Mythbusting The Top Ten Myths about Fostering
All too often, people disqualify themselves from making changes in their lives. The reason for clinging to an unsatisfying status quo can range from fear of change to false beliefs in their ability to undertake a new venture, to simple misinformation. This applies to every aspect of life, including and maybe especially, when it comes to changing careers.
If you are one of those people who have been looking for a career change, perhaps to a job that has the potential to increase the quality of your life while making a huge difference in the lives of children and young people, you may be accepting some old myths about fostering. These are the types of myths that can make you disqualify yourself from even looking into what fostering is all about and what it involves.
Let’s take a quick look at the reality of fostering and who can foster. The answers may surprise you!
We live in a vibrant and diverse world where one size does not fit all. Foster children need homes where they will feel safe, valued, and loved. This is first and foremost in the world of foster care. To provide the social profile of the ideal foster parent would limit the power of fostering to a much narrower range.
Here are the top ten myths about fostering. How many of these myths have you believed?
1. I’m single, so I can’t be a foster parent
Foster carers are not required to be married. They need to have a desire to look after children and young people and help them work toward a brighter future. Single men and women are welcomed, and encouraged to become foster carers. If you have patience, a caring heart, a sense of humour, good health, and plenty of energy, you have what it takes to be a fine foster parent. As a foster carer, you are part of a larger team so there is no need to have a spouse to share the responsibilities of caring for a child. You never foster alone; there is a strong team working with you.
When a local authority or independent fostering agency brings a new carer onto the team, marital status is not a factor. Being in good health is.
2. I don’t own a home, so I can’t be a foster parent
Foster agencies have one requirement when it comes to a potential foster parent’s housing. The carer must have a spare bedroom for the foster child. Each child has to have a bedroom with enough space for a bed, chest of drawers, and a desk. If you have more than one spare room, so much the better. There are often sibling groups who need placement and if you have room for two (or more) children, this allows brothers and sisters to stay together in care. Since it has been proven that children fare better in adulthood when they are able to be placed with their siblings, this is a much-desired situation.
You do not need to own your home. It can be rented. You do have to check with your landlord before applying to be a foster carer and have them provide approval for foster children in your flat or house. On a landlords’ forum online, there was a discussion about whether a landlord should provide the local authority with permission for a tenant to be a foster parent in his rental unit and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The financial security and the personality of being a carer were considered to be good points for a tenant. If the building allows families with children, the consensus was that there is no difference in whether the children were biological or fostered.
3. I’d love to foster but I’m gay
Being gay does not disqualify you from being a foster carer. Single gay and lesbian people, as well as gay and lesbian couples, are encouraged to become foster carers. Of all the components that go into a foster carer, your orientation is not on the list. Your health, your compassion, your flexibility, and your energy are the factors that count.
Any placement is discussed with both the child and the foster parent before it happens and whether you’re male or female, gay or straight, bisexual or transgender is not an issue. The focus is on the child’s sense of security and the foster home’s loving and safe environment.
4. I want to foster but don’t want to give up work
The reality is that when you become a foster carer, your first obligation is to the child in care and this is a 24/7 job. However, fostering may turn out to be a sporadic job and you might not always have a placement. Without a placement, there is no payment. We all need to be realistic about keeping on with your existing work.
One side of the argument is that fostering is considered by many to be a career and you should be able to provide a home to children in care without being distracted by another job. While fostering is often considered as a career, fostering is not primarily about the pay you receive.
When you apply to be a carer, you discuss your job and your desire to keep it. Arrangements can often be made to accommodate it along with fostering. If for instance, you have a spouse or partner, one of you can always be available for the child. If your hours of work coincide with the child’s time in school, and you have the ability to leave the job if you must attend a meeting at the school regarding the child, that would be acceptable.
This is an example of how flexibility would accommodate both your job and your fostering. Another example involves the type of fostering. In respite foster care, you know in advance when you will have a foster child with you and how long he or she will be with you. Don’t disqualify yourself from fostering because you work. Talk to the agency and see how it can be arranged to suit both you and the agency.
