Its Foster Care Fortnight in UK right now (Monday 12 to Sunday 25 May). Fostering plays such a vital role in many of our most vulnerable children’s lives. Some of my closest friends are foster carers and they change lives every day. The trouble is, there just aren’t enough foster carers available. Perhaps its for you?
To mark the occasion we have a special (first time ever for FO5) guest post from the ‘National Fostering Agency’
What does fostering mean and what do foster carers do?
Taking place this May, Foster Care Fortnight is an annual campaign to highlight the work done by foster carers and raise the profile of fostering. The theme of this year’s fortnight is ‘Guess who fosters?’ – with members of the public being invited to answer the question.
It’s a very appropriate theme as this is a question that many people do ask themselves. Most people will have a vague awareness of foster care, or may even have met someone who has experienced it themselves but there is still a lot of confusion about the exact role of fostering and what it is that a foster carer does.
With that in mind, we’ve set out here to answer both of those questions. Hopefully this will help to raise the profile of foster carers as part of Foster Care Fortnight and ultimately help to reduce the estimated 8,600 shortfall of foster carers in the UK.
What is fostering?
At its essence, foster caring involves providing a home for a child in need. This is describing it in its most simplistic form, as being a foster carer involves so much more. There are a number of different kinds of fostering, ranging from emergency care for just a few days, to respite care (often over weekends) or it can even be long term care, often right up until the child reaches adult age.
For however long the foster child is in their care, under whatever circumstances, the basics of foster caring remain the same. They are there to provide the support, stability and care that a foster child needs in that particular situation.
Working as part of a team, including other health care professionals such as social workers, foster carers aim to identify the kind of support the child needs and provide this in a non-judgmental and stable environment. Foster carers are involved in everything from support attending school, health appointments, extracurricular activities and simply looking after the children in a day-to-day environment.
Fostering is different from adoption as there is no transferral of legal guardianship, with many foster carers having to remain in close contact with the children’s birth parents throughout the process.
What do foster carers do?
As we have mentioned, foster carers main role is to offer a stable, safe and warm environment so that children can feel safe and supported. They also try to help children build, develop and maintain good relationships with their families.
Of course, the physical needs of foster children are met, including good food, warm clothes and a clean and safe environment in which to live. Foster carers also need to offer support around any health issues that might be facing children in their care, and ensuring that they participate fully in education is another key role.
Fundamental to all of the above is the issue of trust. Foster children often talk of the need for trust between themselves and carers. Feeling like they are being listened to and being able to communicate well and in a positive way are key core skills for anyone wanting to be a foster carer.
It is difficult to outline an exact role for a foster carer because as each child is different, the circumstances and role of the foster carer is different too. However, if you enjoy working with young people, think you can make a difference to someone’s life and believe you can offer a stable environment for a child who really needs it, then fostering might be for you.