How do we as foster carers really enable the children and young people we care for to become fully functioning adults? If this is not possible due to their disabilities, how can they become the best they can be and to achieve their potential? Do we allow young people to make mistakes, struggle and find their own way? Or do we do everything for them? Of course it depends:
• On the child.
• Their learning style.
• The support they need.
As well as our ability to stand back and allow the young person to make mistakes; take their time to do things their way and if necessary to struggle. In struggling they will often find a solution, but you can also offer support and advice but not to take over. It’s a fine line we tread to be seen to be doing our job of providing care and support but not neglecting the young person. I believe that young people can often achieve far more than we give them credit for and I know that my own need for structure, stability and a calm house has sometimes got in the way of the young person’s progress.
There are several lessons I have learnt. The first being that we are adults, and need to ensure that our emotional needs are met by our own families and friends and to allow the child to develop their own identity and way of doing things.
Secondly we need to allow the child to make mistakes and not rescue them all the time. This is really hard when you know they haven’t done their washing and will have run out of clean clothes. Do you go in and do it for them? NO! You may have to cope with the fallout and frustration and anger of the young person as they realise what has happened, especially if they wanted to go out; but you won’t always be there to make things easier for them. They also may be one of the young people that learn the hard way.
Finally I have learnt to be there to encourage and support them and to share in their sense of achievement of cooking their first meal, even if it does consist of pasta, chips and onion rings!