I, without children of my own, for the longest time, toyed with the idea of taking a child into my home and either adopt or foster.
Who can become a foster carer?
Nowadays, there is little limit to who can become a foster carer. You can be single, married, divorced or widowed, living together, including same sex partnerships.
You need to have the drive to care for a child/children or young adult without hang-ups and make a real difference in a child's life.
The size of your house or flat will determine what type of child you are able to foster in the end.
The whole process, from initial enquiry to becoming a foster carer can take up to 6 months or more.
Are you getting paid to be a foster carer?
Yes, you will get paid and the amount depends very much on how experienced you are, the age of the child and if the child has special needs. The older the child is, the more money you will receive.
In my county the payment is split in two (mainly for tax reasons - foster carers are classed as self employed and will have to fill in tax returns), the foster carer's fee and the child's allowance. The fee is your basic weekly pay, the allowance is the money the council think a child of that age needs for food, clothes, pocket money etc. For tax purpose, the allowance is classed as expenses and you will have to keep track of what you spend the money on (not stringently but basic accounting, incoming and outgoing is required.) If you are employed you will know that the first 6000 something pounds are tax free, after that you start paying income tax. As a foster carer that amount is increased to £10.000 before you start paying tax. In most cases this will mean that you will not actually pay tax at all as you would need to be a full time carer for three children or more before your income would tip over the threshold (said my social worker).
I cannot say how much money your council is prepared to pay you, you have to find out yourself but in Hertfordshire you are looking at a fee of at least £100 per week plus the same again as allowance per week per child.
It took me in excess of 5 years to actually make the first step and enquire about fostering and foster carers in my country. When I did, it took Hertfordshire Social Services only a few hours to contact me and conduct a phone interview with me.
After that I was sent an introductory package and once a couple of basics were sorted, an initial appointment with a social worker was made to visit me at home and complete my application.
This initial visit is to establish who you are, why you want to foster, your preferences, whether you are interested in full time or part time fostering (you can work part time as long as it does not interfere with the child's needs).
Apparently the average age for a new foster carer is about 53 years of age, probably empty nest syndrome.
The night before my initial visit I tidied my little flat like a dervish. I wanted to make a good impression. I even contemplated baking a cake to show that I was good in the kitchen but time restraints meant that the cake had to wait. I needn't have worried, all the social worker was interested in was seeing the room I had set aside for the child and then go down to business and conclude the interview and application.
My social worker arrived a little late. Any initial worry I had was immediately dispersed. The lady visiting me was very nice and friendly. We sat down to business and with the information from the initial telephone interview to guide her, we discussed my reasons for wanting to foster, what children I thought would fit best into my lifestyle (in other words, my preferences whether to have a young or older child, a boy or girl, handicapped or not), my lifestyle, hobbies and so on.
While we were chatting I was told what was expected of me, the kind of child I could expect, what was expected of me, what I was allowed to do and what not (some very basic things you see as common sense still needs permission from the parents, like hair cuts, before you can go ahead, regardless of how well meaning your intentions were.)
I had to sign the forms that I was happy for the initial checks to be started. I think the visit was in excess of two hours, mainly because we kept on diverting from the subject and chat about all sorts of things .. what better way to find out about a person I think.
When you apply to become a foster carer to have to be prepared forego any privacy for as long as the checks take. You will be checked, double checked and then checked again. There is the police check, medical, local council check. You need six referees, plus your work reference. Some of your personal reference should include people who know how you are with children. Three of these referees will be contacted and interviewed.
You have to attend courses to teach you about fostering. The first course is 6 units, either over a number of Saturdays or Saturdays and evenings.
You are also assigned your own social worker who will visit you on a number of occasions to grill you and make sure that you're of the right calibre to foster. It also means that you have to provide a huge amount of very personal information about yourself, including partners and former partners, every address you EVER live at since birth, your education and addresses, your employment history, if there are gaps you have to explain them. Then there is your social profile. You have to honestly analyse yourself and go back to your own childhood, analyse your own upbringing, what you want to bring to fostering from that, what you want to change etc.
You will be assessed, re-assessed, interviewed and before you are passed, you will have to be interviewed again in front of a panel of at least 6 important social workers. These people will ask you all sorts of questions and the subject is YOU. There are no trick questions and as the interview is about you, to find out who you are and what child is best suited for you, you should be able to pass this test. After all, you have spent the best part of 6 months jumping through hoops so this last hurdle should not frighten you.
Being a foster carer
Social services have a lot of children who need new homes. While it is easy to place little children, be it boys or girls, it is a lot more difficult to place teenagers or pre-teens. When I was assessed my social worker told me she could see me easily being the carer of a pre-teen to early teenage girl, never a boy who would love to kick the football around.
I was asked, very early on, if I was prepared to give up my work to become a full time foster carer and if I would actually contemplate a disabled child. I live in a ground floor flat and as most carers have houses with bedrooms upstairs, placing a mobility impaired child with a family like that would not be possible, but a ground floor flat is ideal for crutches or wheelchair. I said that I was happy to give up my job if I could afford to be a foster carer full time. There is help available if you are interested, housing and council tax benefit being just some of them.
Once a child is placed with you, your life changes beyond recognition. Your freedom to do what you want, when you want it goes out of the window. You and the child have to get used to each other. Always remember, the child coming to live with you was removed from its family for a reason, whatever the reason is, you will be given as much (or little) information beforehand as possible. You will also be told what the deal is with the parents, any visitation (which will not take place in your home), etc.
You have a 24 hour helpline available in case you run into problems and if it is urgent, any social worker on duty will help you. Every couple of months you are required to report on the progress or lack of progress of the child in your care. It gives you a chance to tell the panel anything you are worried about. The foster child him/herself has a chance to tell their side of the story and raise issues important to them. It is therefore important that you communicate with your foster child before the meeting to see if there is anything they would like to address and if they are happy to do it themselves or if they want you to speak on their behalf.
