In March 2016, there were 70,440 children in care throughout the UK. This is an increase on the previous year when 69,540 children were in care. With more children entering the system than leaving it, either by turning 18, returning to their family or being placed with a family permanently, it’s clear that more foster carers are needed every year. This problem isn’t isolated to the UK and countries throughout the world are reporting shortages in foster carer numbers.
One of the biggest problems facing foster carer recruiters is that there are so many misconceptions around how foster care works and who can become a foster carer. Many people go through life without realising that they could make ideal foster carers, meaning that some children will be left in children’s homes rather than in loving family homes. Let’s clear up some of these foster care myths once and for all…
Who can become a foster carer?
If you’re over the age of 21, have no criminal record and can provide a stable and loving home to a child in need, you could become a foster carer. There is no upper age limit, and you don’t have to be married or own your own home. Same sex couples are welcome to apply, as are single people or unmarried couples. You don’t have to have a job, either. Unemployed people are welcome to apply, and foster care can even be a brilliant way back into the workforce for stay at home mums. The foster carer allowance is very generous, meaning that it can provide supplementary income for retirement-age individuals or those not in work.
What professions make ideal foster carers?
- Foster children need a stable environment, which is why ex-servicemen and women make ideal foster carers. Skills in leadership and teamwork that are developed in the military will mean you are well-placed for offering a troubled young person guidance at a difficult time in their life. Children in foster care often lack strong role models, so living with an ex-serviceman or woman can be vital to ensuring the foster child has a diverse selection of people in their life.
- Social workers have an in-depth understanding of the foster care system, in addition to seemingly endless compassion and understanding, so they will bring a unique insight to the role. It also helps to be able to navigate the system and speak the lingo. The social care system can be overwhelming to newcomers, so those with experience working with the various parties involved in keeping children safe can be a huge advantage.
- An appreciation for education is also essential, so retired teachers also make the ideal foster carers. Teachers are often accustomed to dealing with difficult behaviour and can also help to ensure foster children don’t fall behind in school. Teachers will be used to dealing with a wide-range of people, which is an essential skill if the child still has some contact with their birth family.
How do I know if I will be a good foster carer?
No one expects you to become a perfect foster carer overnight. Training is provided to help you develop essentials skills and learn to cope with anything the foster care system can throw at you. Whether you apply through your local authority or a private fostering agency, your will be given as much training as you need to be the best foster carer you can be.
Becoming a foster carer requires great emotional strength and maturity to be able to deal with the complex challenges. You will also require a good sense of humour, as you may find yourself faced with some unique challenges.