Foster carers have the opportunity to share their own experiences and learn from one another in a friendly and informal setting.
The Foster Carers Support Group has been reformed to give carers an arena to discuss any issues, no matter how large or small.
Each session focuses on different aspects of caring for children and young people, including health, education, social interaction and safer caring.
Clinical Psychologist Andrew Lister lead the a session earlier this year focusing on Hygiene and Health and some strategies which may help foster carers and their young people.
He discussed and answered questions on topics such as young people insisting on wearing dirty clothes, pretending to wash and brush their teeth, and soiling.
Andrew said concepts such as cleaning the house, changing bedding and wearing clean clothing may not be familiar to some children.
He told foster carers: “What happens when a child or teenager moves in with you is that they bring their own feelings and expectations about things.
“Things may not quite fit together for them so things need to change.
“However, it’s really, really hard as you’re changing something that’s become habit. It’s very difficult to stop doing stuff. It’s that level of familiarity.
“You need to focus on changing their behaviour and making a difference.”
Andrew talked about the different stages of behaviour change, from thinking to remembering to wanting, then moving on to knowing how to and establishing a routine.
He said health and hygiene could be particularly tricky as young people are sensitive to how they see themselves and how they look, and smells could be associated with their birth family.
Andrew told foster carers: “You have to believe that you can make a difference.
Try to slowly give them alternatives and ensure that they get to witness domesticated life. “Let them watch you doing things until they choose that’s what they also want to do.
As foster carers it’s your job to model suitable behaviour and show them what to do.”
Andrew currently runs two courses as part of the council’s foster carer training programme. They are ‘Why do children behave like this and how do I deal with it’ and ‘Dance Like A Butterfly, Sting like a Bee.’
He will also be setting up a new course in the new year called ‘Keep calm and care on!’ along with Kirsty Fraser - more details to follow.
The Foster Carers Support Group meets every few months, usually at The Armadillo Centre in Yate, and all carers are welcome. Young children can also accompany foster carers.