their behaviour and empathise with their situation. For example, if you’ve ever dealt with an elderly person who is frustrated they can’t use the toilet on their own, you’ll understand this person is losing their independence and could be feeling as though they’re losing their dignity too. These are upsetting situations and a good carer will show the person they’re caring for compassion during times of distress.

Compassion and empathy are important foster care parent requirements, as looked after children are often misunderstood and labelled as disruptive or difficult. They need someone who is willing to take the time to understand their behaviour and be a positive influence for change, by providing a safe and secure family environment.

You’re patient  

Children in care have all experienced trauma of some kind, and they will all channel their trauma differently. It takes patience to care for a vulnerable child who may be having difficulty regulating their emotions, expressing what they need or communicating how they feel. Whether you’re a social care worker, residential care home staff or work in domiciliary care, you’ll know that patience is key when dealing with challenging situations.

You have medical knowledge 

If you’re looking for a career change but still want to use your medical training, a foster care career could be the ideal choice. Not only would you be proficient in administrating medication, but you may also have knowledge of mental health disorders, the physiological effects of trauma and how to professionally assist people with mobility issues. All of these medical skills of a care worker can be transferred to caring for young people with additional needs.

You can assess risks  

Risk assessment is a huge part of care work, whatever the field you’ve been working. Whether it’s noticing the subtle signs of domestic abuse in a social work case or recognising when an elderly person’s symptoms are deteriorating, being able to spot potential threats and act quickly to mitigate them is an important asset of any care role. If you were to change your career to fostering, your observational nature would play a big role in helping to keep a child safe.

You are respectful 

Working in care means you meet people from all walks of life – different ages, ethnicities and belief systems – and everybody deserves to be treated with the same respect. This includes respecting privacy and boundaries. Although being a care worker involves a lot of interpersonal interaction, such as bathing, feeding and changing clothes, you’ll also make sure to respect the moments when a service user prefers to be alone. This could be watching a TV show or eating lunch. It’s the same for foster children, which is just one of the reasons why there are foster child bedroom requirements. It can feel incredibly strange for a child to be placed with a new foster family, so it’s essential they have a room to call their own.

You’re a good listener 

When we’re listened to, we feel understood. That’s why being a good listener is a key skill to have so you can get to know the person in your care. A lot of children in care will have been deprived of attention during their developmental years, so haven’t had the opportunity to communicate their feelings in an appropriate way. For abused children and neglected children, it’s likely their feelings were never considered in the first place. Giving them an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on can go a long way in building up their confidence to trust people.

You communicate well 

If you need help choosing a new career that still allows you to communicate with other people, a foster career could be your next step. Being a care worker has probably seen you develop a range of communication skills, especially when dealing with ill or disabled service users that can’t communicate effectively. Being able to pick up on body language, read non-verbal communication cues and perhaps even do basic sign language can be transferred to looking after a vulnerable child. Many children in the care system struggle to identify how they feel due to complex childhood trauma. If you’re able to communicate with them on their wavelength, you can do wonders in bringing them out of their shell and teach them how to respond to situations appropriately.

You’re not afraid to get stuck in 

As you’ll likely know, the practical roles of nursing staff for care homes or residential home care staff are not jobs for the weak hearted. From changing colostomy bags to dressing wounds, you’ll be able to handle the practicalities of personal care without batting an eyelid. This ability to get stuck in without complaint is a fantastic skill to transfer to a foster care career. Some young people may have additional needs of a similar nature, so it’s important you can help them feel at ease and not embarrassed or ashamed.

You’ve got thick skin 

It goes without saying that caring for a person of any kind requires you to develop a thick skin. If you’ve looked after a person with dementia, for example, you’ll know first-hand how important resilience is. Being a foster parent is pretty similar, in that it might take a while to bond with your foster child or they may show resentment towards you initially. However, all of the skills of a care worker you’ve developed over the years will put you in good stead to care for a child who desperately needs a loving home.

How to change your career to fostering 

With all the skills and experience you’ve learnt as a social care worker or care home staff member, giving children and young people a new chance at life could be a great way to put into practice everything you know whilst also making a world of difference. Short-term fostering allows you to look after children and young people temporarily while still having a huge impact on their lives.

As long as you’re over 21, have a spare bedroom and also have the drive and determination to changing young people’s lives, we’d love to hear from you. There is no upper age limit for fostering either, as for us it’s all about the energy and commitment you bring to the role.

Get in touch to learn more about fostering today. One of our team members would love to tell you about the process, our support package and generous foster career pay allowances to help you decide if it's right for you. Or, you can read about how to become a foster parent here.

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