The process towards becoming a foster carer doesn’t have to be a headache – broken down, you can work through each step and soon be able to give a child a home
Whether its motherhood that’s brought out your need to nurture; you’re experiencing empty nest syndrome or you simply want to give a child a home, fostering a child could be for you.
As a foster carer you’ll provide a home for a child that can’t live with his parents for whatever reason – usually this is a temporary situation as the aim is always for the child to return home to live with his parents.
Who can be a foster carer?
Don’t be put off by thinking that you aren’t a ‘desirable’ foster carer – you don’t have to be Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music to meet the criteria.
‘You can be married, single or living with a partner, and sexuality doesn’t get in the way of becoming a foster carer,’ explains Alan Wood, director of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.
‘There’s also no automatic cut-off date in terms of being ‘too old’ to foster. You will be assessed on your own merits, so be open and honest.’
Does a foster carer get paid?
You’ll receive an allowance to cover the cost of the child you look after, which is set up by your fostering agency and is dependent on the age of the child.
Fostering Network produces an annual guide, Foster Care Finance. This recommends the basic levels of allowances it believes agencies should be paying.
‘Many local authorities and independent fostering agencies run schemes, which pay you for fostering a child,’ explains Alan. ‘This may be reflective of the child's particular needs but is often a reflection of the length of experience or professional expertise you have.’
Locate a foster service
You need to look local when it comes to fostering and you can find fostering agencies close to you through the British Association for Adoption and Fostering website.
‘Many local authorities and independent agencies advertise frequently,’ explains Alan. ‘You can also directly contact your local authority fostering service. Just get in touch with your council to find out the right person to contact.’
Prepare your family
Anyone you already live with will be involved in the assessment process and it’s just as important to talk to family members who don’t live with you, too.
You and your family should do as much homework as possible
‘Fostering has a big impact on your life,’ says Alan. ‘You and your family should do as much homework as possible and come up with a list of questions to ask the social worker. This will show that you are thinking about the process carefully.’
Everyone in your family will be paid a visit by an agency representative who will ask routine questions such as “What is your daily routine?” and “How do you see a foster child fitting into your life?”
‘This interview will be completed before you can become an approved foster carer,’ says Alan. ‘You may also have to give permission for a police check. The assessing social worker will talk to you in detail about the checks and the assessment process as a whole.’
The training process
Before becoming a foster carer, you’ll need to have some training that will help you understand some of the challenges that may crop up when looking after a child who has been separated from his birth family.
‘Once approved there is on-going training offered that allows you to learn about more in-depth issues that may come up,’ says Alan. ‘The training is designed to build upon the skills that you’ve developed and also to introduce you to new ideas.’
While the life skills and parenting know how you have will undoubtedly help, you’ll be taking on a vulnerable and potentially troubled child, so make sure to take up all the advice and support you can get, both beforehand and while you’re in the midst of fostering.