There are lot’s of things to consider before making the final decision, and quite a few people have contacted me to ask questions about it. I have researched some of the most frequently asked questions and took some information from a really useful website: Fostering.org.uk, I hope the following helps. Don’t forget if you have any other questions, just drop me a line or contact me on Facebook.
Fostering is about caring for a child in your own home. For a whole variety of reasons there are around 47,200 children (in England year to March, 2010) who are placed with foster carers by social services departments. Many of these children will eventually return to their families. In some cases this may take a matter of days or weeks in others it may take much longer.
If a return to their families is not possible a decision may be made to find them a permanent new family, possible through adoption.
In the vast majority of cases children in foster care will have regular contact with their families and their parents will continue to have responsibilities towards them throughout the time they are in foster care.
Foster carers are people who look after these children. In the past we used to refer to them as foster parents but this term is misleading. The children already have parents and “foster carers” better reflects the often temporary nature of the task.
Foster carers can be single or a couple, they do not need to be married. They can be hetrosexual or gay. Most fostering agencies welcome applications from people who are in their mid twenties and it is quite common for people to foster children up until their 60’s and beyond.
One of the things we find when people are thinking about applying to become foster carers is that they can sometimes make assumptions about what is involved that are simply incorrect. For instance, some people think they have to own a large house or have a certain income. Neither of these assumptions are correct!
Why do children need to be fostered?
There are a lot of reasons why families are unable to look after their children. Many of these reasons will only apply for a short time. For instance, some children may come into foster care for a few weeks when their parent has to go into hospital. In other cases children might need to be fostered for much longer. It may take two or three years before a child is able to return home while social workers and others try to resolve more serious problems within the family.
What kind of children are fostered?
The children who are placed with foster carers come from many social, ethnic and religious backgrounds. They may have experienced a variety of problems in their life. Many will be deeply upset about being away from their families and may be “difficult” to care for when they first come in to foster care. However, this does not mean that all children in foster care are “problem children” and many, given sufficient time to settle, are likely to be as “difficult” as any other child.
Some of the children placed with foster carers, because of their history, will have more problems than most and will offer a considerable challenge to their foster carers. This does not mean that they should not be placed with foster carers as this may still be seen as being in their best interests. In some cases children will be identified as needing a specialist fostering placement when their needs are great and where they will place great demands upon those who care for them.
Who gives foster carers support and advice?
Most agencies are organised so that a particular worker or team of workers are regularly in contact with their foster carers. These workers are referred to on this web site as “Support Workers” but different agencies have different job titles for them.
Any child placed with foster carers will also have a social worker who can also give advice and support to foster carers. There can be some confusion in the early stages of fostering about which of these two workers should be contacted regarding a particular issue. Our advice is that until you get to know who you should contact it is best to make sure that your support worker is kept informed about any important events and any concerns that you might have. They and not the foster carers will then have the responsibility for informing the child’s social worker about these matters whenever they consider this to be appropriate.