Most foster children are placed with long term placement in mind. It is not easy to getting used to a stranger living in your home that has a number of problems, emotional, physical or mental. There is the initial period where you have to find out what is what and it is imperative that you do not jump to conclusions. All children are naughty, children who are taken into care are often naughty for very different reasons and you will need patience to find out what bothers them.
Fostering is a very rewarding job for the right person. If you love children, want to make a difference and care deeply for what happens, you may be a good candidate to become a foster carer. Think about it. If you have a spare room, nothing to hide and think you can make a difference, maybe fostering could be the thing for you.
Six years ago there was a huge advertising campaign to recruit foster carers. I looked into the facts and the more I thought about it the more I realised that it is something that I could do, I knew that I had the capacity to take another child into my heart. Would it be so difficult to love another child? How would my 2 daughters feel? Would my husband be able to accept a child that was not his own? We mulled over the idea for a few months and talked a great deal about the impact that it would have on the family. We all came to the same conclusion, that we could do this, even my extended family seemed to be in support of my decision.
Feeling very optimistic I contacted a local fostering agency, they arranged to come and have a chat with us. We were informed that they would welcome us as carers but we would have to undergo an intense assessment. This was to make 100% sure that we were able enough to fulfill this role and that we would be good carers. We also had to undergo medicals and have referee's to vouch for us. They even check with your neighbours to see if they have witnessed anything unusual. I was happy to undergo this assessment as it is done for the children's benefit.
Sharon our lovely assessor came into our lives for about 3 months. She done a very detailed assessment which she presented to a fostering panel when completed. The panel have a week or so to read the assessment and to note down any questions they might have. You then have to appear in front of the panel. This is conducted by between 10-20 people. This panel is made up of people from all walks of life, those such as Doctors, teachers, social workers, an adult who used to be in foster care, foster carer, Judge, medial experts etc etc.
The day of our panel meeting came and we sat in front of a panel of 16. The interview was about a hour long. We were asked questions and then had the opportunity to question the panel. I found this quite enjoyable but I know that other people have found it quite daunting. We were then asked to wait outside while the decision was made. 10 minutes later we were informed that we had been accepted.
We decided that we wanted to have a long term placement as it would give some stability to our girls. We didn't want lots of children coming and going through their lives. A few months later we had been matched with a 12 year old boy. We were given a photo and a copy of his file that had been built up since he had been in care. We read this carefully and made the decision that he was the right person to come and share our lives. After agreeing in principal we were then put forward to face the local boroughs panel as they had to pass us before we could progress any further. We were put in front of 19 people who all agreed that we would be able to provide a good home and stability for this child.
We were asked by the child's social worker if we could make up a little scrap book for him, just to let him see what we were like before he met us. We enjoyed doing this especially the girls. We included photos and some funny stories about the family. This was then presented to our new foster son. His carer said that the book didn't leave his side and he even took it to bed with him. What a terrifying thing for a 12 year old to have to go through. He was nervous about meeting us but was excited at the same time. We felt the same way too. We then went to meet him at his foster home. My heart went out to this cocky little boy, I am glad that the first meeting was conducted in his comfort zone as I think it must have been one of the most difficult things that a child has to go through. I gave him space with my husband, while I chatted with his carer but I just wanted to reach out to him hug him and tell him that everything would be OK.
On our next meeting we went to pick him up then took him for lunch, he seemed at lot more relaxed and was very inquisitive about us. Then on the third meeting he met the girls. We picked him up and went for a pizza, the girls seemed to get on really well with him and had a lot to talk about.
The following weekend he came to visit our house with his carer. He was so excited and wanted to do and see everything at once. He was I was glad to see, quite relaxed with all of us. He spent quite a lot of time in his new bedroom and made comments to me about where he was going to put his personal belongings. Our cats also found a new admirer. He formed an instant bond with them.
The next weekend we went to collect our new son. I was feeling so emotional but I managed to keep my feeling in check. When we arrived he had packed up his meagre belongings. A black bag of clothes, a TV, PlayStation and a couple of games. He chatted all the way home and when we got back he couldn't wait to go to his room.
He has been with me now for almost 6 years. The first year had its moments. He had to relearn lots of the basics. He discovered that a lot of his behaviour was unacceptable, he learnt how to socialise. He regressed in many ways becoming childlike and clingy. I was in no rush with him and accepted that he would have to grow up in his own time. In his former life he became the carer of his younger brother and so he had fulfilled an unnatural role within his family. He needed to relive his youth and have fun.
One of the most shocking things that he said to me on moving into our home was "can you show me where the washing machine is and how do I use it" The best day was the day that he told me he loved me. He said that no one else had ever told him that they love him.
Since my son joined our family I have gone through a divorce and moved home, if anything this has made us stronger as a family unit. He knows that whatever happens in his life that his sisters and I will always be there for him, we are his family.
I believe that every child deserves to have someone to love and cherish them. We all need to be loved and wanted. Fostering is the most fulfilling thing that I have ever done in my life. People say that it is a selfless thing to do and that you must be special to do it. It is quite the reverse for me, it is a selfish thing to do as I get so much pleasure and satisfaction from it, I can't imagine that there is any greater feeling in the world than knowing that you have changed someones life, that you have given them the opportunities that they need to make something of themselves. I look at my son everyday with pride. He took those opportunities and ran with them. He has done so well at school and is now looking forward to university.
My extended family have played a huge part in my sons life. They have welcomed him as part of the family and he feels no different to any other family member. He loves his nanny and granddad and all of his aunties, uncles and cousins. He even has a 95 year old great grandmother who he loves to bits. To have this unwavering support from your family plays such an important part of fostering and gives a child a great feeling of identity which they all so often lose.
