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Could millennials be the solution to the foster care crisis?

Only 3% of foster carers are under the age of 30

There are many young children currently out there who are in need of a loving home. Some may have been separated from their parents due to abuse or neglect, or circumstances beyond their control. But the fact is, the need for foster carers – especially younger foster carers – is great.

As the number of children in foster care rises, the number of approved foster families unfortunately decreases. The UK’s target needs at least 8,500 carers this year in order to support the number of children that are in care. Ultimately, the nation is in desperate need of an influx of foster carers.

So, could the younger millennial generation be the answer?

Fostering is an ageing demographic

As the population increases, naturally, so does the need for foster cares. However, age is something of a concern in the fostering industry. Here at Capstone Foster Care, only 3% of our fostering families are below the age of 30 – whereas most of our foster carers are aged 51+:

  • Age 20-30: 3%
  • Age 31-40: 10%
  • Age 41-50: 27%
  • Age 51+: 58%

The need to receive more foster carer applications for people under the age of 30 is in demand – as shown in our age statistics above, the fostering industry is an ageing demographic. There is a greater requirement for younger adults (aged 21-40) to foster. The current fostering population is ageing, and this, therefore, may affect the future of fostering. But, how do we achieve this? Solution: by changing the perception and encouraging more millennials to foster.  

Why millennials could be the solution

Millennials are a generation who have grown up with both playing outside with friends after school while witnessing the technological growth of our world as and when it was happening. They’ve experienced both sides of the coin, and from this, generally possess qualities that would naturally be extremely beneficial to fostering children. So, why could millennials be the solution to the foster care crisis?

  • Desire to make a change in society – whether it’s climate change, eating less meat and dairy or getting involved in political issues, millennials are particularly known for their desire to make a change and help out in a national crisis. As a generation with a social conscience, becoming a foster carer could be an extremely rewarding job – and one that the average millennial who possesses this quality would feel fulfilled by.
  • Energy – Millennials are still establishing who they are as individuals and subjecting themselves to as many life experiences as they can to establish this. Fostering would be a great outlet for this energy, and a perfect example of life experience that they can gain knowledge and understanding of themselves from.
  • Time – if millennials do not yet have children of their own to look after, and perhaps less commitments, they naturally have more time to take up fostering as a career. Although fostering can fit well with young families too; setting a caring example to younger children.
  • Accepting research shows that the top two aspects millennials want to be remembered for is a) improvement in gender and LGBT equality (38.5%), and b) improvement in race relations (32%). What better candidates to help take care of young people in need?
  • Values work and family – the same research also showed that a high percentage of 16-24-year-olds value ‘enjoying work’ and ‘having a family’ as paths to happiness, compared to the older generation. As a foster carer, they’ll experience rewarding and unique work while encompassing the family life directly through their career – surely a win-win for millennials!
  • Realistic with challenges – as a millennial, unfortunately, they’re likely to have grown up in the “increasing divorce rate” era – meaning they may have witnessed their own families breaking up. By experiencing some of these issues themselves first-hand, this may better prepare them for the challenges of fostering, and provide them with more insight for their fostering placement.
  • Flexible lifestyle – in today’s working society, a flexible work-life balance is a huge benefit to individuals and families’ portfolio careers are becoming more common as is working from home. As long as the children’s needs are being met, fostering as a career can offer a very flexible working life. For those with other flexible jobs, fostering can complement these working arrangements really well.
  • Having children later – as a nation, people are generally having children a lot later than they were 30 years ago. By fostering in your twenties, or even early thirties, this gives young foster carers the chance to temporarily care for children before they settle down and have their own.

