There can’t be any doubt that becoming a foster carer is a huge responsibility. It’s also a decision that could make a massive difference in the lives of a lot of young people. In June, it was estimated that more than 90,000 children were in care in the UK and that three-quarters of those children were living with foster families. There is also a shortage of people who are coming forward to provide a home for these kids. The Children’s Commissioner for England said in August that 71% of people who fill in a fostering form drop out before the end of the process. It’s vital that anyone thinking about embarking on this journey understands the process and what it entails. There is support out there and this could be a wonderful journey for you and your family. Let’s have a look at what you need to know.
The Role of a Foster Carer
You probably already know that the role of the foster carer is to provide a home for a child who needs one. The main role is to meet the child’s physical, emotional and developmental needs. This involves:
- Providing a safe, stable living environment.
- Supplying nutritious meals, clothing and school supplies.
- Facilitating health, dental and therapeutic services.
- Supporting educational goals and progress.
- Nurturing the child’s talents, interests and identity.
- Providing transportation to appointments, activities and visits with biological family.
- Working closely with social workers and other professionals involved in the child’s case.
When it comes to how long the placement lasts, that can depend on several different factors. The child could be waiting to be reunited with their biological parent or to be found a suitable adoptive parent. It will be up to you to give them a caring, supportive home while they are living with you.
The Foster Care Assessment Process
Becoming a foster carer isn’t as simple as raising your hand and volunteering. Several checks need to be done before you can be entrusted with a foster child, and they will be covered over two assessments.
The first will be to gather practical information about you, your living situation and your family. You’ll be asked about your health, your property, and about everyone living in your home with you whether they’re your family or not. You will also be asked for personal information including your relationship history.
The second assessment will be about you in more detail. This is more focused on your personality, your employment history, your standard of living, and your hobbies and interests. The social worker will ask about your background, religion and ethnicity, and about whether you would be willing and able to care for a child that has a very different background to you. They’ll ask if you’ve cared for children before and if you have any skills that would be useful.
This process can take several months. You’ll need to document your financial stability, physical health, support system and living space. It’s important to note that you will also need to provide references. This may seem like a lot to answer but keep in mind that the safety of the child is the most important thing. This is not about digging into your personal life. It’s about making sure that the child in question is going to get the care and support they need.
Types of Foster Care Placements
There are several types of foster care placements:
Emergency Foster Care: Short-term care for displaced children awaiting a more permanent placement.
Short-term Foster Care: Typically a few months while the child transitions back home or to another placement.
Long-term Foster Care: For children unable to return home who need consistency until adulthood or adoption.
Respite Foster Care: Temporary short-term care to give another foster family a break.
Specialised Foster Care: For children with severe medical conditions, disabilities or behavioural issues.
The type of placement influences factors like the child’s needs, expected duration and level of social worker involvement. Agencies often need more emergency and respite foster parents.
You Could Consider Starting As A Respite Foster Carer
If becoming a full-time foster carer seems daunting, it might be worth thinking about respite foster care, as described above. Respite foster carers will also need to go through an assessment process but the type of care is a little different. They provide temporary short-term care ranging from a weekend up to a couple of weeks.
Serving as a respite carer allows you to test the experience of fostering without the full commitment. It also fills a vital need for regular foster parents to get a break. Many go on to become full-time foster parents after positive respite experiences.
Starting as a respite carer helps you:
- Try out fostering and see if it is right for you
- Learn parenting strategies from seasoned foster parents
- Build relationships with agencies who can match you with children
- Provide helpful breaks for foster families who do this full-time
Even if you decide full-time fostering is not for you, you still make a meaningful difference by providing occasional respite care. If you’d like to learn more about respite foster care, get in touch with the team at Match Foster Care. They are a family-run agency that covers all over the West Midlands, and they can offer a wealth of support to anyone considering embarking on this journey.
Common Questions and Concerns
Anyone who’s thinking about becoming a foster carer is going to have some questions, for themselves as well as everyone else. You’re going to have some nerves, and it’s important to think carefully about them.
- Am I ready for this responsibility?
- How will being a foster parent impact my family?
- Do I have the resources and skills to care for a child with trauma?
- Will I get attached to the child only to have them leave?
- How do I prepare my own children for welcoming a foster child?
- What kind of support will I receive?
- How will caring for foster children impact my work and social life?
These concerns are all completely understandable. Speaking with experienced foster parents and the agency can provide reassurance and practical advice. It is a major decision but with proper support, many find fostering to be an incredible experience.
A Challenging But Rewarding Opportunity
Becoming a foster parent is a big responsibility. But it’s also a remarkable thing to do. With realistic expectations about the ups and downs and a commitment to providing a nurturing environment, you can change a child’s trajectory for the better.