On New Year’s Day, you’re full of new plans for a fresh start. It can be anything from redecorating your home to changing your career with many choices in between.
Here is something to consider, regardless of the dreams you have for a fabulous 2018. It’s a decision that can change your life. If you are recently retired or have been downsized out of your job, if you are aching for a more meaningful occupation, if you have empty nest syndrome, if you feel untrained enough for a useful line of work – here’s an idea for a career that with not only change your life, it will change the lives of children.
What is this career? Fostering. There are thousands of children and young people in the UK who have been taken into care. On any given day, this number hovers around 70,000. While there are already people ready, willing, and able to provide this extremely valuable service, there are nearly 10,000 foster children that cannot be placed because there is such a shortage of foster carers.
Before you shrug and dismiss the idea of becoming a foster carer, take a moment and think about it. Let’s look at the common arguments people use to dismiss making this dramatic shift in careers.
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You’re too old. That is doubtful. There is no upper age limit on being a foster parent. The main qualification is your health. If you are healthy and energetic, you would be an ideal foster carer. Your age, life experience, and settled nature is ideally positioned to provide the stability and security that a vulnerable child or young person needs.
You’re single. It doesn’t matter. The idea that foster parents must be a couple is merely a myth. A single person who has the personality and the space to take in a looked after child is just as capable of providing the love, caring, and guidance that the child needs.
You’re not alone in this journey. You will not be struggling to care for a difficult child on your own. You’re part of a team and that team works together to meet all the needs that the child in your care has. Counselling, special training and equipment, a social worker, educational assistance, and a network of friends to share your concerns and stories with – this is part of what the team has to offer you.
You’re in a common-law relationship. Being in an unmarried relationship is not an impediment to fostering. In any application assessment, all members of the potential fostering household over 18 undergo a DBS check. Your marital status is not a factor in any way, shape, or form.
You’re a man. Single men are welcomed as foster carers, whether they have never been married, are divorced, or widowers. Single foster fathers have had great success as carers, providing vulnerable young people the stable and secure homes that make all the difference in the world to their outcomes in life.
You’re gay or lesbian. LGBT foster carers are welcomed and encouraged to join the ranks of foster families. Single or married, LGBT carers are needed.
Have your initial objectives been dismissed? How about the next round of oft-heard arguments against becoming a foster carer?
You have no experience with children. Everyone has been a child and often that is all the experience you need when it comes to understanding children. It is true that opening your home to children in care often involves coping with children who can be difficult and resistant to your efforts to offer comfort and care.
To respond to this, Welcome Foster Care, as do all foster care agencies, provides training both during the assessment period and on an ongoing basis as you foster. If a situation ever arises that you have never encountered before, a social worker is on call 24/7.
Now that those arguments are out of the way, here is something that you should do. Sit down with your family and some of your more outspoken friends and talk about being a foster carer. One good reason for this is that they will let you know what they think about your ability to be the type of person who would have the patience and sense of humour that you will need.
Another good reason for this is that if you do become a foster parent, your life will change, and your friends and family need to be aware of what this will mean to your family dynamics and your lifestyle. Everything from your holiday plans to family get-togethers will be different if you have children in care. Life will be different. Anyone who has had children is aware of the impact they have on your lifestyle. They are also aware of the joy of having a child thrive under your care.
The big question is, why choose a career in fostering? There is no single answer to that question. It’s always an individual choice. It’s also always a highly rewarding choice of career. You change the world for children and young people. The reason children are taken into care is most likely devastatingly traumatic. It can be traumatic enough to damage the child’s entire life. Unless someone like you steps in as a loving foster parent with the power to make a difference.
Where do children in care come from?
The fostering process begins when local authorities are informed that a child or young person is in an unsafe situation. This is most often the case when violence and addiction lead to a family’s disintegration. There are cases when severe medical issues render a parent unable to care for a child or children. The local authorities step in and remove children from their home. They must have a foster home immediately while they assess the family situation.
This provides a brief glimpse into the heart of fostering. Frightened, troubled, and endangered children are suddenly removed from their homes, sometimes in the middle of the night. What do the local authorities do? Some have their own team of carers but recruiting and training foster carers is often handled by independent fostering agencies such as Welcome Foster Care.
