Change a child's future
Becoming a foster carer is a big decision: Life-changing. It will impact significantly on your life, the child or young person in your care and on all those around you - family, friends, neighbours...
Fostering is also challenging - young people at times can display extreme behaviours and emotions related to loss, change and negative parenting. For every challenge, however, the reward is knowing that you've played a part in helping that child experience a safe environment where they feel supported and listened to.
Before deciding whether being a foster carer is right for you, it's vital that you are clear about your reasons and motivations - and that you have a strong support network around you. Below are some helpful questions to ask yourself before taking the next step:
Why are you thinking about fostering - what are your motivations and expectations?
Many people enter into foster care thinking that they are rescuing a young person from an abusive or neglectful parent. It would be easy to imagine that the child will be grateful and relieved to be out of their home situation; however this is not common.
However bad that situation may have been, children love their birth families unconditionally.
Young people may have suffered trauma through the experience of neglect, abuse, deprivation, physical injury... Or, may have experienced a family breakdown, illness or death.
They can be angry, resentful and sad; and may well take it out on their foster parents. Are you willing and able to deal with this, and not take it personally?
This is harder than it seems, so it's important to have realistic expectations about what fostering is and what it involves. You can talk to the Kasper team about the realities of fostering, just contact us on 01227 275985 and we'll guide you through.
Do you have a strong support network of friends and/or family?
This is more important than it sounds, as fostering a child can become very stressful at times. It's good to have people around you who will listen, offer practical and emotional support, and be there when times are good or bad.
Foster carer support groups are another way of accessing this type of help. Kasper runs monthly support groups in Kent, London and Essex - this is where foster carers get together to talk and guide each other through challenges, as well as celebrate their many successes.
Are you willing to have social workers in your home, sometimes every month?
Could you work in a partnership with a team of professionals to help a child remain in placement with you, return home, or move to another permanent placement such as adoption?
It requires excellent communication skills on your part, and a commitment to follow the care plan set out by the child's Local Authority social worker - even if you may disagree with some aspects of it. It also requires patience, tolerance, strength and tenacity to advocate for the child - sometimes with obstacles in your path, or red tape preventing things from happening quickly.
Can you say goodbye?
Foster care is not always a permanent arrangement; the children you look after may move on one day. Permanency is what you want for them, however you and your family have attached to the child, so saying goodbye won't be easy at all...
Attachment is a good thing, both for you and for the child in particular. If they can attach to and trust you, they may be able to do the same with others in their lives which is a great thing. Goodbye also does not have to mean forever. In some cases, with permission from the birth parent or adopted parent, a relationship with your foster children can remain intact for many years ahead.
But the fact remains, as a foster carer you will need to prepare yourself to say goodbye and be ready for it when and if it happens.
If you have children, how do they feel about you fostering?
It's important to consider every member of your family when thinking about fostering a child. Everyone who lives at or visits your household will be interacting with the foster child. Your children will have to share their home, room, toys and parents; they sacrifice a lot in becoming part of a foster family.
Ask your children how they feel about it before applying. And be aware that your child may learn or pick up whatever the foster child knows, both the good and the bad. Are you prepared to stand guard at all times, making sure your home is safe for all who live there?
There is also the question of age ranges. Consider the ages of your own children and where another child would fit into your family. At Kasper we look to have at least a two year age difference (both actual and developmental) between birth and foster children. This may limit the age range of children you are able to foster.
It's important to consider the types and ages of children you are comfortable caring for - taking into account your own family's circumstances, as well as the behaviours and difficulties you would feel confident managing. Be aware that many behaviours may not surface until the child feels safe enough to be him or herself.
Still got questions?
You can contact the Kasper team to talk through all your questions, concerns or feelings about fostering. Call our head office on 01227 275985 or click to request a callback. You can also download our Guide to Becoming a Foster Carer here.