The question everyone wants to ask, whether they are friends and family or the social worker assessing us, is “Why do you want to foster?”
I think I’ve just about trained myself to answer this question without crying, though I can still feel the emotion bubbling somewhere in my chest.
For us, it’s not about becoming parents - we have two biological children of our own. It is about providing a safe place. We want to be the safe space where they know that no matter what, they will be accepted, loved, and wanted.
Currently, there are 83,000 children living in care but only 80% of these are living with Foster Carers.
This figure has risen by 2% over the past year, and it means there are now 67 children in care for every 10,000 children. Around 30,000 new children enter the care system every year which means there is a great need for thousands of new loving foster families.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have put many aspects of life on pause, but it has not paused the needs of children in crisis.
In fact, the pandemic has created a new set of complications for social services. With children not attending school or other regular activities for large chunks of time, children have had far less contact with safe adults outside of the home to confide in if needed. Some homes have felt like pressure cookers to children, with the intense stress of all family members being at home causing very challenging environments to live in, especially where abuse, addictions, and neglect are prevalent.
One Social Worker recalls talking to a 14-year-old boy through his window because she was unable to enter his house due to lockdown restrictions. He was recovering from COVID-19 but was alone as both his parents were seriously ill in hospital with the virus themselves. Luckily, social services were able to find him somewhere to stay with friends and family, but foster families have also been opening up their homes to young people in this situation.
Fostering is far more than just having a child stay in your spare room. Fostering can help biological families stay together in the long term, but where this is not possible fostering provides a child with a safe place to recover from traumatic experiences, to grow and achieve and experience a brighter happier future.
My husband and I have always spoken about fostering as some distant aim for our future. Then one day we looked at each other and said, “Why not now?”
There is never going to be a ‘perfect’ time, so if you’re already thinking about fostering, why not take some first steps and get some more information, either from your local council, a local fostering agency, or from a charity such as Home for Good who provide brilliant support to potential Foster Carers and Adopters.
If you are thinking about it, you already have some of the characteristics that would be essential for a Foster Carer!
Other characteristics include patience, kindness, understanding, and resilience. Most important is the desire and ability to help a child or young person flourish and understand their worth and potential.
This blog was written by acet UK trustee, Meg.