Applying to foster care
Applicants are required for children and young people aged between 0 and 18, from different backgrounds, abilities, including specialised placements such as sibling groups, children with special needs and Parent and Child placements.
You will need to have:
• The time and energy to invest in a child or young person
• A bedroom for the exclusive use of the foster child
• Couples will need to arrange their working hours so that one carer can be available full time
• Single carers will need to be at home full-time, or have flexible, part-time employment or be able to work bank shifts
• Hold a full UK driving licence or have excellent transport links
Most people can
The main criteria
You don’t need to have had your own children, experience of parenting or caring for children is desirable but not essential. Foster Carers are ordinary people of all ages, from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds.
You can apply to foster care if you are married or living together, single, divorced, widowed, in a single sex relationship, be working or unemployed, own a home or rent, have birth children or not.
If you are on Benefits, you will not lose them. Any money that you get paid for foster caring is an allowance that is paid to you to be spent on the child. It is not classed as a ‘wage’ so your benefits are safe.
Sharing their home with a stranger is a significant thing for birth children, especially when they are children. How birth children manage the change, and deal with the issues, can decide if a placement is successful or not.
Foster caring involves everyone in the household and relies on everyone supporting each other when the need arises to make it a success. As with all families, there will be arguments and disagreements, however fostering families also have lots of fun, make positive friendships and develop fond memories.
Find about rules for foster children in the home.
As part of the foster carer assessment process, the social worker will have a session with any other children in the family on their own which gives them the best opportunity to say what they think about the idea.
Foster carers’ children should have easy access to the family’s Supervising Social Worker and contact with other young people who foster in the area. Most fostering agencies have birth children groups which provide support and the chance to share their experiences and meet others in similar situations.
The best fostering agencies recognise that it’s important for sons and daughters and their parents to spend time quality together without foster children, therefore helping to reduce the pressures. Good agencies providing respite care when foster children will spend time with other foster carers or support workers.
Simply Fostering has built a comprehensive membership of fostering agencies with vacancies where you live so if you want to change your life, save yourself time and frustration by contacting us and start the fostering journey by making the best choice of agency.
How difficult can it be?
We naturally assume that everyone who signs up to fostering and completes the rigorous assessment, is totally committed to caring for children and young people, giving them a better life. Stability is the most essential thing we can give these children and to do that we need to be unconditional in all that we do with and for them.
Sounds straight forward, doesn’t it. Easy even!
My challenge is how to fully prepare carers to cope with the trauma, with the emotional distress that these children and young people may well be carrying. It is not enough to have brought up our own children, to have given them the unconditional love, care, attention and support from the birth.
From the minute the child/young person arrives on your door-step, they enter their new home, not just another placement.
Even as an adult I really do not like staying overnight with people I do not know well. I find it unsettling, I don’t know the rules. Will it seem rude if I say I would like an early night? Or that I would like to stay up and read? And what if I wake early? Is it OK to get up and go and get a drink? Can I go outside, can I make some breakfast ?
If I can feel like that just on an overnight stay, then what on earth is going through a child or young person’s mind! Even our families and our closest friends are all likely to do things differently. From an emotional perspective we expect a lot from these children and young people. We talk about children being resilient, but do we know how resilient or have they shut down and become compliant?
So we need to put children and young people first, to show them that we want to care for them, support them, to invest time, energy and share our home with them. To do that we must ascertain their expectations, aspirations, fears and concerns. We must make very sure that we are not judging these children and young people against expectations we have or had of our own children.
That’s why carers need understanding, positive attitudes, strength of character and self-awareness to ensure that they can make their home a stable home for those for whom they care, need to be accepting, aware of individuality and difference, able to share the individual’s trauma, story and to build relationships from where they are, in that moment. Many of us regress to younger behaviour when we are hurt and upset, these children and young people may also.
There are three important areas of learning/information that I feel may enable foster carers to understand and cope with these complexities; building on the knowledge, learning and life experience.
Firstly being aware of their own parenting style is important, along with the understanding that you can change elements of your style if required. Foster carers may want to consider how their own style may impact on the child or young person. It is normal for children to go through different stages in their lives, the ‘terrible twos’, the ‘troublesome threes’ as described by some theorists.
As parents we can expect to have times where there may be some conflict, stretching, challenging and breaking of boundaries. These stages are all part of growing up and children will approach them differently as will siblings, as will parents.
It may be useful for carers to consider their own parenting style and think about how that may impact on the child or young person.
“Parenting styles can be divided into three categories: authoritarian (a parents-know-best approach that emphasizes obedience); permissive (which provides few behavioural guidelines because parents don’t want to upset their children); and authoritative (which blends a caring tone with structure and consistent limit-setting).”
Secondly knowing about learning styles may enable more support for the child or young person in their learning. If someone is a ‘reflector’ there is no point in expecting quick decisions, when the individual really needs thinking time. We can all become frustrated, even anxious if an activity or directive seems too complex. My preference is learning through ‘doing’ the pragmatist, whereas my husband prefers the more theoretical approach, the theorist and reflector.
The model that I like is Honey and Mumford’s theory, there are several others on the web, there are also quizzes that you can do to find out what your preference is, you might be surprised! http://www.le.ac.uk/users/rjm1/etutor/resources/learningtheories/honeymumford.html
Thirdly it’s important to have an understanding of ‘Transference’ one way people understand one another and which may form the basis of a new relationship. As its name suggests, it involves the idea of transferring something from one life situation to another. When transference occurs we are trying to understand someone, often someone we don’t know very well. We assume that they are similar to someone else we have interacted with previously and will feel and behave in ways that are similar to that person.
Transference can occur in all our relationships. Our transference gives us feelings from our past that affect, sometimes control, our responses to our current relationships. If someone reminds you of your rather strict and dominant grandmother you may feel vulnerable and anxious around that person. You may have had a blazing row or fight with someone who was wearing a high vis jacket, when you see the another person with that same jacket you brace yourself for another fight.
Despite it being a different individual, the similarities trigger a reaction that you had with the previous person.
It seems that transference can be triggered by any of the senses, smell, sound, visual, touch. For a child or young person who has experienced sadness, fear, pain, rejection, grief and loss those sensory triggers are likely to evoke painful feelings that will affect mood and behaviours. This may happen quickly and intensely without warning.
If we think about our own experience of transference and triggers we may have a better understanding of the individuals that we care for. https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/transference/
Every single child we care for has different needs, presents different challenges and can in the end teach us new ways of meeting those challenges.
That’s why we never stop learning. And never should!
Cathy Mayes, Independent Trainer/Facilitator – For Simply Fostering