Fostering and Adoption
A good foster home might make all the difference in the world to an otherwise unstable childhood. But do you have the time, patience and unconditional love that it takes?
Fostering provides a temporary home for a child whose parents are unable to look after them, or who just need a break. Coming into a foster family for a few nights, a short stay, or as a precursor to adoption, the child may feel vulnerable and alone. Looking after their well-being could be the most challenging and rewarding thing you’ve ever done, but it will certainly impact on all the family, so it’s important to think about every aspect of the role before you begin.
What kind of background should I have?
Just as children come from a wide range of backgrounds, foster families don’t just have to be conventional married couples. Whatever your background, there is an option for fostering so long as you are:
- Physically fit enough to look after a child
- Responsible enough to cope with the kind of issues that foster children might have
- Willing to undergo police checks to be accredited to work with children
What kind of background would a foster child have?
Once again, there are as many types of children as there are carers. Some will have never stayed with another family before and others will have been experienced a lifetime of care. Still others will require your commitment to helping them deal with emotional trauma, physical or learning disabilities.
Can I afford to foster?
There are three main ways to foster in the UK, through your local authority, or through a private or voluntary organisation. Foster caring was traditionally a labour of love, and although many people do still foster voluntarily, it can now be considered a profession of sorts. Foster carers receive an allowance to look after a child, and also charge a fee (dependant on their experience). Carers are eligible for tax relief and receive NI contributions towards their state pension.
No matter which agency you choose, you will be entitled to training and ongoing support from your local authority, who will stay in touch with you and oversee your supervision of the child. All carers are reviewed annually, enabling you and your social worker to assess where more training might enhance your fostering ability.
Where can I find out more?
Search for a local foster agency in the British Association for Adoption and Fostering’s (BAAF) online database: (http://www.baaf.org.uk/res/agencydb/index.shtml). They might be able to put you in touch with a family or group in your area who have fostering experience and who would be willing to talk through any concerns you have. Try picking up one of the books from the list below. The BAAF newsletter also makes compelling reading, with real life features from carers and children alike.
- Fostering a Child: A guide for people interested in fostering by Henrietta Bond a great introduction for people considering fostering in the UK
- We are Fostering! By Jean Camis a workbook for foster children and carers to work through issues together
- Lesbian and Gay Fostering and Adoption: Extraordinary yet ordinary by Stephen Hicks Draws on real- life positive aspects of gay and lesbian parenting.