Last year I became his Special guardian which is very similar to adoption. I am looking forward now to having another child. They may not be as easy but I do know that whatever I can give them will be better than their present lives and that I can make a difference.
I find it so hard to believe that in our civilized western society that there are so many children in the care system. In march 2009 60,900 children were in care. 73% of them in foster care and only 4% adopted. This is a shocking number of children.
If there is even one person who reads this and as a results decides that they would like to foster, then it has been worth my while sharing my experiences with you.
I thank you for reading my rather long review on Fostering.
One other thing, someone said to me recently that I must feel differently towards my real children as I do my foster son as it would be impossible to love anyone the same way as you love your own flesh and blood. I immediately responded that I love them all the same. Since that comment was made I have dwelt on it often. In my heart I love my 3 children equally, I can see that others may doubt that but it's true. It is possible to take a child into your heart and love it as your own. I am very blessed to have had the opportunity in life to find that out firsthand.
This is a good wesite to visit if you want to find out more about fostering.
Fostering children in the UK.
Fostering is about caring for a child in your own home. For a whole variety of reasons there are around 39,000 children in England who are placed with foster carers by Social Services. Many of these children will eventually return to their families. In some cases this may take a matter of days or weeks in others it may take much longer.
If a return to their families is not possible a decision may be made to find them a permanent new family, possible through adoption.
In the vast majority of cases children in foster care will have regular contact with their families and their parents will continue to have responsibilities towards them throughout the time they are in foster care.
Foster carers are people who look after these children. In the past we used to refer to them as foster parents but this term is misleading. The children already have parents and "foster carers" better reflects the often temporary nature of the task.
Foster carers can be single or a couple, they do not need to be married. They can be heterosexual or gay. Most fostering agencies welcome applications from people who are in their mid twenties and it is quite common for people to foster children up until their 60's.
One of the things we find when people are thinking about applying to become foster carers is that they can sometimes make assumptions about what is involved that are simply incorrect. For instance, some people think they have to own a large house or have a certain income. Neither of these assumptions are correct!
Why do children need to be fostered?
There are a lot of reasons why families are unable to look after their children. Many of these reasons will only apply for a short time. For instance, some children may come into foster care for a few weeks when their parent has to go into hospital. In other cases children might need to be fostered for much longer. It may take two or three years before a child is able to return home while social workers and others try to resolve more serious problems within the family.
What kind of children are fostered?
The children who are placed with foster carers come from many social, ethnic and religious backgrounds. They may have experienced a variety of problems in their life. Many will be deeply upset about being away from their families and may be "difficult" to care for when they first come in to foster care. However, this does not mean that all children in foster care are "problem children" and many, given sufficient time to settle, are likely to be as "difficult" as any other child.
Some of the children placed with foster carers, because of their history, will have more problems than most and will offer a considerable challenge to their foster carers. This does not mean that they should not be placed with foster carers as this may still be seen as being in their best interests. In some cases children will be identified as needing a specialist fostering placement when their needs are great and where they will place great demands upon those who care for them.
Becoming a Foster Carer
All Foster Carers have had police checks, medicals and further checks with the NSPCC and Probation. They are all approved under the Family Placement Regulations.
Some of the things that Foster Carers are expected to do:
The foster carer is expected to help any fostered child in contact with their friends and family.
They are expected to make day to day decisions about the child's routine care.
They are expected to share information with Social Services and cannot keep secrets or agree to keep relevant information you share with them to themselves.
They are expected to involve you as much as possible in the child's life. Decisions about how involved you are will be agreed between yourselves and the social worker.
To apply, simply use the contact details at :
Foster Care and adoption can be a demanding task. You will certainly need good health, an understanding of the difficulties faced by parents and a commitment to the welfare of children which is shared and supported by all family members.
I hope this is useful for everyone interested in looking after childre as a foster carer.
It's funny but it's always something that I wanted to do - fostering that is - and when we couldn't have any more children (we have a 5 year old daughter) I decided the time was now to foster.
We decided to work with a private agency. Before you wonder "yes"...we can choose an age range/sex that we prefer to foster and you have a supervising social worker to help you make that decision i.e. what kind of child will best fit in with your family.
We decided to go for teenage girls (not boys because of the possibility of sexual abuse with our 5 year old - and not young girls because we didn't want our daughter to be competing with attention from someone of a similar age and needs).
We chose to go the private agency route for fostering rather than through social services. Social services pay less and support less. Private agencies pay more and support more but you are far more likely to have more 'troublesome' placements i.e. the placements that social services can't place because of their age, behaviour...or simply because the carers on their books are already fully booked up.
Our first child was 14. We wanted a non-drug taking, non-self harming and non violent child because we had a 5 year old daughter in the house (who of course we are very protective of). Now...the issue sometimes with social services is that they won't give all the info about the child to the agency because they want to get a placement. We were offered the placement and after a few questions to the agency accepted this child (You do have a choice). She was wonderful and had so much potential...on the up side. On the down side, she did drugs, smoked, had underage sex, tried to get pregnant a few times, self harmed, tried to commit suicide, was depressed, stole, didn't attend school much of the time and for one month was only with us for 25 days - the rest of the time she was in and out, absconding.
We're still in contact with her even though she has now left us and we are waiting for our next child placement (which we hope will have fewer issues). We've turned one placement down because she had just tried to hang herself and self mutilates - and we don't want our own daughter traumatised.
Incidentally, our daughter didn't know much about what was going on during our first placement as the child was a bit of a loner and didn't really want to spend time with a 5 year old. But our daughter loved having her about and cried when she left - but cheered up when we said we're waiting for the next one!
Despite an initial "in at the deep end" first placement, we really love our experience. I would recommend it if you really love children and want to help them - but don't expect them to change overnight - it's little baby steps only. We take for granted our own upbringing (which gives us the building blocks for the future) - some of these children have never had these first blocks to build on - so its starting from the basics and making small steps towards a brighter future for them.
