Fostering children can be an extremely rewarding experience and one which can quite literally change a child’s life. The care system is constantly under demand with around thousands of new children arriving every year, adding to those already being looked after away from home.
If you’ve ever wondered about fostering and whether you’d be eligible, here’s a quick run through what you need to know.
Foster Care Needs You
Every child deserves to be happy and to experience a safe, stable, and loving environment but unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. There are lots of circumstances that can lead to a child ending up in the care system; sometimes this may be a permanent move away from the family home while in other cases the child is able to return after a short break. Whether it’s a long or a short stay in care services, foster carers are desperately needed to make this period as peaceful and easy as possible.
This can be a difficult and traumatic time for the child so without a doubt, the most important qualities any potential foster carer must have is the passion to provide support, both emotionally and practically.
Children can be fostered for any length of time; it may be just a few days before they are able to return to their family but in some cases, it may be years.
You’ll need to be able to provide the necessary support and structure to help a child fulfill their potential, even during turbulent times.
Of course, although compassion, the right temperament, love, and understanding are absolutely vital there are some more practical considerations too, the mains ones of which are covered in detail below.
What Kind of Person Will Be Approved For Fostering?
If you’re wondering whether there are any restrictions on the carers, the answer is yes. Even if you have a perfect personality, fostering children means there are some practical requirements too.
The most basic of these is available space; if you don’t have a spare bedroom to offer a child you want to foster, you won’t be able to proceed. You don’t, however, need to own your own home. Living in rented accommodation is fine providing there’s a spare bedroom available.
If you’re a smoker you won’t be precluded from fostering a child entirely, but you generally won’t have any children aged below 5 years old placed in your care.
You’ll need to be at least 21 years old to be considered as a foster carer, but contrary to what many believe, you don’t need to be in a relationship. There are a lot of parents who are currently co parenting their own children, while fostering kids as well.
Providing your circumstances mean you are available to provide a safe and stable environment, single applicants are very welcome to apply too. There’s also no discrimination against those in same-sex relationships, or on any other grounds. Ideally, you’d need to be able to drive and have a car, but if you don’t drive and are willing to learn, you should still get in touch.
How To Pick A Fostering Service
Fostering children is a wonderful thing to do but if you’re just moving into the field, you might find it difficult to choose which fostering service to sign up to.
Taking a child or young person into your home is a huge step to make so it’s essential to make sure you have the proper support. Here’s a look at fostering and how to choose the right fostering service to sign up with.
How To Find The Right Foster Care Agency
Fostering a child or young person is simultaneously the most challenging and rewarding thing you could ever do, but providing a safe and secure environment isn’t always easy. Being placed in care is often a difficult experience for the child, and no matter how many years you’ve been fostering, having support is absolutely essential.
The best way to find someone who offers this is to look for experience and longevity. Foster care isn’t something you can simply pick up overnight so having a reputation and history of providing care is an essential element. For the very best foster care agency, look for the personal touch: a company that is set up by individuals who have fostered themselves in a family environment is far preferable to an indifferent business. The top quality foster care agencies are genuinely interested in making sure that their foster carers are able to provide the very best environment, and that means investing in their future and taking the time to look after them too.
As a foster carer you should receive training too; even if you’re an experienced parent, looking after a child or young person in the care system can be a very different matter. No foster carer should be left unsupported as this will ultimately have an effect on the quality of care that can be provided for the child.
Fostering means relying on a network of foster carers to provide the safety and security that many young people are missing from their homes. It’s essential to make sure that you’re registered with a reputable organization. Looking into their history and checking out any testimonials or reviews are just a few ways you can start to assess whether this is an agency you want to work with.
You could also look for more objective indicators too such as being an official Investor in People; this shows a commitment to looking after foster carers and providing support and training. OFSTED is often associated purely with schools but they have an obligation to inspect and regulate any organization involved in the care of children. Their reports should be displayed in a prominent position on the agency’s website and reading through this can be very revealing.
The foster agency themselves should also have a clear and transparent vision, with a mission that’s available for all to see. These standards should be applied universally to any foster carer who provides their services.
Do You Have Questions About Fostering? You’re Not Alone
Fostering is something that not everyone is willing to take on. That is partly because the role can seem a little confusing. Everyone knows what adoption is, and everyone understands what it means when a parent or parents adopt a child – that child is then legally linked to the parent, and the bond (both in the eyes of the law and in life) is as good as blood. But when it comes to fostering, people still have many questions regarding what it really means, and why one might choose the path of foster care rather than a permanent adoption.
Fostering Or Adoption?
Fostering, as with adoption, means taking in and caring for a child who is usually not biologically related to the adults in the household. Unlike adoption, fostering is not a permanent arrangement, and the aim is different. An adopted child is brought into a family and treated as though they were born within it. A fostered child will know and perhaps even be in contact with his or her birth parents, and the ultimate goal of fostering is to prepare the child to re-join their own family. This could be a quick process or a lengthy one, but foster parents must understand that their new ward will leave them at some point. Foster parents – even long term ones – will never have any legal rights over the child in question.
The ultimate separation can be traumatic, especially if the placement has lasted several years. Fostering can therefore be a difficult path to take, but it is a highly rewarding thing to do. It can give a family who has problems the chance to become whole again. It can also give children who are experiencing trauma and unsettled lives the chance to be happy and healthy. Through fostering, a huge difference can be made. As well as feeling great about helping a young life take off, there is so much support for foster parents that it can seem a less daunting prospect than formally adopting a child. With training sessions, counselling, a network of other fosterers, social workers, and parents, no foster parent has or ever needs to feel alone.
Why Do People Foster?
Fostering rather than adoption, then, is a hard decision, but one that many feel glad to have made. For them, it is not about adding to their family. Instead, it is about enabling other families to regroup, refocus, and re-establish themselves. This is so that the child at the center of it all can go on to live a productive, successful life surrounded by a loving family who can provide them with everything they need. Although it is hard to say goodbye, foster parents know it is for the best. They know that the child they have cared for and guided for weeks, months, or perhaps even years, now has a better chance of a fulfilled life. This is potentially so much more than they would have had without the foster parents’ help.
What is so inspiring is that many foster children keep in touch with those who have shown so much faith in them; looked after them; given them somewhere to live, and love when they needed it most. This means that, for foster parents, it is like having a large, extended family. But fostering needs careful consideration and it is not an overnight decision, which is why the professionals will be with you the whole way. Whatever you choose, it needs to be right both for you and the children you end up caring for.