Could You Foster?
Children gone to university and looking for something new – are you suffering Empty Nest Syndrome?
When you least expect it, your children grow up and start living lives of their own. They leave home to go to university or to start a career and build their own place in the world. You miss life the way it used to be. You have a home with empty spaces echoing in your heart. You may well be emotional and might even have a sensation of loneliness.
Could you foster? Have you ever thought about applying to foster?
If you want to think about it now, here is something to consider. Fostering is more than a valuable service to society and to children who have been removed from their homes due to neglect, or who may have been abused, or who have lost their families in tragic circumstances. Fostering is also a career.
You can provide a desperately needed parenting service to young people who need someone like you in their lives. Right now, there are about 7,000 children who need homes immediately and those are just the ones who haven’t yet been placed in a foster home because there is no home available.
There are many more than the 7,000 children waiting for a place to feel safe. More than 60,000 children and young people in the UK have been placed already. These 7,000 children are the ones for who there is no foster home available. That’s why fostering agencies are looking at recruitment of people like you.
Before we go any further in talking about why you are in a perfect position to ease the agony of Empty Nest Syndrome while also doing something extremely positive for children who are potentially frightened, traumatised, or adrift, we should explain what fostering is.
Essentially, fostering is about providing a safe and secure family environment at a crucial point in a child or young person’s life. You, as a foster parent, step into the role of being a parent for a looked after child.
There is rarely much chance to know in advance a great deal about this young stranger who comes to live with you because each child’s case is different.
There is no way to describe the typical foster child. Each child is unique. The one thing they all have in common is that each child has been deprived of his or her birth parents and home for different reasons.
The majority of placements are for older children, from age 10 and up to age 18. Some have disabilities and some have behavioural difficulties. Some are babies and some are teenagers. Some are teenagers with babies. Some placements involve a sibling group. All these brothers and sisters have is each other and the preference is to place them as a unit.
There isn’t any way to know how long the child will be with you. Maybe it will be an emergency situation and the child is there overnight until he or she can return to their family home or go to live with relatives. Conversely, the child might be placed with you for years. It is not uncommon for a short-term placement to evolve into a permanent placement. Social services continue to monitor the situation with the child’s home situation to determine if the child can be returned to his or her home.
The uncertainty of how long the child will be in your care calls for a flexibility of your nature and the ability to love and to let go. Because you have raised a family that has grown and gone, you are familiar with loving and letting go. You already know what it is like to care for a child through the typical range of age-related behaviours. You know what it is like to need patience and how much energy is involved in being a mum and dad. To state it clearly, you have the experience to provide a home for children who need a home.
So, I’m an Employee? Or Am I?
You’re not an employee. You’re a self employed professional. In most situations where you are a self employed professional, with the training and qualifications that entails, you are able to set your hours and set your price. Fostering is a very special career and a much respected one, but it is different.
Not only do you not set your own fees, you can’t take your skills out into the marketplace. You have to think about taxes and you’re on call 24 hours a day. Oh, and there is another factor worth considering: you are not guaranteed any placements. The need does depend on where you live. Some places have more children and young people in care than others.
While there is no set fee for fostering, studies have shown that the average fee for fostering is about £400 per week per child in care. The rate varies depending on the needs of the child. There is extra compensation for children with special needs.
There are tax benefits such as the fixed tax exemption of up to £10,000 per year. This is for the household so if you are a couple sharing fostering, you share this exemption. It gets better. There is also tax relief for every week or part week a child is in your care. The tax relief is £200 per child under 11 and £250 per child over 11. You are also eligible for National Insurance credits, which counts towards your State Pension.
Will I Be Caring for Babies?
Probably not, but it is possible. There are many types of fostering and while you might have a specific preference for a certain type, there is no guarantee that you will always be offered the type you prefer. There is a tendency to think of most fostering as caring for children shortly after their birth. This is not the reality.
Recently, there is a trend toward parent and child fostering where the baby, young child or children are taken into care along with a parent or both parents. This is part of an effort to observe, assess, and help parents learn how to best care for their children. The child is protected while the parent learns the elements of proper child care.
