When a child is unable to stay with their birth family, either temporarily or permanently, it is a challenging and emotionally traumatic time for everyone involved. Foster carers are an essential part of the support system which ensures the wellbeing of many children in the UK every year. Fostering is often seen as synonymous with adoption, but it can be treated as much as a career choice. Like any career that involves working with children, it is a challenging pursuit that is rich with opportunity for personal and professional development.
Why Should I Foster Children?
Deciding to become a foster carer is a life-changing decision that will impact you and those around you. No one should take the decision lightly, but there are also plenty of steps in place to ensure everyone who applies to be a foster parent is suitable to be one. There is training available, so even if you have raised your children, no one will expect you to become an expert overnight. You will be given continuous training that will help you to develop your skills as a foster carer. As foster carers are also paid an allowance, it is possible to make a career of it.
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The Different Kinds of Fostering
Not all children in care have the same needs. Some foster carers provide emergency care, which would be one or two nights at short notice due to unexpected circumstances. There is also remand fostering, which is a short-term solution while a young person waits for their case to return to court. Intensive Fostering is an alternative to prison (or secure accommodation) for young people and it is very useful in helping them to turn their lives around. Children at risk of becoming juvenile offenders may also be placed in youth justice foster care to help them put their lives back on track.
Permanent foster care arrangements can last for months or years until a young person can live independently. Planned break fostering gives full-time carers cover for holidays and special occasions while giving the young person a chance to meet new people. This is also a great way for new carers to get some hands on experience before deciding if they want to pursue it as a career. And finally, short breaks can give physically challenged children and their parents a break from each other, as it is a very emotionally demanding position.
Children can end up in care for so many different reasons, but whatever the cause, it will inevitably be a traumatic time for the child. This can lead to challenging behavioral problems which can be difficult for foster carers to predict. This is no reason to put anyone off becoming a foster carer, as training and support are provided every step of the way. Provided you can offer a stable environment and are up for the challenge of continually developing your skills, there is no reason you shouldn’t be the perfect foster carer.
Other problems you might face will be dealing with the other people involved in the child’s life. This can include court officials, social workers, teachers, their birth parents, and siblings. You will have to maintain contact with everyone involved in their life, and may be required to provide unbiased reports for the courts about things like their performance in school and relationship with their parents.
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Steps to Becoming a Foster Carer
In the UK, there are two routes to becoming a foster parent. You can either go through your local authority or contact a private fostering agency. Local authorities tend to place children much quicker, so you won’t have an empty room for long. They also tend to place children from your local area, so the school run shouldn’t be too difficult. Private fostering agencies tend to provide a more personalized service and can offer more tailored support as a result. They might also place a child from a neighboring town, so you might have a little further to go on the school run.
If you’re thinking about fostering, get in touch with your local authority and a few local agencies to help you decide which is best for you.