I have read the previous reviews on fostering, which mainly seem to be written by foster parents. But what about someone thinking they might have to have their child fostered?
This is something I have been concerned about over the last year. An acquaintance of mine, a young woman from a foreign country, found herself pregnant after a two year relationship with a man who she thought would marry her eventually. Of course, as happens all too often, he "did a runner" when she told him about the baby and he has gone abroad, efforts to trace him have been futile.
This left the young woman concerned with the choice of bringing up her child on her own or giving it away for fostering or adoption. It was already too late for a termination by the time her partner had left her, her own family are very strict and in their country being an unmarried mother is a definite no-no.
The woman has been in the UK studying for several years, when she finishes her studies she will be capable of earning a good salary and planned to return home. Due to her pregnancy she had to postpone the final years of her training, mainly due to lack of financial support (her parents had been helping but withdraw their help when they learnt of her pregnancy).
Her baby is now several months old, she has coped with the help of a family who live nearby who have taken her into their home as they could not see her struggling in a student flat on her own. As the young woman is not from an EEC country she is not entitled to one single penny from our government - this means no child benefit, no help with childcare costs, no baby bond, nothing. I can understand this, but the woman has been working at a part time student job all the time she has been here and has paid NI and income tax. Why is she not entitled to help from the state when she has actually made contributions?
So now we come to her decision - how is she going to cope bringing up her baby? She knows she has to work to support them both, the conditions of her visa state she is only allowed to work a certain amount of hours, so she is in a job which pays the minimum wage and earning not much at all. She has to pay a chldminder to look after her child, at £2.50 per hour this eats into her pay, leaving very little to pay for her board with the family who are caring for her.
On behalf of the young woman the family have contacted citizens advice, social services, health authorities, charities, even their MP, but nobody comes up with any solutions.
So the young woman is faced with having to give up her baby for fostering until she is in a situation where she can finish her studies and get a well paid job. This will break her heart. What kind of family will her child be placed with? Will the baby remember her mum when they can get back together?
When asked my advice, as a friend, I suggested the woman needed counselling to help her come to a decision. She waited two months for an appointment, then was given one hour counselling and then told to ring if she felt she needed to see them again. I could not believe this, surely she needs more help?
I have myself approached various "authorities" as the family are so drained with being passed from one agency to another. But it seems to me that nobody wants to help, it is all too easy to remove a child from its mother and place it into a foster home, but how much is this going to cost?
Wouldn't it be easier to pay the mother or at least the family caring for her, instead of paying a foster carer? From what I have read the authorities pay around £300 per week to foster carers for each child. Why can't they give this woman something to support her own baby? She is happy to continue with her studies and part time work, but also needs some help to bring up her child until she is in a position to support them both.
It is impossible for her to return to her own country, they would both be ostracised. She cannot claim asylum or refugee status as her situation is not so serious.
If the baby is placed into a foster home it will be clothed in nice outfits, at the moment all its clothes are either from charity shops or E Bay, or have been bought by friends. Baby equipment was all secondhand. A new foster carer would be given grants to buy all this, but a young woman struggling is given no help at all.
I am furious to think the solution may be to give up this child to a foster home. Where are all the childrens' charities who are supposed to help poor families? Oh don't suggest I contact them, I have done that only to be told "we can't help, try so and so." A neighbour of mine donated lots of baby equipment to a charity collection, not realising the young woman would have appreciated them. So we went along to the charity shop and they told us everything is sorted out at a central warehouse and there was none of the stuff there.
The only help this woman has received has been from friends of the family who have taken her in and the loan of a breast pump from the health department. If the baby was given up for fostering everything would be provided.
I don't imagine anyone has a solution to this, but I just want to point out how ridiculous it is to pay for a child to go into foster care, when that money could be used to help the baby's own mother to take care of her child herself.
I have a wonderful foster daughter. She is happy, gorgeous, clever, original, has lived with me for three and a half years, and is in care until she reaches the age of maturity, so we're family now. We see her birth mum and we are going through adoption thanks to a change in the law (NSW, Australia).
I agree that you need to understand your needs or requirements when going into fostercare. Self-knowledge is wonderful thing, and taking in a new little person makes it more important. Of course it has all the usual parallels with normal parenthood but it takes a bit more.
The 'system' (wherever it resides) may have some challenges. How you handle it depends on how you are placed - why you fostered, how secure you are, your motivations.
We've been involved in fostercare for a long time now, and are so committed to better understanding and better communication that we've launched our own independant site - http://www.fostercarer.com.au. While we are Australian our themes are universal, make no mistake.
I read a review the other day which prompted me to write mine, on the subject of Fostering. You see, what that review did was something I should have done a long time ago, i.e. used my experience of fostering in an effort to help those trying to make the decision whether fostering children is right for them. My family was a large family. My mother had six children, although what she developed as we grew up was a seeming disinterest in anything except babies. Sounds strange doesn't it ? Although I know that one of my sisters inherited the same trait. It's almost as if there is a need to have little infants around them, and once my sisters and my brother had grown sufficiently to be at school, my mother fostered little children and brought them into our lives. This was never discussed in advance. We would arrive home from school to find yet another stray in the house, and although we didn't resent them that much at the time, the long term effect on us all was a marked one.
My mother held the record for the County for the number of short term stays in our home. There were literally hundreds of kids that passed through our childhood, and whilst some were adorable, others were extremely troubled and attention seeking. Our lives as children were totally disrupted and somehow our needs took a back burner. My mother thought that the way in which she was dealing with these kids was okay, but what she failed to see was the effect that it had on us. A prime example is being woken in the middle of the night at eight years old, knowing that I was about to be asked to clean the cot after one of the children had made themselves sick. Sounds like nothing, perhaps, to a lot of people, though listening to the child vomit every night in the darkness for weeks on end, and having to clear it up had a marked effect on me, to the extent that forty years later I still have a phobia that will not allow me to be physically sick. My sister was similarly affected after finding one of the foster children attempting to hang themselves in the back garden. She still has nightmares. The child badly bruised their neck and did not die, though the effect of that event still haunts my sister at the age of 56 years old.
