15 March 2017

 The folly of empowering foster parents 

Hands up everyone who has ever said:

“I empowered the psychiatrist by valuing him as a member of the professional team.”




Sounds just weird right, even ridiculous? Because why would a psychiatrist need to be empowered, and of course he’s a member of the professional team...everyone knows that...everyone knows he, and even she, is in fact top of the tree….they don’t need empowering because they are intrinsically valued and respected.


So think about how you’ve already diminished the position of the foster parent when you say that you empowered them.


This perception - that foster parents need empowering - is disempowering.


If you want a foster parent to feel valued then value them.

Want them to feel respected? Respect them.


If you’ve ever written that foster carers work well with professionals - please don’t.

That clearly and fundamentally positions the foster parent as not one of the professionals; ‘other’ needs to be added to avoid that. And there’s a reason, by the way, that we use foster parent, not foster carer...I’ll get to that another time.


If you doubt that foster parents really deserve the credibility that professionals expect by right - because some don’t spell or sound or look or have qualifications like the conventional, traditional professional, remind yourself about the high risk, low supervision work they do in their own homes, and how many hours a day in which they do it, every day, with some of the most vulnerable and challenging in our society…. and let me know any other specialist clinician who does that.


Yeah, specialist clinician. I’ll get to more on that another time too.


If you want your foster parent colleagues to feel empowered - stop getting in the way by diminishing them in the first place. Recognise their unique endeavour. Acknowledge their seat at the table and address them in all the different ways you address colleagues of all the other different disciplines around our table. It’ll only work if you mean it; it’ll be patronising if you don’t.


Give up your own privileged position in relation to them. Love the mutual respect.


And if this is new to you and to them...know that it may take a while to settle in.

But know that to achieve this it is you who must change.

“The difference between a flower girl and a lady is not how she behaves but how she’s treated.” George Bernard Shaw.


Jane Keenan MASW



Image credit: Pexels


written by

Jane Keenan

Recruitment Manager


Last modified on Friday, 07 July 2017 20:25

Image Credit: The folly of empowering foster parents

Cultivation Friday 19th May 2017
Ofsted Logo Ofsted Logo NAFP Logo Fostering Network Logo BAAF Logo London Councils Logo Citation Logo Citation Logo Back to Top