There are over 72,000 children in care in the UK and 90 more come into care each day. Yet many people are put off the idea of fostering because they believe they won’t be welcomed as foster carers. The reality is that we, as a nation, desperately need more foster carers from all backgrounds.
Why are foster carers needed?
Foster care is a way of providing children ‘in care’ with a safe family environment. Living in a family setting is usually the most suitable and appropriate care arrangement for children when they cannot live with their birth family.
Children come into care for a variety of reasons. The child may be at risk of harm or abuse. They may be neglected. There could be bereavement or loss. These children, therefore, come into the ‘system’ in need of care which can help them manage their difficult situations. A family-setting is best for this.
A foster carer is the means of enabling this to happen. They provide a safe nurturing home, with safety, that a foster child needs. It can be short term as a stepping stone to a more permanent solution or a return home. It can also be longer term where the foster child stays with the foster carer for months or years. The carer supports the child’s education and wellbeing needs.
Who can be a foster carer?
There are fewer restrictions on being a foster carer than many realise.
Some of them are to do with your house and household. For example, it is important that a foster child has a safe space which is their own. Therefore, it’s important that you have a dedicated spare bedroom which can be theirs. However, you don’t have to have your own house; you can live in rented accommodation.
There are also some basic legal requirements, but these are minimal. You must be over-21 and have British citizenship or permanent leave to stay in the UK. You don’t have to be trained in childcare or be a parent already. You don’t have to be female, or married, or below a certain age. In fact, we welcome foster carer applications from a diverse range of backgrounds as this brings enormous benefit to a diverse range of children.
Furthermore, you don’t have to be able to stop work for financial reasons. Being a foster carer is a paid career and you are remunerated as such, as well as provided with an allowance to meet the needs of the child.
In order to dispel further myths, you don’t have to fit a particular box when it comes to race, gender, sexuality, age, or disability status. None of these matters.
What do you need in order to foster
In order to be a successful foster carer, and indeed to become approved, you will need some notable attributes.
Foster caring can be challenging and rewarding. In order to do the best for the children in your care, you will need to be inordinately patient and resilient. You should be empathic and committed to providing care, despite any challenges. You will likely need a fair amount of energy!
We find that the most successful foster carers are those who are well supported (both by their foster agency, social workers and family and friends) and who have a joyful and humourful outlook on life matched with deep compassion. Furthermore, being flexible will be of huge benefit. Foster caring doesn’t fit neatly into 9-5 but is instead 24-7.
Do you have what it takes to foster?
We’d love to talk to you. We can talk you through the process of becoming a foster carer so that you can understand what you can bring to the role. Find out more here.