Therapeutic foster care is challenging, but it was my best challenge.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

For many people, deciding to foster was an easy decision to make. Many foster carers who support children in care knew precisely the type of foster care they wanted to offer. Some of them chose to provide temporary care of children, such as respite, emergency, and short-term foster care. Others, however, have specialist skills and lived experience in caring for children. Their life skills enable them to know some children’s challenges; with experience, they can see beyond labels and see the child. These foster carers are therapeutic foster carers.

Often, potential foster carers explore and seek advice from existing foster carers. As a result, they are the most effective foster carers that make a huge difference in children’s lives, especially for children living with labels as challenging behaviour and who may otherwise be left out.

I found out about Therapeutic foster care from my friend.

I spoke with one foster carer who fosters with her Local Authority; she reached out, listened, and learned from other foster carers. Those conversations led to her becoming an approved foster carer, providing therapeutic foster care. She said, ‘I have fostered my foster child since he was young. He’s now in college studying Childcare; he also wants to be a foster carer.’ She also said their journey was not straightforward; they faced many challenges, but they met these challenges and overcame them because they had the best support. More importantly, they had patience, love, and a mutual sense of humour. Also, she had decided to be in it for the long haul. She would not let him down.

Therapeutic foster care was my best challenge.

She said, ‘I’d never heard of Therapeutic foster care before, but my friend is a very experienced foster carer, and she mentioned it in conversation. She said that therapeutic foster care is about caring for children who have often suffered significant trauma; it was considered a very ‘challenging’ role.’ But the more I learned about Therapeutic foster care, the more I knew it was the right choice for me.’

‘I listened to her description of Therapeutic foster care. I knew my skills, personally and professionally, could be useful. More importantly, instinctively, the more I heard, the more I knew that therapeutic foster care was the one for me.’

Therapeutic foster care is a long-term commitment to children.

‘Therapeutic foster carers cannot support more than one child at a time. These children need 1:1 care in a nurturing environment, and many are older children. They are over six years of age and labelled as having ‘challenging behaviour’, often because of the significant trauma in their past. We must give them consistent support, which for me, is important. Also, I had another reason for choosing Therapeutic foster care; I wanted a child to be with me long-term.’

‘I know many children in care who need therapeutic foster carers are the hardest children to place with foster carers. Sadly, many of them are older children. Therapeutic foster carers must commit themselves long-term because older children need consistency and time dedicated to them. For these older children, the clock is ticking to leave care. They need help, now.’


I knew I had to commit full-time to caring for a child.

‘It was my dream to make a difference in a vulnerable child’s life when they needed it most. But it would take a lot of time. I knew I had to commit full-time to a child, and myself, to do this right. But it was my time to give, and I chose to give my time for as long as needed.’

‘Therapeutic foster care is a specialist type of foster care; it is not the kind of care you can stop and give up. Sadly, for many children, especially older children, you are their last hope.’

‘Many of these children have faced child abuse and neglect, trauma, loss, rejection, and had lots of broken fostering placements. As a result, they have developed trust and emotional barriers. We must get therapeutic foster care right; we owe it to children’s futures.

Letting children down is not an option.

We must do what we say we will and commit to children with continuity of care, love, and support; letting them down is not an option.’

‘My foster child is now a young man; he’s 17. We have been together for nine years, and I am incredibly proud of the young man he has become. He started college this year, and his main subject is Childcare. He too wants to be a foster carer in a few years.’

‘I loved hearing him say he wanted to foster children. It shows he had an enjoyable experience of being in care. Also, it made me realise how much of a difference we foster carers make to children’s lives.’

My training helped me see beyond labels.

‘When you hear people referring to children with labels such as ‘challenging behaviour’, it is daunting. However, you are never alone. I had regular training from support groups, other foster carers, friends, and family. Also, other foster carers willingly share information on how things work. It’s helpful to get other people’s perspectives and listen to their advice, especially about the parenting tools you can try.’

Naturally, there have been many ‘challenging’ times. I learned a lot along the way from others; however, personally, the rewards of fostering are immense.’

‘When a young person begins to trust you, they settle in their life with you. Eventually, they begin to flourish. Therapeutic foster carers lead children and young people to a better future because of their consistent support. I don’t know of any other career as rewarding!’

Foster carers look beyond labels and see the child.

There are no academic qualifications needed for Therapeutic foster care.

‘You don’t need specific academic qualifications to be a therapeutic foster carer. We have to undertake training, especially on behaviours and parenting programmes, to support children. I used Triple P and Webster Stratton, and I found them helpful; I use their strategies often.’

‘Another programme I use is Triple P. Triple P is a parenting intervention, and the main goals are increasing parents’ knowledge, skills, and confidence and reducing the prevalence of mental health, emotional, and behavioural problems in children and adolescents.’

‘Also, another programme I use is the Webster-Stratton,’ Incredible Years Therapeutic Dinosaur School’ programme. I found their strategies in helping children immensely helpful.’

Webster Stratton’s strategies helped me.

‘This programme is a set of interlocking programmes to be used by parents, children, teachers, and foster parents to treat conduct disorders in children. Initially, they developed the programme to help children aged 4-8 years, aiming to allow them to create more appropriate social and problem-solving skills. This information is https://psychology.wikia.org/wiki/Webster-Stratton_Incredible_Years_programme; I hope it is helpful to you.’

Foster care: learning as we go along, together.

‘Since being approved as a foster carer, I have learned a lot. However, I am like all parents; we learn as we go along!

I learned how to identify triggers for challenging behaviour.

‘I needed to be aware of a child’s everyday behaviour in conjunction with ‘challenging behaviours; it helped me identify triggers. There are ‘triggers’ that often lead to ‘challenging behaviour’ and are caused by trauma in the child’s past. As Therapeutic foster carers, we learn to recognise triggers, and extensive training helped me to create support strategies.’

‘I love the vocation that I am doing. I feel fortunate and proud to have made a difference in a young person’s life. Also, I know their life experience with me will always be with them. As he moves to adulthood, knowing this gives me the most satisfaction.’

‘Therapeutic foster care is a challenging type of foster care, but it is hugely rewarding. You will need patience and an enormous sense of humour; children sometimes push you to the limit. However, as children and young people flourish over time, you know you made a massive difference in their future. Also, you will need a strong support network of family and friends you can rely upon to help children overcome barriers and challenges.

Could you offer therapeutic foster care?

Can you foster? Please connect on the form below if you want to learn more about therapeutic foster care. There’s no cost or commitment, just honest advice to help you decide if therapeutic foster care is for you. Because if it is, we have done our job well. And, more importantly, children in care face a better future because of you.


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