“I couldn’t do that.”
This is probably the words I hear most when people find out I’m a foster carer. ‘I couldn’t do that’. Followed by ‘I couldn’t give them up; it would be too hard’. It could be easy to think I’d be offended by people’s comments that they couldn’t give the children back but that I was hardhearted enough to be able to. I’ve been fostering for a long time now and don’t take any offence. It’s mostly just a knee-jerk reaction and is often followed by ‘what a wonderful thing you do’
We are not saints or superheroes and we get tired, grumpy and want to hide in the toilet just like any other parent. Foster carers are just ordinary people from every walk of life.
What is fostering? When a child is unable to live at home with their birth family, they may live with a foster family. They might not be with their family for many reasons which may include risks to the child due to domestic violence, CSE (child sexual exploitation), neglect or drug or alcohol abuse. It may be due to bereavement or loss of a parent for another reason (illness, prison or homelessness for example).
A foster family is one that has been pre-approved as a safe and loving environment. The adults will have been trained and vetted and are responsible for the children in their care. The children live in the foster family household often with the foster carer’s own children and possibly other foster children.
Fostering can provide a home for many years or simply be overnight. Some foster carers offer emergency care whilst others only do respite or long-term fostering. Foster carers can become specialists in therapeutic care (Nexus 360 or Care+) or have specific training to look after children with particular medical conditions. In certain cases, a foster carer may be approved only to look after a member of their own family, for example a grandchild, niece, nephew or cousin.
If you’d asked me before I ever became a foster carer if it was something I could do, I’d probably have said ‘I couldn’t do that’ and reel off a list of reasons why but I’ve long since realised that foster carers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from different pasts and professions and haven’t had perfect lives.
Although foster carers bring a variety of different transferable skills, one thing that tends to unite them is life experience (good and challenging!). Can you be a foster carer if you don’t own your house? You’ve been divorced? Are in a same sex relationship? Are single? Been bankrupt? Have no children of your own? Have a dog? Yes, is the answer to all those questions.
Have you ever thought of fostering? If the answer is ‘I could never do that’, think again and see if you could welcome a child into your home and open your life to a world of new experiences.