The foster care system exists to help vulnerable children escape from difficult home situations, and to give struggling parents the support they need to put their lives back on track. In the UK, the majority of children who are in foster care are there because they families cannot provide adequate care. The aim of foster care is often to give families the support they need to be able to reunite further down the road. Becoming a foster carer is an important aspect of this journey, and more and more foster families are needed every year to help support a system that is already stretched thin.
Why become a foster carer?
Becoming a foster carer is as much a career choice as anything else. If you like to help others and get on well with children of all ages, you could make an ideal foster carer. It is a life-changing decision that will allow you to have a significant and lasting impact on you and your family, so it is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Not only will you have the opportunity to help others, but you will also receive ongoing training, which makes foster care a highly rewarding career path. Foster carers are also paid an allowance, which means it can easily be a full-time role.
Which kind of fostering is right for me?
When people think of fostering, they think of children with behavioural problems who cannot be adopted. This couldn’t be further from the case. There are many different types of fostering available, ranging from emergency care to long-term placements. In the case of young mums, there is also the option to offer a loving home and guidance to a young mum and her baby. Some people who are new to foster care might choose to offer short break care for a few days a week to give the birth parents a chance to recharge, or they might offer short term holiday cover for fellow foster carers. It all depends on your individual circumstances and what you’d like to get out of the fostering experience.
What challenges will I face?
The biggest problem foster carers face is in learning to quickly bond with a child who might not necessarily be interested. Many children in care have faced difficulty in their lives, and as a result they may present with difficult behaviour. You may also be expected to keep in contact with the child’s birth family, which can be a difficult adjustment to make. Caring for foster children is not like caring for your own children, and no one expects you to become a behaviour expert overnight. You will be expected to undergo training throughout the process and continue to develop your skills.
How can I become a foster carer?
There are several different routes to becoming a foster carer, but the first step is to get in touch with your local authority, or find a private fostering agency in your area. Private agencies might deal with specific disabilities or offer additional training to help foster carers cope with certain behavioural problems. The entire process of becoming a foster carer will take a minimum of six months, and you can expect to be assessed throughout your journey to ensure you are ready and able to take on the challenges.