It’s different for the foster carer who may be accustomed to being in charge of the child’s care and creating a bond with the child. In parent and child care, it is the bond between the parent and the child that is promoted. The foster parent is charged with advising the parent and safeguarding the child while creating an environment where the parent and child bond with each other.
It’s part of being a foster carer. You learn how to handle a variety of special situations. Children and young people in care often have special needs. There are children with disabilities and behavioural difficulties and caring for them requires specialist skills. Sometimes, registered carers need short-term respite breaks and there are foster carers who specialise in providing respite care.
Having a speciality is no guarantee that you will always have placements that call for those skills. The most common type of placement is short-term, which provides a temporary foster home. The child could be in care until they are able to return to their birth family or ready to leave care or waiting for the adoption process to be completed. They might be in a transition to long-term foster care.
Other types of foster care include emergency fostering, remand foster care, and therapeutic foster care. In emergency care, children are removed from their family home in an emergency and often not much is known about the child or the situation at the moment of placement.
Remand is a specialised type of fostering which is an alternative to placing the young person in police custody. The goal is to allow the child to avoid being placed in a police environment and be placed in a home where they are given the guidance and safety needed to get their lives on track. Therapeutic placements can be long-term or short-term and therapeutic carers have more training and the skills to handle more challenging behaviours.
Let’s Talk about Sex
There is a real need for foster parents to provide homes for teenagers. Over half of the foster children in the UK are 10 years old or older. More than 20% are 16 and over. It’s common for many of these older children to have been in care for a larger part of their lives, which can cause them to have serious trust issues. Being moved from home to home or being returned to their family home only to have to go back into care can be quite upsetting.
This alone can contribute to the notion that pre-teens and teenagers are difficult to parent. In addition, they are in that transition from childhood to being an adult. They are mature enough to be aware of the reality of what is happening in their lives and therefore more apt to question being taken into care or being placed in a new home. Ironically, while they are more apt to question the situation, they are also more apt to be uncommunicative.
And then there is sex. The teen years involve emerging sexuality. Compared with young women not in care, young women in care are more than twice as likely to become pregnant before they are 19 years old. The reasons for this are as individual as the teenagers themselves.
It could be a desire to have a family of their own and the misguided notion that a baby will provide peace of mind and sense of family. It could be inadequate information about birth control. It could be the need for feeling loved. It could be as simple as being a teenager with raging hormones. Whatever the reason, fostering teenagers can be a challenge but it can also be a wonderful experience as you help them feel safe and learn to communicate in a loving and caring way.
Where Do They Come From?
You know that there are thousands of children and young people needing foster parents right now. You may be wondering where these children and young people come from. How and why are they in care?
This is how the system works. Children are taken into care by local authorities as a result of events that range from violence in the home to death of a parent or parents. Before the local authority applies to the court for a care order, it investigates the circumstances that brought the child or young people to its attention.
How do the circumstances come to the local authority’s attention? The court can direct the local authority to investigate, the child can be in police protection, there is a child assessment order, there is suspicion that a child is in danger or is suffering, there is an emergency protection order, or the child doesn’t comply with an education supervision order. Reports can come in from the court, the police, the education system, or even from neighbours concerned about the child.
The social services department becomes involved and their mandate is to work with the child’s family in an effort to keep the child from being taken into care. Failing that, there is an effort to return the child back home after a care order is issued.
Local authorities have their own roster of foster carers but more often than not, they outsource foster care to independent fostering agencies. Capstone is one of those independent agencies. Independent agencies are dedicated to one focus – recruiting and training and supporting the best foster carers.
What do You Think?
Armed with this overview of the great need for people with the energy, space, and a loving nature to provide a safe haven for children who have had their lives disrupted, are you ready to talk to a fostering agency about becoming a foster parent? This overview presented some of the downsides of fostering but it’s good to know, before making a decision, that it may not always be smooth sailing.
It’s also good to know that this is a decision that can help both you and a child or young person in care. They will have a safe and secure home and you will have the sound of children in your home again.
Think about it.
Foster carers are needed all the time. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Capstone Foster Care on 0800 012 4004 or simply click here.