5. I am retired and too old to foster
Age is just a number. You may have heard that before in another context but in fostering it is absolutely true. At Capstone Foster Care, we have a lower age limit of 21 but that is mostly about maturity. There is no upper age limit. There are, however, health requirements. If you are in good health, mentally and physically, and have a high energy level, being a senior citizen is not an impediment to being a foster parent. Age brings maturity, mellowness, and wisdom. These are very positive attributes in fostering, as well as in life in general.
6. I have a baby, so I can’t foster
Do not eliminate the possibility of fostering because you have a baby. When you apply to become a foster parent, your current situation is discussed and assessed. A new baby in your household will bring many changes but these changes do not preclude you fostering. Your ability to provide the care that your baby requires and that the foster child needs will be considered. It is important that you are not overwhelmed and that neither the baby nor the child in care is left wanting, or needing, more attention and care than you can provide.
7. I have pets, so I can’t become a foster carer
Pets are considered great therapy pals for children in care so the first response to this myth is, of course you can become a foster carer if you have pets. There is a “but” in this response. There are two exceptions to the statement that having pets will not disqualify you from fostering.
Local authorities will not allow children or young people to be placed in homes with more than three dogs or in a home with dogs listed in the Dangerous Dogs Act. The four breeds banned by the Dangerous Dogs Act are the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasileiro.
8. I am disabled so cannot take care of a foster child
Not all disabilities disqualify you from fostering. While there is an emphasis on good health for foster carers, disabilities are not necessarily disqualifiers. If fostering will not put your health at risk, a disability will not prevent you from being a foster parent. There are expectations that must be met and if you can perform typical daily activities and attend necessary meetings, your disability will not be a preventative factor in fostering.
9. I don’t have my own children so don’t have the experience to foster a child
Experience is not required to be a foster parent. Not everyone can have children. Not everyone is at the stage in life where they have had the opportunity to have children yet. This does not mean that you don’t have all the necessary mental, physical, and emotional equipment necessary to foster a child. The primary equipment is a willingness to care for a child and the ability to make a home where the child will feel loved and protected.
As for the experience, the agency provides ongoing training and support. If you have never had a child and therefore think that you will not know what to expect from a child placed with you, do not be concerned. A supervising social worker will be available for you from the beginning of your assessment and throughout your journey as a carer. Between the training and the social worker and the staff of agency experts, you will be able to find all the answers and support that you need.
Aside from this, each child is unique. There is no way to judge that one child at a certain age will behave the way another child at that age behaved. If you have never, for instance, cared for a teenager, you will learn all you need to know in the training and support you receive from the agency.
10. I’m unemployed so can’t foster
Being unemployed has a good fostering factor – it means that you are available to care for a child all day, every day. You are able to attend training sessions, meetings, and appointments that involve fostering and the child’s medical, educational, and social needs without having to reschedule prior commitments.
During the assessment process, being unemployed is not considered. Being employed might be a factor because the assessment is focused on your accessibility and availability to the child in care. Being unemployed assures that you are accessible and available to meet the child’s need at all times.
There is a financial repercussion to being unemployed in some cases. If you have not had a job income for some time, you could possibly have a debt load. During the assessment process, one of the matters that is discussed is your financial situation. While fostering allowances provide for all the child’s necessities and cover expenses so that there is food and shelter, they are only paid when there is a child in your care.
Your financial stability during times where there is no placement is a consideration and it is expected that you can show that you can handle your finances in the periods between placements.
Fostering is flexible and responsive to the realities of life and the world around us. Foster agencies and local authorities are not seeking a cookie-cutter household for children and young people in care. Foster parents who reflect the culture and diversity of the area bring children in care a demonstration of real life, with love and compassion, as well as safety, security, and an opportunity to flourish in life.
Don’t count yourself out of fostering based on a misconception of who can be a foster carer. If you have questions or concerns that have not been answered here, get in touch with Capstone Foster Care. We are eager to talk to you and answer your questions. Any concerns you have about your acceptability as a carer is open for discussion.
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