An independent agency has one goal – to provide the best-trained foster carers who can meet the needs of children. Local authorities have many civic duties. An agency builds a team and continually works on providing the most up-to-date information and training. Experts in the field of fostering, including social workers, educators, and Form F assessors work with our administration and support staff so that foster carers can receive the advice and assistance they need when they need it.
You may wonder what is a Form F assessor. This is the social worker who works with you during the application process which can take from two to six months. This social worker knows the rules and regulations regarding fostering in the UK – Ofsted, National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services, and Fostering Services Regulations. He or she is experienced in knowing what a truly excellent foster carer must be like.
Interviews and health checks and police checks provide the necessary information from which the social worker prepares and presents the assessment to the agency’s fostering panel. You are invited to a meeting of the panel. This allows the panel to ask you questions just in case they wish to have something clarified.
The reason the approval takes several months is due to the need for the assessor to have adequate time to interview you and your family. There are several visits which begin with a visit to ensure that you have a spare room for a looked after child. Once you pass that hurdle, the social worker will visit you for a couple of hours every two weeks or so.
A couple applying to be foster carers are interviewed together and individually. Other members of your household, including your children, are also interviewed. The assessor is very thorough, and will also interview any of your ex-partners and adult children who have lived in your household in the past. If you have pets, the social worker will assess their nature and ability to be around children.
What is the assessor assessing? Part of the process is about getting to know you and the type of person you are. Specifically, they are interested in your attitude toward the foster child being in contact with their birth family and your attitude toward race, culture, gender, sexuality, and disability.
You are kept up-to-date with how the application is progressing. You will attend training sessions and meet other applicants. It may seem like a long process and a lot of questions and discussions. It is demanding but this is a serious career. Fostering children is one of the most crucial jobs in the world. It also gives you time to gain a sense of what fostering entails. You get to see the ups and downs and talk to people who can share their experiences.
Who will you be caring for?
The typical child in care is not an infant. Only 5% of children in care are under a year old and 15% are between 1 and 4 years old. These figures are from a couple of years ago, but there is a consistency in the statistics. The majority are boys (55%) and there are more children (38%) between the ages of 10 and 15. 22% are 16 or over and 21% are between 5 and 9 years old.
There is diversity in fostering. Ethnically, the majority are white. There is a percentage of mixed racial background, Asian or Asian British, and black or black British children in care.
Fostering a diverse range of children requires a diverse range of carers – we welcome carers from all backgrounds. At Welcome we are experts in supporting unaccompanied children and we value the range of cultural backgrounds and ethnicities of our team of carers, helping us to meet the needs of children from across East and South East London.
When you talk to carers who have been looking after children for a while, you hear heart-warming stories. You will also hear that some carers felt that the assessment process felt like it lasted a long time and that it was occasionally emotional. Some felt that it was intrusive. However, they understood why the assessors had to be so thorough and they did feel very comfortable and at ease with their social worker.
Give it serious consideration
Take some time to think about how your life can change in the New Year. If you choose a new career that matters more than any other career – that you can enjoy with the flexibility to work from home. Your strengths can really shine when you can make a dramatic and positive change in a child’s life just by being you.
You receive a generous fee that covers the expenses of the children in your care. The amount varies depending on the age and needs of the child. It can be approximately £350 – £410 per week, per child. If the child has special needs, the amount may be higher. Welcome Foster Care has a specialist foster scheme that focuses on looking after children and young people with challenging behaviour. This allowance is to enable you to provide that care for the child as well as to acknowledge your skills as a carer.
The allowance does not have an impact on benefits, should you be receiving benefits. If your partner works outside the house, that income does not have any effect on the amount of allowances and fees you receive for fostering. It’s not considered as a wage and this is important to remember because you only receive an allowance when you have a child or children placed with you.
Carers are eligible for National Insurance credits, which are counted toward your state pension. Carers also receive a £10,000 tax exemption for the household and weekly tax relief each week you have a child or children in your care. Under 11, the tax relief is £200 per child per week. For children over 11, the tax relief is £250 per week.
This has been an overview of the way that foster carers join our team. The primary message here is that this is a serious career choice and we are eager to recruit people like you to help us fulfil the urgent need to care for our children and young people.
We look forward to meeting you!