If you have no experience of fostering, ask yourself what preconceptions you have about people who foster. What are they like in your head?
Perhaps you think they are all saintly do-gooders, always putting the needs of others before themselves. Well, you’d be wrong, and although this is a common misconception it really isn’t true.
You might even think that foster parents do it for financial gain, not for any altruistic reasons at all. This again is a commonly held belief amongst people with no fostering experience. And again, couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, the only thing that really unites the kind of people who foster, is exactly the same thing that unites you, me and everyone else on the planet. Namely that we’re all human beings with feelings, emotions, needs, wants and desires to be happy. There is no specific ‘type’ of foster parent just as there is no specific type of firefighter, traffic warden or table tennis player.
The truth is that foster parents come from all walks of life, and people do it for many different reasons but mainly because they want to help children who are having a rough time in life – and also because it makes them feel happy.
There are also many people who may think they are unsuitable to be a foster parent but may be mistaken about this too. Foster parents come from all ethnic backgrounds, religions and age groups. They are single or married, gay or straight, employed or on benefits. With a few exceptions (such as a lower age limit, background check and suitability assessment) anyone can do it.
And contrary to what many believe, nobody ever got rich by being a foster parent. Sure there are certain financial aids and reliefs for those who foster but they are provided specifically for the benefit of the kids being fostered and no one else.
Most people who foster don’t want to be thought of as saints. They’re people who, just like you and me, make mistakes, bad choices and silly decisions – it’s impossible not to in life. However, they try and always do their best to improve the lives of those in their care. And with the help of the fostering services, hopefully do the right thing more often than not.
Previous parental experience is of course an advantage but is by no means essential when fostering. As long as you have the best interests of the children at heart, can remain non-judgmental and are willing to work as part of a team to ensure that any children in your care have the best standard of life possible for that time (however long or short it may be), then you too can be a foster carer.
Ideally you should be a good communicator, as you will have to get along with not just the kids but with other professionals and even some of the parents during the course of your fostering experience.
It’s not an easy job, so be under no illusions. But then raising any children and preparing them for the world, keeping them safe and teaching them valuable life lessons never is easy. All we can do is try our hardest to do the best possible job. If you can do all of that, then you can be a foster parent. Nothing else comes in to it.
Phone:0845 200 4040