Lucy Stevens - 5th April 2022
What if everything you thought you knew about fostering was wrong?
When thinking about fostering many people conjure up the image of a baby or toddler and are either attracted to fostering because of it or assume that it is not something they could do.
In fact, there is increasingly a shortfall of carers for the children who really need them and who could benefit from the range of skills ordinary people bring to fostering.
So, what does fostering look like in 2022?
Since the Covid pandemic, we have seen the needs of children and young people shift. Undoubtedly, we are seeing the effects on children of poor mental health, domestic violence, substance misuse and poverty and the complex issues that brings. Whilst there are services being put into families to support them, the need is overwhelming, and we have seen an increase in children and young people who need a period of foster care.
Very few children in need of foster carers fall into the baby category, though of course there is still a need for carers who can look after babies, young children and certainly a large need for sibling groups. Fostering requires a deep pool of carers who are available to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable groups.
Task centred fostering
Task centred fostering is usually a planned period of foster care with a specific objective in mind. This may be to support children, young people and their families to rebuild relationships or address certain issues or behavioural concerns. It may be to offer support with mental health and give families space and respite. It might be to care for children who are in the process of court proceedings.
Parent and child fostering
We have seen a large increase in the need for carers to support young parents and their babies. This type of fostering offers young parents the opportunity to learn how to parent well. Increasingly, young parents are struggling with mental health issues, poor family support and relationships that are characterised by domestic violence. Parent and child fostering can offer parents role-modelling, life skills and the babies a safe and secure environment in which to develop a good attachment to their parent(s).
The greatest need for foster carers is in the adolescent age range. We have seen a rise in the number of 11–18-year-olds who need a secure, nurturing and therapeutic care setting. Often for these children and young people, reunification with family or adoption are not plausible options. Increasingly, the world is a scary and overwhelming place for these young people and fostering can really help them to reach their potential and process the trauma they may have experienced. Foster carers who look after this age group on a long-term basis can have a significant and lasting impact on a child and can help prepare them for independence.
Fostering refugee children
Recently, we have once again seen an increase in demand for carers to support children and young people who are seeking refuge in the UK, usually because of war, conflict or political unrest in their own countries. This type of fostering, whilst challenging, can be hugely rewarding and offers the opportunity to change someone’s life dramatically.
Staying Put Fostering
Many young people need additional support as they enter adulthood. Staying put offers young people over 18 the chance to stay within a loving fostering family as they continue to develop the skills and emotional toolkit they will need for life.
What can I bring to fostering?
Almost everyone has something they could bring to fostering.
- Have you had experience working with vulnerable adults or young people?
- Maybe you’ve been a teacher or youth worker?
- Have you raised your own children?
- Have you led an active part in the lives of children in your family?
- Have you supported stepchildren or friends of your own children?
- Do you have empathy for children and young people growing up in difficult circumstances?
- Do you want to make a difference in the world?
- Do you have a home with a spare room that you would like to use to benefit someone else?
- Do you practise a faith?
- Have you had difficult life experiences that you have overcome?
- Do you consider yourself to have had good life experiences and want to offer a child the same opportunity?
If you can answer yes to any of the above questions, it could be that you could bring something of great value to children who need nurture, support, love and guidance.
Life happens when you step out!