Millennial common objections to fostering

However, there are often some thoughts that millennials may have to refute the idea of fostering at a younger age:

  • Lack of freedom – by looking after a child, or children, there may be certain aspects of your life that you’ll need to alter or remove. However, foster placements do not have to limit your life entirely. Respite foster care is available for young foster carers to take time out or simply to socialise, as there is always a huge support network around you of other foster carers.
  • Don’t own a property – with the housing prices continually soaring, the national struggle to get on the property ladder increases. But fear not – you do not need to own your own property to foster. Renting a property (as long as you have a spare room) is perfectly acceptable for fostering.
  • Uncertain in career choice – as a young person, you may not have yet established exactly where you want to be in your career, or what career you want. Yet, for a millennial who isn’t quite sure of the path to take, fostering is a perfectly viable, and well-paid, career choice. Perfect for those who don’t want a typical 9-5 job that could become mundane and unfulfilling, fostering provides a sense of meaning and purpose to your everyday lives.

An interview in The Guardian with one of our millennial carers, Connie Robertson-Gurie, outlined the importance of millennials for the fostering industry. Connie said, “The world is changing, and we need more now in terms of the younger generation stepping up. Millennials think we’re eco-warriors and can change the world. We like to think we’re doing our bit to repair what the generation before us has left behind, and [fostering] gives you the perfect opportunity to do that. We have the future in our hands. We can make a change, and I think that’s the most appealing part about fostering.”

Millennial fostering case study

“Everyone thinks of fostering as what older people do when their children have left home – because I did, too! But obviously, it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Amelia, one of our foster carers, kindly agreed to explain some of her insights and thoughts into millennial fostering, and how she, as a 29-year-old, is finding being a foster carer at a younger age. Amelia and her partner (aged 30) are currently fostering for the first time. Neither have children, but her partner is a social worker so understands the need for younger foster carers to help with the current foster care crisis. At age 27, they first began thinking about fostering.

Amelia and her partner are currently fostering a 3-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy who are siblings. “I never considered fostering before this relationship. But we asked ourselves, why aren’t we doing it? All the reasons for not fostering were selfish ones – with fostering, we can now enjoy things altogether. Our lives really haven’t changed very much.”

One of the main concerns with young people and fostering is the prospect of missing out, whether that’s travelling, going out with friends, and generally having the independence of someone in their 20s. However, Amelia says she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on anything at all: “Now it feels like there’s more of a purpose, and everything me and partner did before, we can now do with children, too. I get more out of life now than I did before!”

“One of the best things about fostering is seeing the positive difference in the children. Their reading is improving, and they’re genuinely grateful for us looking after them. They even recently drew us a thank you card for taking care of them last week.”

When asked how long she is likely to continue fostering, Amelia replied, “I think I could do this for the rest of my life – at this moment, there’s nothing I’d want to do more.” She also explained that even when they have their own children in the future, she is still planning to foster.

Inspiring young people to even start thinking about fostering is a challenge in itself. When asked if she knew of people her age that would consider fostering, Amelia said: “By just bringing it up to family and friends, it has sparked conversations between couples about how people have always considered fostering, but have never done anything about it. Everyone thinks of it as what older people do when their children have left home – because I did, too! But obviously, it doesn’t have to be that way”.

Two of our Placements Officers – whose job it is to link between Local Authorities and Carers to place children and young people – are passionate about the impact that millennials can have. “We find that younger carers bring a different dynamic in that there is more energy to give. Many of our younger carers are less clouded about fostering and are more open in and in tune with younger people; there can often be a stronger connection with the needs of young people – we see this a lot”

So, how do I foster?

Around 70% of the fostering applicants that start the assessment process become approved as foster carers by our agency panel. This shows just how many people have the potential to become a foster carer – and with the benefits of millennials fostering analysed, many could achieve fulfilment, happiness and reward with this career choice. Millennials currently make up 35% of the population – so with 17million millennials in the UK as of January 2019, this shows we have a huge potential to tap into.

If you’re looking to become a young foster carer, or you’re simply interested in finding out more about fostering, Capstone Foster Care can help. Find out more about the fostering requirements and then get in touch with a member of our expert team today.

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