There are so many obvious reasons as to why fostering a child is such a fantastic and rewarding experience for all of those involved. However, most parents or families that have fostered children will no doubt agree that it can be a difficult journey, with many ups and downs along the way.
My mum was fostered as a child. She said that it was a hard time trying to get used to the fact that her parents couldn't cope and feeling that they didn't really want her or her siblings. Luckily for my mum, a lovely couple fostered her and her sisters together and she grew up with them all in a loving home. My mum was never adopted and stayed with her foster parents until old enough to leave home. Her foster mum now being my grandma and someone I and my children could not live without either.
Therefore before choosing to foster a child, it’s important that you arm yourself with the facts regarding what it involves entirely, and also considering how prepared you and your family are for the new arrival. I've compiled a list of what I think are ten of the most vital things to think about before you take the next steps along the fostering process.
1. Think about the effect it will have on the whole family
Adding another family member to any family can be a stressful time, so it’s important that all members – including partners and children – are happy and feel secure about the decision.
2. What age child do you feel you would best be able to help?
Children of all ages need fostering, so think hard about what age you feel you would be able to help most. If you are unsure, speak to the fostering agency in your local county or city, such as Capstone foster care in London, and ask about the most common ages that need your help.
3. Remember that you will have a lot of outsider influence on the child’s live
There will be a whole host of people working with you to look after the child, including the fostering agency, social workers and even the child’s biological parents. Therefore you will need to be comfortable with this and the fact that you will not necessarily have the final say regarding important decisions in their life.
4. Are you financially stable enough and will you be able to have time off work?
Although you will receive substantial financial help when looking after the foster child, you will no doubt find yourself spending a lot of money, so will need to think about whether this is realistic for your financial situation. You will also need time off work as the child settles into your home, too.
5. Think about how you will feel when they leave
Some foster care contracts can be for as little as a month, yet some can be a year or so. Think about the impact having a child in your home for a year would have, especially when it’s time for them to leave to go to a permanent home.
6. Be prepared to dramatically change your routine and lifestyle
You will need to be extremely flexible when welcoming a foster child into your home as they may have very different needs and wishes to your own children, and may not even have experienced a structured routine before.
7. Do you have a good support network?
A good support network will be beneficial to all of you, especially if you aim to work in paid employment alongside fostering a child. Ensure if you ever do leave the child with anyone that they are someone you trust completely.
8. Is your home ready to house another family member?
Do you have the physical space that the child will need? Most authorities state that they are required to have their own bedrooms, so think about whether this is possible.
9. Consider your capabilities helping children who have been abused
The child you look after may have been from a very traumatic background that therefore may have behavioural problems or emotional problems. Do you feel up to looking after a child who has been abused? This may be a very new concept to you, so there are books and resources you can take advantage of to help you further.
10. Think about what you can offer a child
Above all, think about why a fostering agency should choose your family to house a foster child. What can you offer and promise them, besides love?