Children who need fostering are at a time in their lives when the normal security that is afforded children is not available within their own family unit. This can happen for many reasons, although having taken that security away from a child, it places them in a very vulnerable situation of having to learn to live with strangers. Looking at the situation from their point of view they are placed with people they do not know, are expected to act as normal children, and many of them cannot cope with the change, especially the younger ones, such as were fostered by my mother.
The reason for writing the review is in an attempt to make fostering a smoother path for people who decide to embark upon giving a child a home, even on a short term basis. There are things that need to be looked at, and I would suggest the following criteria are very necessary.
1)What are your motives ? Are you trying to fill a gap in your life and do you really think that a temporary fix like a short stay foster child will fill the gap other than in the short term ?
Are you doing it for financial reward ? Do you really have a feeling for children that need help and understanding ?
2)Could you discuss the possibility with your kids and find out how they react to a stranger being introduced into their lives ?
3)Can you juggle the upbringing of your own kids with giving a safety barrier to a child in need without something being neglected ?
The next issue really is one of practicality. It really is important to think of what age of child would fit in with your own family, and also what age of child you think your family would be able to give the best experience to. It's not just the child that you are helping that counts here. Your own children are going to be going through an adjustment as well, and their input is so essential before taking that plunge.
Take a look at the routine of your house, and try and determine how you could change that routine and make it work for everyone without passing the load to the children, because, at the end of the day they are kids and need a childhood as much as the child being fostered. Whilst my sisters and I did much of the work we were asked to do with a good heart, it did get wearing when it was never discussed with us, and I know that at some time or other each of us resented these children that were taking our mother further and further away from our needs as growing children. Discussed with us in advance, and each of us being asked to put a little thought into how we could have made it work would have made us feel more important to the whole experience, instead of feeling that everything was decided without us, and that what we thought didn't matter.
Another trait of my mothers was to spoil these children, and I realise that much of this was almost like a grandmother spoils their grandkids rotten, but what she forgot amidst all the giving was that the children have to go back to parents that are possibly not in a position to give in the same manner, and one of the children kept running away from their parents once reunited, and coming back to our house, simply because my mother had over-indulged them with lavish gifts.
At the end of the day, a childhood is sacred. You only get one shot at it, and whether talking about your own kids or possible foster kids, you need to remember to make decisions that suit both, because both have equal needs. Fostering children in my mothers case was self indulgent, rather than well motivated. There are many reasons why people do charitable things, and one of the worst motives is for praise. Once you have questioned your motives and are satisfied that you want to foster to help children have a better childhood, but also to give the experience to your own children of being able to help someone less fortunate than themselves, you are half way to becoming a good foster parent. Talking with your kids, letting them understand why strangers need to share their home, and encouraging them to nurture the child and to make their stay beneficial all round is essential.
At 11 years old, I was in foster care. Why ? I feel that the lack of forethought on the part of my mother, and the lack of care shown towards her own children made life unbearable. I ran away and became a child in care, so have seen the picture from both sides. One family I stayed with had prepared their kids for my stay and the difference between the atmosphere of my own home and theirs was astounding. I found security. I found a family that pulled together instead of in different directions. Those kinds of families are out there, and if you are fortunate enough to be one that considers all angles, then you really are needed as a foster parent. These people still write to me forty years later. Now that's what I call valuable and lasting, and it's been an interesting voyage seeing the children I stayed with for such a short time growing up and developing as happy adults.
I hope that my short review helps someone with their decision. A wrong one can make the world of difference, though a well thought out family decision really can help a child that needs it.
I wish you well.
Over the years as I have gotten older my views on fostering have changed, let me first start off by saying I have never fostered or been fostered, although this is a first-hand account of fostering through my eyes when I was between the ages of 5 and 14. I was part of a family who did foster.
My parents fostered for nine years and during that time took into their care a total of 18 children. The children were of varying ages from 9 months up to 17 years old. If memory serves, back then there were two types of foster parents, these were short-term and long-term. My parents registered for the short-term care. These I believe were cases where a child needed to be removed from their home environment for a short period of time whilst a problem was dealt with before they could return or they were placed with short-term foster parents whilst long-term parents could be found.
I remember my mother saying that short-term referred to a period of a couple of weeks through to a few months, this was true for some of the children who stayed with us, though a couple of children stopped in excess of a year and one of them for just over 2 years.
To set the scene at the start, when I was 5 we lived in a two up two down council house, there was Mum and Dad, my younger brother who would have then been 2 and me, oh and not forgetting the dog, a lovely rough collie that I doted on. I have vague memories at the time of my Mum explaining to me that we were going to be looking after a little boy of similar age to myself. As my brother and I already shared a room, bunk beds were brought and we managed to squeeze 3 beds into the room. Having to share a room meant my parents could at that time only foster boys.
I was excited when the first child turned up, I will refer to him as Peter from this point on and I can still picture him now as he looked then. I also now know more about the circumstances as to why he came to us than I did back then but I will never forget the first evening of his arrival. A social worker brought him round in the afternoon and stayed for a short time before leaving Peter with us. Even though our house was well lets say, not very big, it had a massive garden that backed on to woods at the far end, Peter and I played for what seemed like hours before Mum called us in for dinner. That evening after dinner Mum as normal ran a bath and called down stairs to both Peter and I to come up. In the bathroom I began to undress, it was then I looked up and caught a glimpse of Peter as he took his t-shirt off; it still makes me shiver to this day. He had severe scarring covering 50% of the stomach and chest area, I gasped and thats when Mum turned round and saw what I had. I remember starting to cry, which in turn made Peter cry. Mum dealt with the situation and all I really remember from the moment I saw the disfigurement was how horrible it looked and how scared I was. I didnt for one minute think about how Peter must have felt as he saw my reaction.
