Thinking about becoming a foster carer? Here’s what you need to know

Are you considering becoming a foster carer? Find out what’s involved in foster care, and whether it may be the right choice for you.

There are 64,000 children in foster care in the UK. These children have either suffered living in an environment that has become unsafe, or their parents are no longer able to care for them.

But while it may be tough situation for these children to deal with, there’s an army of fantastic people who choose to offer these children a safe and healthy home to grow up in. These people are foster carers.

If you’re considering joining this army as a foster carer, here are some things you need to know.

Why choose to be a foster carer?

The most important reason to become a foster carer is the motivation to want to care for a child. But you must also be prepared to take on board any emotional or other needs the children in your care may have. Caring for any child can be stressful, expensive, and take a lot of time. But caring for a foster child can add extra responsibilities.

But you don’t have to face these alone. As a foster parent you’ll have support and funding from your foster agency, as well as visits from a social worker every few weeks to check in on how you’re doing and provide you with any support you feel you need.

Foster care gives you the chance to make a big difference in a chid’s life. I am often told by carers that they feel well rewarded and proud when a child in their care has been allowed to go home or has been adopted, and they are a happier person as a result of foster care.

You’ll also notice small things like changes in behaviour patterns, such as enjoying healthier foods, achieving good grades at school, or joining a local sports team. These all contribute to your sense of achievement and pride.

Who can be a foster carer?

My experience of working at a foster care agency has suggested there are regularly three types of foster carers:

1) Young families

Many foster carers already have children, or have adopted children and have the space and time to offer care. These families are often fantastic placements for a foster child, as they have a family atmosphere and they can create friendships with the other children.

2) ‘Empty nest’ families

Some foster carers have children who moved away to university or to live away from home, leaving them with an empty house and spare rooms. The experience gained from raising their own children gives them the patience to help a foster child who will have their own challenges. These carers often find that being able to care for another child helps them to feel fulfilment in their lives.

3) Single people and young couples

The final type of carers are young couples or singles. Single people often don’t think they can become a foster carer, but they can. All you need is a spare room for the child, flexible working to allow you to look after the placement, and the willingness to help. We have had single men become foster parents and they cannot believe how much they have got out of the experience. Some have gone on to have four or five placements.

Becoming a foster carer is also available to young couples, and sometimes those that start in foster care will be inspired to go on to adopt and start their own family. You don’t have to be a heterosexual couple or own your own home; you just need to show that you have the provisions to give the placement proper care.

How to become a foster carer

If you would like to consider becoming a foster carer, look for your local agency or a state service, and submit an enquiry. The process can take some time and matching the right carer to a child is very important for an agency.

It’s common for agencies to visit your home during the process so they have an idea of the environment the foster child will live in. Once the agency is satisfied you will be visited by a social worker and will need to complete a short foster skills course.

Before approval, you will be interviewed by a panel. This isn’t scary at all and is more of a chat to go through the reports that have been collected by the agency and social care worker. Once this stage is complete a report will be submitted to the agency decision maker and they will decide on whether you are the right person for the placement. Fortunately, it is normally an emphatic yes!

Written by Jessica Sullivan who is an agency worker in fostering Liverpool.