Becoming a foster parent can be a rewarding career. You will change the life of a child for the better as well as get the opportunity to develop your own skills and grow as a person, all of this with support and training and you’ll earn an allowance at the same time.
Richard, a Foster Carer with Cardiff Council, tells us about his experience.
“Many children and young people who come into care have suffered some form of abuse and/or trauma in their early life experiences. It is often hard for them to overcome this and lead a happy, care free life. It is, therefore, often quite small things that mean the most, a smile, a laugh, bright eyes, in fact any sign that indicates that they are happy in that moment.
One of the best tools in a Foster Carer’s kit is praise, something unfortunately many young people in care find hard to accept. Recently the young person I care for gained grades in both their Maths and Numeracy GCSEs, which is an awesome achievement, considering that they couldn’t read and thought 1+1 = 11 just 6 years ago! Their achievements and happiness are my rewards.”
What has surprised you about fostering?
“I will admit that I had not expected quite so many meetings with not only Social Workers, but other professionals as well. A young person in care will have an independent review of their care every 6 months; a personal education plan reviewed every 6 months; visits from their allocated Social Worker; an annual LAC medical. The list seems endless.
On a more positive note I hadn’t expected to make so many new friends. You will meet other Foster Carers who, for example, are attending training sessions or support group meetings and you will develop your own support network. Learning from other carers experiences is extremely valuable or at times you might just feel the need for a friendly chat, especially if you are going through a difficult patch.”
Tell us about the challenges.
“Foster Carers tend to lead very busy lives, not only providing a home for those in our care, but also a pretty full diary of appointments and meetings. It is important, therefore, to set aside some me time to relax and recharge the batteries before facing the next challenge. I have recently started running again after a break of six years. Before becoming a Foster Carer for Cardiff Council, I had been an avid runner and ran 32 marathons and ultra marathons, including the Marathon des Sables across the Sahara desert. The endurance and determination I developed in my running, has certainly helped me as a Foster Carer to go the full distance.”
What support have you had?
"Many children and young people who come into care will probably have had negative experiences in their earlier lives, which will present challenges for them and you as their Foster Carer. As a Cardiff Council Foster Carer, I have had many opportunities to participate in relevant training, covering a wide range of themes, for example safeguarding, child development and behaviour as well as, on a lighter note, how to teach young people to cook (great fun). I was also supported in undertaking a City & Guild diploma in Health and Social care (Level 3). All this training, excellent Supervising Social Workers and my informal network of Foster Carers have helped me develop considerable knowledge of the requirements of fostering. But just remember there will always be a surprise around the corner and something you didn’t expect, good and not so good.”
Tell us about your experience applying to be a Foster Carer – any surprises?
“I am a single, male carer who only started fostering when I was in my 50’s. I was fit, having been a long distance runner for many years; I had a suitable spare bedroom and was judged, after a rigorous assessment process, to have the appropriate parenting skills to provide a home for children and young people, in my case 10-18 years old. Some people are surprised that a single male can be approved as a Foster Carer – and there aren’t that many of us – but carers with a wide range of backgrounds are required to provide the best match to meet the needs of sometimes challenging children and young people. The most nerve-racking part of the whole process was the initial phone call because I was convinced I would be told that I couldn’t be considered. By the end of that call, I came away feeling positive and even more determined to become a Foster Carer.”
One misconception is that you have to either be a parent already or have some kind of training…
“Although I had not been a parent myself, there were many children and young people, including three godsons, in my life and I seemed to get on very well with them. Fortunately they were all supported by excellent parents and were offered numerous opportunities in their lives: a good education, options to develop their interests in sport, music or whatever, good friendships etc. Not every young person is that lucky and I decided – whilst standing in the middle of a theme park in Germany in fact – that I wanted to offer a home to such a young person.
So what life skills do you need?
“I had during my life developed patience in abundance, resilience to get through difficult times, compassion and the ability to work with people. Such skills are essential if you are to become a Foster Carer.
Being a Foster Carer is undoubtedly a lifestyle choice. Would I go through the last eight years again, in order to offer a child/young person a life with stability and opportunities? The answer is a big YES.”
Cardiff Council Fostering Team are looking for Foster Carers from all walks of life. If you are interested in finding out more about fostering in Cardiff visit http://gofalmaethcaerdydd.co.uk or http://fostercarecardiff.co.uk or call the Cardiff Fostering Team on 029 2087 3797.
You can foster:
At any age. There is no official maximum age limit as long as you are over 21, fit and active.
If you are married or single.
You are a same-sex couple. Sexuality is not a barrier to fostering. For some foster children being cared for by two people of the same sex is more appropriate.
If you have pets, so long as they are good with children.
Whatever your income level. You will be paid an allowance.
If you live in rented property. You don’t need to own your home to have a child or young person living with you, all you need is a spare room and permission from your landlord.
Whatever religion you are.
You go away on holiday. Holidays away do not stop you from fostering. You would be encouraged to take your foster child away with you so they feel part of the family.
If you have a troubling history or a criminal record. Criminal convictions do not necessarily exclude you from fostering, much depends on the seriousness of the offence, how long ago and how you have lived your life since. However people with violent or sexual offences against children cannot foster. It is important to be open with the Fostering Service if you have a criminal conviction from the initial contact with the team.
I don’t want teenagers/young babies. You can specify the age of the child you want to foster.
How to become a foster carer
The process takes 6-9 months
1. Contact a foster agency.
2. Go to an open evening to find out more.
3. Go on a fostering training course where you’ll learn all about fostering and the skills you’ll need.
4. Start the application process.