There is currently a need for at least 8,100 new fostering families in the UK over the next 12 months to ensure that every child entering foster care can live with a family which meet their needs. There is a specific need for foster carers to look after teenagers, sibling groups and children with disabilities.
Without more people coming forward to foster there will be less choice for fostering services which could result in children facing considerable disruption such as being sent out of their local area to live – away from their support networks including friends, teachers and extended family.
The need is great, so where are these foster carers going to be found?
Well, in reality, foster carers can, and do, come from all walks of life. From butchers, bakers and candlestick makers (we’re sure there is one out there) to ex-service personnel, company directors and computer programmers. We know from our members that they have varied interests and hobbies; they represent a range of age groups and hold a wide array of skills and experiences.
Foster carers can be any gender or sexuality, from any culture, religion or belief system, they can be single, married or living with a partner – the list could go on. In other words, your background should not prevent you from considering fostering.
There are only a few criteria you need to meet to be a foster carer but these criteria are absolutely essential.
- be 18 or older (although most services will only accept people over 21)
- have a spare room
- be a full-time UK resident or have leave to remain
be able to provide a child, who is coming into care, the time, love, and support to help them thrive.
You should also consider your:
- health – it is a demanding role which you should expect to do for a good few years
- finances – do you know what fees or allowances you will receive
- support network – do you have family members and friends who can help you out both practically and emotionally
suitability – do you have previous convictions, do you have the right temperament, do you enjoy spending time looking after children and young people?
Some of these might seem obvious but all of these things could have a bearing on how much you will enjoy fostering and how well you will perform in the role.
Of course, fostering isn’t for everybody and not everyone has the skills to be a good foster carer – but don’t rule yourself out because of your background, age, gender and so on. Get in touch with a fostering service and ask them if they think you could foster.