My Mum has since told me that she too was totally unaware of the scarring before that evening. As it turned out Peter and the rest of the family were crossing the road when a drunk driver overtook a bus and ploughed into his whole family, killing his brothers and sisters and seriously injuring him and his Mother.
Peter stayed with us for several months and was reunited with his Mum when she was well enough to look after him. I was devastated when he left us and felt hurt that he had to go, I know now how happy it makes me feel that his Mum did make a recovery and was able to take care of him.
Several boys came and went over the next 3 years; I have vivid memories of some and hardly any of others. Of the ones I do remember, I know I was left feeling lost and saddened when they left us, I would no sooner make a new friendship, and then it would be taken away again.
One boy who we looked after could only be described as a troubled child. He was 10 and I was 9, Ill refer to him as Paul from this point. When I think back I cannot recollect one good memory regarding Paul although thats probably due to the amount of time passed and the only memories I have left of him are negative ones. He was always in trouble, ran away what seemed like every week, in reality it was probably 2 or 3 times. One summers day during the holidays, I can remember playing football in the garden with my brother, Paul and Duke our dog. Paul was in one of his moods again and for a reason Im still to this day not sure of, turned and kicked our dog in the face. Well, what ensued was like High Noon and I came out with all guns blazing for about 30 seconds before we were pulled apart by my Father.
Fortunately for me, Paul left us a few weeks after but I was now 10 and for the first time was not that optimistic about another child coming to stop with us.
My Mum and Dad decided when I was 11 that we were to move to a larger house, a three-bedroom semi. My thoughts were of the third bedroom and would it to be my first own room. Those thoughts didnt last long, the first time I managed to slip it into conversation as tactfully as I could, my Mum announced we were going to be looking after a girl and for obvious reasons the bedroom would be hers.
Saying nothing I bit my tongue but after a short time enquired regards her name and age and tried to gain insight to who it was that was coming to stay. My younger brother and I were starting to formulate our own opinions and that led to several silly arguments but in my mind having my own space, like a bedroom was the answer. Honestly thinking back, several of my school friends had their own rooms and this swayed heavy on my mind.
All in all it just added to my feelings of me not wanting another person muscling in and taking what I thought at the time was rightfully mine. As it turned out she was a great laugh, fitting in well with our family and I do have fond memories, so much so the having my own bedroom issue slipped from the forefront of my mind. She only stopped for about 6 months and was followed quickly by another girl who was in my opinion the devil reincarnated.
From the moment we met and that first exchange of looks I just knew we werent going to get along. She was 14 and I was 12, I had half a pound of chips on my shoulder and she had the full pound on hers! My parents were fair but strict, what they said went and I really didnt feel I should even voice an opinion let alone question a decision they made. So at meal times when we were all in a room together I had to appear to be seen to be making every effort. In reality I had to control every facial muscle to stop myself giving her the Elvis Presley lip stare.
Just after my thirteenth birthday the devil herself moved on. I remember feeling so pleased not just because she was gone but I had overheard mum and dad talking about not fostering any more children. Not even a month had past before my parents were asked to foster a 14-year-old boy. I remember my dad sitting my brother and I down to inform us of the new arrival, he also said this was going to be the last child they fostered.
Bang went that bedroom. Stuck with my younger brother again, this is not too unkind on him as he shared exactly the same thoughts. Well my parents did say this was the last one, best make the most of it and as it turned out on the whole we got on ok. It was probably for the best that we did strike up a friendship as he was with us for just over 2 years.
Do I regret my parents fostering? The answer to that question now is no but back then at the age of 13 it was a resounding yes. For me my parents fostering when I was at a young age was fun but at the same time I had to get used to loosing those friendships when they left and this was not always easy to deal with. I cannot fully explain why I felt so anti fostering from the age of 10, one bad apple in the bunch should surely not have turned me so sour but my recollection tells me it did. Entering teenage years and wanting personal space I think is natural, so I can reason as to why I felt the way I did back then. I suppose this leads to one final question, would I myself foster now?
The answer to that question is by no means clear-cut and one Ive pondered over several times. I consider children have a lot more pressures to deal with these days in comparison to those in my day. Schoolwork is intense and homework seems far more in abundance than I ever remember it being. Would I want to risk adding the possibility of more pressure by upsetting the equilibrium? Reading that back it sounds like Ive come to a decision, I havent.
Ive gained much from the whole experience and believe it has contributed to the person I am today. I admire my parents; it was by no means easy for them, but for me to enter into foster hood it would not be before careful consideration towards those closest to me.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading.
