Becoming a foster parent gives you the chance to make a vast difference to the life of a child, but it is not easy. You need to have deep reserves of patience and commitment but giving a stable and supportive home to a vulnerable child could become the most fulfilling and satisfying experience of your life.
There are 62,000 children living with foster families in the UK today according to data supplied by UK fostering agencies. With more children than ever before being placed in care, it is estimated that a further 9,000 foster homes are needed. A foster home is a safe and nurturing environment for a child to live in. It is always temporary but placements can vary from the short to the long term.
Why are children placed in care?
Children are placed in care for all sorts of reasons. It may be that they have a parent who is very ill and unable to care for them. Perhaps their parents are suffering from severe depression or other mental health illnesses or are addicted to drugs or alcohol. It may be that the child has been abused or neglected.
Placing the child or children in stable temporary foster care gives the parents space and time in which to recover and to sort out their problems with the help of a social worker before the child is returned to them or, should this not be possible, found a permanent adopted family.
What qualities should a foster carer have?
Offering vulnerable children a temporary safe haven is not an easy task. You will need endless supplies of patience and energy. Nearly half of those children placed in care are in the 11 – 15 age range and fostering teenagers requires specific skills. You will need to be patient and to be able to set firm boundaries but also to offer an endless supply of time, love and support. A sense of humour will help no end.
Fostered children need time. They will nearly always be more challenging to look after than your children and any foster carer must be able to give them the love and time they require. You may need to consider taking time off work to help them to settle in to your home while their routine is established.
What support can foster carers expect?
Foster carers can expect plenty of support from their local services for foster care. There will be courses for you to go on and other learning opportunities as well as the chance to meet other foster carers in your area. Your approval to foster is likely to be reviewed each year.
Becoming a foster carer will undoubtedly change your life. Do as much research as you can and speak to as many foster carers in your area as possible. Do not be afraid to ask questions and to gather as much information as you can.
You are about to make an important, life changing decision and it is crucial for your sake, your family’s sake and the vulnerable children you will care for that you get it right. It won’t be easy but it will sometimes be great fun and endlessly rewarding.