Children and young people can come into local authority care for lots of reasons, through no fault of their own. Usually, this happens when their parents can’t look after them because of drug, alcohol or mental health problems, or there’s been a family crisis. Fostering is a way of providing a short-term home for a child until a permanent solution is found, although how long they’ll be in foster care for isn’t always known.
We need foster carers from all walks of life to look after children of differing ages, from babies to teenagers up to the age of 18. Many different kinds of people can provide a secure and caring environment for children and young people who cannot live with their families. Age, income, gender, sexuality, marital status and culture do not affect a person’s ability to be a good carer. It is your personal qualities that matter.
We also take in children who arrive from abroad alone. These ‘unaccompanied asylum seekers’ have often escaped from traumatic situations in their own country where they might have lost their families.
As a foster carer, you will look after children, in your own home, as part of your family. This will be full time, or at weekends and sometimes during school holidays. Fostering is usually a short-term arrangement before a baby is adopted, or a child returns home, moves to relatives or is adopted, but some stay in foster care until they’re 18.
There’s much more to fostering than having a child to stay overnight! In common with parenting your children, or being an aunt or uncle, or caring for a child in another way, some critical tasks for foster carers include:
- Providing a safe and caring home
- Feeding, clothing and washing
- Recommending and talking about healthy eating and exercise
- Advising on personal presentation and hygiene
- Helping with school and homework (particularly older children with a patchy education)
- Going to school meetings, such as parents’ evenings
- Making sure the child has access to sports and activities
- Being a good listener and making time to sit down with the child when they want to talk