I though that I would write an opinion about fostering which we did up until a year ago for over nine years fostering over 100 teenagers some staying overnight others for as long as 5 years. This isn't something that you want to jump into lightly as the whole family needs to be involved and assessed which can take up to a year to carry out. The assessment process will involve various interviews and police/medical checks that are designed to try and ensure that they get the right kind of candidates to carry out the role of being a foster carer. During this process you are interviewed at great length about all those little skeletons that you may have long since hidden away in your cupboard and forgotten about, they also like to find out about what your expectations are being a foster carer, some people find they are unable to do this or are put off, however if they are still determined then at some stage during this process they will ask you to join a training programme which is usually ongoing throughout your time as a foster carer. At the end of the assessment a report will be put before a panel who give the go ahead for you and your family to foster stating the age and the groups of placements they will offer you. A foster carer is put before this panel every year and any changes about the type of placements can be made to the panel on an ad hoc basis. We fostered for a specialist scheme for difficult to place children usually because of behaviour problems in things such as:- Stealing Lying Theft Drug Abuse Alcohol Abuse Running Away Truanting Self Harming Soiling Smearing (don't ask) False Allegations Eating Problems There are several others the list is endless, no one would expect you to be able to deal with all these problems on your own, although you do have to insist that help, and advice are available and not be put off by Social Workers who say they will make an appointm
ent to discuss problems with you later. You will have your own Social Worker to help you. On the whole they did present many varied problems but thankfully I can say we did help a few along the way and there were many nice kids that I was sad to see go although we did feel like putting the flags out once or twice. The rewards are great, I can still remember my first placements smile and the look of concern over her face when we were first introduced, however that's not what you want to know about. You want to know about the finances Well it varies, it depends upon the age of the child the length of time the child will stay with you, and the skills involved in caring for the child. It is also up to the local authority you apply to. We received about £200 per child per week, however, before you all go rushing for the phone to try and cash in, ask your self why they have to pay so much for you to look after the little darlings. The fee depends upon your local authority, although you can foster for any authority I would point out that if you go to another authority that is a long way from home you may have a lot of travelling involved in a care plan, that can be time consuming and although petrol expenses are paid this will not cover wear and tear on your vehicle. There is a huge shortage of foster carers and retention is a huge problem as well. No amount of money can compensate you for some of the harm and damage you could be exposed to, or your own children as well. You need to be realistic and understand that the Childs social worker will have high expectations of you as well, even if they are never on time for meetings and only got their degree yesterday, they will very quickly put a complaint in to your social worker if they are unhappy about some aspect of your care. Its expected that you will be made of elastic and always have a spare bed for the odd emergency placement, and quite capable of tu
rning a meal that you originally cooked for 5 stretch to 7 because you have those extra placements they slipped in but I would recommend that the child does have there own room it comes in really handy when you want to ground them which is about the only tool that you have as a means of punishment. You have to be able to work with the Childs family, who are involved in all aspects of the Childs care and will be attending meetings in your home as well, however if they thought that there could be a problem then it would be done at a local Social Services office. The ability to listen to the parents is important. They are important to the child and they could actually give you some good advice if you can work with them, although sometimes they can seem very threatening. They need foster carers that are from all kinds of backgrounds not just male female couples but also single parent families and people who are on benefits have just as much to offer aswell. As far as Social Services are concerned there is no such thing as a normal family but you have to be realistic and understand that you may not be able to change lives and at times I felt as though I was little better than a landlady who had to hand out pocket money and clothing allowances to some very damaged children. I do miss the noisy household that we used to have and have moved into a smaller house but, I don't miss the never ending stream of police cars, the threatening behaviour or the padlock on the booze cabinet! My children didn't mind sharing their toys but they did mind sharing their parents, and watching us be abused. I have kept in touch with many of the children and would suggest that if you feel this is somthing you may like to do then discuss it with you family and approach your local Social Services Department.
Please, as you start reading this op, forget everything you’ve seen on Coronation Street, or even in one Simpsons episode, that is not typical fostering! I’ll try to tell you a little first about foster care and then I’ll tell you some of my experiences (I’m still talking about fostering here) and finish by trying to recruit some of you! What is foster care? There are times when some children cannot be looked after by their own families for either a short time or maybe for many years. Some children will go into residential homes run by the local authorities but the majority will go to ordinary family homes and live as an albeit temporary part of that family. The children remain the responsibility of the local authority usually in conjunction with their parents. Why do some children need to go ‘into care’? There are numerous reasons, neglect, abuse, illness of a parent and many, many more. It is not simply for the kind of situation you may read of in the papers it is often the case that parent agree to their children going ‘into care’ while they deal with a situation. The children concerned may be tiny newborn babies right up to approaching eighteen-year-olds. There will always be some case that reaches the headlines (and rightly so) where children are mistakenly taken from their families and yet more where they are left in dangerous situations with tragic results. I would like to say that in my experience social workers are not looking for work! They do not like ‘breaking up’ families but they have a genuine regard for the children and want to help even if that means them being temporarily separated. Does foster care work out for all that experience it? Not all but for a good majority I think it is the best alternative if their parents or other suitable adult cannot look after them. For some children fitting into family life is just too har
d and they never settle to it. I am thinking of one girl that I know (although she has only ever been to us for short breaks from other carers), who has been fostered by many different people. She seems to settle although I wouldn’t say anyone involved ever finds it easy but then it goes wrong. I feel sure she is simply so attached to her Mum and desperate to live with her again (which is impossible for now at least) that as she begins to feel at home with others she panics and does something dramatic to put an end to it. What are the children like, are they all out of control? NO! Some of course find it extremely hard to settle into a new family and to come to terms with a new set of rules especially if they’ve had little guidance in the past. Many children will push to see what they can get away with and to test their carers and see how they handle them. You can often see the children expecting to be hit or worse and are often quite shocked when the treatment is very different! Other children are beautifully behaved (honestly) infact most have a settling in period before the real behaviour begins! Keep reading and you will hear about some of the children I have cared for, smashing kids. Now what about the families are they all single parents or awful people that you could pick out of a crowd? Again no! Some maybe as you imagine but a lot more will not be. Some are single parents; others are ‘very respectable married couples’. Some will be living in less than ideal housing but yet again they may be in their own grand houses. The families will be every type, religion, colour it really makes no difference. The thing they will have in common will be some issue concerning the care of their child/children. Foster carers what are they like, do you need to be a saint? Excuse me I choked on my coffee laughing then. No carers are a mixed bunch, married, single, straight, gay (depending on lo
