When is enough, actually enough?

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Are you ready to stop fostering, or have you considered stopping fostering in the past few months? I really do hope not but, it happens. Foster carers, for all sorts of reasons, sometimes decide to stop fostering and move on to other ‘adventures’. I’m aiming to find out why and what can be done to address some of the common factors that cause foster carers to stop fostering.

I am changing direction. Having been a foster carer for 12 years I am now project managing the Foster Carer Retention Project for The Fostering Network, funded by The Exilarch’s Foundation, I am not ready to stop altogether.

We (my husband and I) offer respite, and our young man is ‘staying put’ until he lives independently. He has been in foster care with my husband for 12 years, and me for eight (ours is a long story - we met because of fostering).

I have fostered many children ranging from toddlers to teenagers. To quote one of my fostering colleagues ‘no one said fostering would be easy!’ None of my placements have been easy, and they have all been very different. I would imagine, if you are a foster carer too, then yours have been as well.

Fostering is wonderful, challenging, frustrating, awe inspiring, exhausting, uplifting and amazing. Living with these, sometimes extreme, emotions can be difficult. This can lead to foster carers stopping fostering before they had originally planned and, indeed, sometimes even before they really want to.

The Fostering Network has launched a project to discover why around 13 per cent of foster carers stop fostering each year. We will discuss themes and reasons, and try to determine if an exit interview can support the feelings and emotions surrounding the departure of foster carers. How can fostering services learn from the experiences of those leaving, so that they can offer enhanced services to other families?

As a foster carer, I had a cheeky thought when I began working on this project. I wanted to tell those interviewing me that I didn’t need a year to research and discover why foster carers stop fostering - had they given me ten minutes I could have quite happily told them why! However, that would have been only my opinion and that simply isn’t enough.

Although The Fostering Network has accumulated over 40 years of evidence – including through our State of the Nation survey - we would like to keep hearing from foster carers, both past and present. 

Have you struggled (it’s ok to say so) or do you sail through fostering with a song and a smile? Tell us if you enjoy excellent support, or if you wish things were different. Does your young person’s local authority work closely with you, or do you gallantly feel like you have to go it alone?

Throughout this project we will be seeking the views of organisations, fostering service staff and foster carers to share their experience of exit interviews. A survey to non-foster carers will soon be launched to identify how other sectors approach exit interviews. We will be extremely grateful if you can help by sharing this with friends and family to help us identify any good practice and shape our work.

Soon after, we will be seeking the views of foster carers to share their stories. Please do look out for this in enews, on our website or social media. Your views are vital in helping fostering services support foster carers and ensuring we can provide the best care for all children in foster care.

Michelle.Galbraith@fostering.net