Over 65,000 children live with almost 55,000 foster families across the UK each day. Foster Care Fortnight runs from today, 14th May, until 27th May 2018 and aims to raise the profile of fostering and to show how foster care can transform lives. Keep reading to hear one couple’s fostering story and find out more about being a foster carer
What is fostering?
Foster carers look after children when their parents are not able to. In order to become a foster carer, you need to have a spare room and be at least 21 years old. There are other criteria, depending on whether you go through your local council or with an independent fostering agency. For example, you must be living in Staffordshire to foster through Staffordshire County Council.
Foster carers can be married or single and be in a same sex relationship, but most will recommend that, if you are in a relationship, you have lived with each other for a minimum of two years.
There is financial support available for foster carers, whether you go through the council or through an agency, as well as ongoing training and support while you are placed with a child.
Could you foster?
There are many different types of fostering arrangements, from short-term and long-term care, to private fostering and supported lodgings. One type may be better for you than another.
If you do decide to become a foster carer then there are likely to be challenges both for the child and the carer, from behavioural issues to busy schedules and saying goodbye to a child that you have a strong bond with; but the most important thing is that you provide a child with a loving and stable home.
Find out more on fostering
Staffordshire County Council are recruiting for foster carers across the county. Its ‘Foster Their Spark’ campaign aims to keep local children local.
You can also choose to foster through an independent fostering agency, there are many of these that operate in and around Staffordshire. If you decide to go down this route, then you need to research the one which works best for you and your existing family. Be sure to speak with a few before you make your decision.
We spoke with active foster carers Joanne and Lisa from Birmingham who have been fostering since 2017. Alongside Lisa’s nine-year-old birth daughter, they currently foster a 15-year-old boy.
“From being a young girl, I’ve also had an interest in fostering,” explains Jo. “We work so well as a couple to raise our birth daughter, Emily, that we wanted to give that quality of life and those memorable experiences to other children who really need it.”
Lisa continues: “There are so many vulnerable children out there who need a stable, safe and supportive family environment, and we have the space in our home and heart to provide this. After speaking with our friends and family, we decided that fostering was the journey we wanted to embark upon, and we haven’t looked back since.
“Emily enjoys activities alongside our foster children, which helps her to feel a part of the fostering process, and has ensured she’s reacted well to being part of a family that fosters,” explains Lisa.
“As with anything in life, there are difficult times,” says Jo, “however, we put our own spin on this and we see these moments as development and training opportunities. We learn from the challenges and this makes us more skilled and effective as carers.
“Despite this, our journey as foster carers has provided us with many more highs than lows, and makes us feel truly rewarded and proud of the difference we’re making to children’s lives.”
“If you’re a couple, you need to work together as a team, communicate constantly and support each other every step of the way. You must be stable in your relationship and family life, and both be committed to the fostering role,” advises Lisa.
“You also need to be open and honest with each other, and the foster agency and professionals. Choose placements that you feel you can manage and that match your family circumstances, especially if you have birth children, and ask for help if you need it.”
Jo adds: “Be open to different placements – at first we weren’t, however, we’ve come to realise that it opens many more opportunities for us as a family. Importantly, enjoy the rewards fostering brings.”
Lisa and Jo say: “If you’re thinking about fostering, talk to family and friends to ensure you have a support network. Speak with people who already foster and find out more about the role. It’s a 24/7 job and you need to embrace the role with everything you have.
“It can be truly rewarding and incredibly enjoyable, and though there will be challenges, the rewards will undoubtedly outweigh these.
“In the short time we’ve been fostering, we’ve already made many amazing memories and moments that we’ll cherish forever. As a family, we’re looking forward to creating many more.”
Joanne and Lisa foster through independent fostering agency, Foster Care Associates (FCA).
Find out more on Foster Care Fortnight 2018 at The Fostering Network.