There are lots on uncertainties that circulate around foster parenting. It’s widely believed that marital status, age and personal experience are the deciding factors in whether you are allowed to foster a child. We spoke to Lorraine* to gain a better insight into the world of fostering and to have all of the common myths and truths brought to light.
Can I become a foster parent if I’m single?
There are certain qualities that a foster parent must possess, lots of patience, empathy, supportiveness and a big heart, but surprisingly having a partner is not included in the list! Foster children are working through what’s called a transition period when they are placed into care – this is a period where they will be waiting to be either reunited with their birth parents, or placed with the right “forever family”, so it is an extremely difficult time for them that will require the upmost sensitivity – if you can provide a stable and loving environment for the child, that will cause them as little trauma as possible, then you could be the perfect candidate. So it doesn’t matter if you’re single, married, male or female.
Lorraine* is a single mother of 3, who began fostering a little over 7 years ago and hasn’t looked back since.
Can I foster if I have my own children?
One of the most common misconceptions about fostering is that people who have their own children are not suitable foster parent candidates. When speaking to Lorraine, she said “I have experience of being a parent, with 3 sons of my own I believed that I had the experience to benefit a child’s needs”. If you have your own children, it demonstrates that you are able to provide a stable and loving environment that a foster child needs. Also bringing a child into a home that already has children, who they can speak to, play with and learn from, can actually help them to acclimatise to their new home better.
Am I too old to foster?
If you are 25 years of age or older you can be a suitable candidate to foster. As long as you are of sound health both mentally and physically, then you can foster a child regardless of how old you are. Lorraine* began fostering when she was 48 years old, she is now 55 and is planning to continue to foster.
Do I have to be qualified to become a foster parent?
Before you are allowed to foster a child, there is an extensive process that you have to go through. You will be paired with a social worker who can visit you up to 10 different occasions – in this time they will complete the Form F Report, which is an in depth assessment of your family history, medical records and overall suitability to foster a child. If you pass the initial stages of the fostering process, you will also have to attend a 3-4 day course, which will prepare you for all of the different challenges that being a foster parent will bring. Lorraine* told us that “nothing can fully prepare you for the challenges and difficult times that you will be faced with as a foster parent. I have looked after so many children and teenagers during my time and every experience is different. This is such a rewarding life choice, and as long as you remain patient, open minded and supportive, you can really make an impact on the child’s life”.
Lorraine* fosters through a private fostering agency called Lorimer Fostering, but you can also foster via your local fostering authority.
*Lorraine’s name has been changed to protect her identity and that of the children in her care.