Becoming a foster parent is an extraordinary way to make a big difference in a young person’s life. However, often people don’t realise they’re eligible to apply, or they don’t apply as they think their application will automatically be rejected.
With huge numbers of children desperate for a stable and loving home environment though, please don’t be put off.
Here are common misconceptions about fostering – things you may not have known and things to expect when applying.
1. Fostering is more common than you think – Statistics suggest that there are more than 63,000 children living with foster families across the UK. Malika Azahri of Norwich is one of these families and says “if you have time and a spare room and want to be a foster carer for the right reasons, go for it” and “seeing foster children smile and experience new things makes it worth it.”
2. People can be surprisingly insensitive – You may unfortunately find friends and family suddenly come out with some staggeringly insensitive remarks such as “Ohhh you’re brave” or “what’s his mother’s story?” This may simply be from lack of understanding about what fostering actually entails, but it may mean you’ll need to develop a slightly thicker skin.
3. Their parents are humans too – After meeting a child and hearing their difficult story, it can be understandable to feel deep resentment towards their biological parents. However, hating them isn’t the answer. Instead, try to help the child move past their past by staying positive and keeping an open mind.
4. Some children may be shy at first– You may find that some foster children are quiet, shy and reserved when they first move into your home, don’t worry. Usually this is just because they’re getting used to their new surroundings and family.
5. Age is no limit – Many people don’t realise that there’s actually no upper age limit on fostering in the UK and so don’t let your age put you off of giving a child a loving home. As long as you’re over 21, we value life experiences and know what with age comes wisdom.
6. You don’t have to be an existing parent – Another common misconception is that to be a foster parent, you need to have children already. Although having another child in the household can provide additional support for your foster child, people with no children can still apply and can still provide a happy, nurturing home environment.
7. You don’t need to be rich – Although it’s important to be able to support any new child financially, becoming a foster parent doesn’t depend on a bulging bank balance. What’s more important is being able to provide a happy and stable family environment for a child to grow up in.
8. It’s OK to say no – If you’re a foster parent dealing with short-term care, the time may come when you need a break. If you get asked to look after another child, you’re perfectly within your rights to say no at any time. Your well-being is essential for the well-being of the children within your care.
9. You can still work – Many people think you can’t have a successful career whilst being foster parents. Although you need to ensure your core responsibilities as a foster parent are being met, there is no reason why you can’t work. In fact, many foster parents continue to work in part time roles, so they can enjoy the best of both worlds.
10. The foster process isn’t necessarily difficult – Put off by the application process? While the process may be lengthy, it is clear to complete and there is always lots of support along the way. It’ll also be worth it at the end, when you get assigned with a child you can love and care for.
11. You can be male – Think that only women are allowed to apply to become a foster parent? On the contrary! The unique value male foster parents offer is now becoming widely recognised and so don’t hold off from applying!
12. You don’t have to own your own home – Many foster parents live in rented accommodation so don’t worry you’re not a home owner! Having enough room for a child to develop is the most important thing.