cal authority I think) young or older but one thing they have in common is they want to help a child at a time when they need it most. Many will have had children of their own but others have not, they will all have a spare room where a child can have his own space. So fostering is for different children, for diverse reasons, from different families and foster carers are all very different too. Sorry if that was a rather dry, factual account I hope things will pick up now as I share a few experiences changing names etc etc. I foster with my husband and with a huge amount of support from my now grown children, personally I could not do it without them. My first experience was about 24years ago when my sons were both very young. I enjoyed it but it is a very different work from now. We fostered the first time for about two years during which time I had a miscarriage (unconnected) so when I became pregnant again we decided to take a rest from it. I had a gorgeous daughter and took the time to care for her and her smashing brothers. That rest lasted about 16years! The second time began about 6 years ago and we are going strong and really enjoying it. The first child placed with us was a beautiful 2 year old who came for a few days; she stayed nearly one and a half years! Her mum was on her own and was ill; she loved her child but had no idea how to look after her. We had to teach that her to chew, to play, to walk, and to talk all things she should have learnt long before. Watching a child grow and working with her Mum to help her adjust is such a privilege. That little girl even came with us to America to our sons wedding and she was a real hit. She really won our family over to the whole idea of fostering, we were hooked. We had a little boy live with us who threw challenge after challenge at us; he managed to lock me out of the house once even though I had the key! He was inside with a toddler while I was outside talkin
g to him through the window. I want to tell you how I talked him around and got him to let me back in but my Mum taught me not to lie! So the truthful version was I had to get a couple of strong men to break they’re way in leaving me feeling stupid and with a door to get fixed. That little boy was the only child we have had that I have had to admit things were not working out for with us and he moved on to different carers. When he left I cried but I have to confess a short while later I felt such relief that a degree of normality had returned to our home I felt like cheering! I some times bump into him and he always mentioned the fact that I cried because I was going to miss him and even in that he felt cared for. If you ever meet him please don’t tell him the relief that followed! We had a little girl Jenny (please see ‘forget Justice Jenny) who had been terribly abused, when she arrived at our home she had several broken bones and was terrified. She lived with us for well over a year she went a learnt to trust us and to bond with us now she has been adopted and she continues to rebuild her life. I had an email from her new Mum this week saying how well she is getting on, she is building sentences and even getting toilet trained! At the moment we have three children with us, a profoundly deaf pre-teen, and two younger ones. Two of these children have been with us for three years and it is thought they will stay with us until they are 18, assuming we can all survive! The other, a little boy is staying with us until a lucky family is identified to adopt him. We have had our walls scribbled on but also beautiful pictures drawn (I’m still not sure how that blob was a butterfly landing on a daffodil) and given with love. We have had tears both from the children and on occasions from me but they have been so outweighed by the laughter. We’ve had sleepless nights but then we’ve also had one child who had tr
ouble staying awake much beyond 6 PM. I’ve had dinners wasted but also great times being helped with the cooking! Between our first little girl and those with us now we have fostered children from a few weeks old to very nearly eighteen years old. Some of these children have had ‘special needs’ others have not. Mostly the children have been abused or neglected, some have been planed moves to our home others have come as emergencies in the night. All these children have needed understanding, time, space and love. We are not like some people that I have read about that have looked after hundreds of children mainly because when they arrive here they stay and stay and stay! Now do you remember I did say at the beginning I would love to recruit some of you? So I’ll tell you some of the things involved and leave you to think about it, it’s not for everyone but if you ever want to chat more about it feel free to email me. The obvious part of the ‘job’ is to care for other people’s children in your home treating them as one of the family but at the same time remembering they are not your children. Whatever they have been through they will usually have a strong allegiance to their natural family. Hopefully things will be resolved and the children will be able to go back to their mums and dads successfully. Even if they will never return it is usually best for the children to keep contact with their birth family so if carers can work in harmony with parents it is desirable. I have usually found this possible, sometimes it is easy at others it is extremely difficult. There is some paperwork to be done and meetings to be attended all directly about the children and their care. After the initial training there will be lots of different areas to cover in time but it is all enjoyable and for yours as well as the children’s benefit. There is support for foster carers from social
workers and also from other carers. There is a great deal of frustration and I would love to get hold of the whole system and put my kind of logic into it. I would love to see a way of improving things so that things could move along far more quickly, so decisions can be made and acted on swiftly. As you’ve read this, have you thought it’s not for me, yes maybe I could or perhaps one day in the future? I would like to tell you what I find to be the hardest part of fostering and what in my experience is the best part. The hardest part for me and I know I can speak for my family when I tell you that it is saying goodbye. I don’t think I could do the job properly without loving them but oh it does hurt when they move on. It isn’t even that I want to keep them, if I wanted another child permanently I would adopt, it is just that I do get attached. Of course if they are moving on to a situation I am happy with (more often than not) it makes it a little easier, but not much. I love to see children return to their own parents if this is possible or go on to adoption but I simply miss them. Mind you I soon find another child needs my attention! We do often keep in touch when children move on and it is great to hear how they are doing. Now the best part, helping a child, seeing a frightened little child feel secure again, teaching a child that adults can love them in an appropriate way and not ask anything in return. I get back so much more from fostering than it costs me and I cannot imagine life without it. So now I hope you can see fostering in a more realistic sense and not as portrayed on TV. Let me leave you, (at last I hear you shout,) with the words of a song that I love but always makes me cry. It says a lot about why I do the work, thanks for staying with me! This is to mother you by Sinead O’Connor This is to mother you To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely Through when your dreams are only blue This is to mother you This is to be with you To hold you and to kiss you too For when you need me I will do What your own mother didn’t do This is to mother you All the pain that you have known All the violence in your soul All the wrong things you have done I will take from you when I come All mistakes made in distress All your unhappiness I will take away with my kiss I will give you tenderness For child I am so glad I found you Although my arms have always been around you Sweet bird although you did not see me I saw you And I’m there to mother you To comfort you and get you through Through when your nights are lonely Through when your dreams are only blue This is to mother you. Written (and sung) by Sinead O’Connor (Please note the would I recomend it to a friend and star rating are from my view point not a childs)