For obvious reasons, fostering is often dropped in the same category as adoption, which is understandable, as there are many similarities between the two. Both involve taking care of a child that isn’t your own, but the truth is that fostering is as much a career choice as anything else. For anyone interested in childcare as a business, fostering can be a highly rewarding job that offers continuous training and opportunities for development.
Contrary to popular belief, you can become a foster carer even if your own children are still living at home. Obviously, it will be a career move that will require your entire family to get onboard with, but having your own children can actually help you to become a successful foster carer. For many children in care, it is an incredibly distressing time, and having the stable support of a loving, functioning family can help to restore some sense of normalcy.
If having another child in your home full-time wouldn’t be suitable for your family, you can also register to become a planned break carer. Planned break foster carers offer parents and other foster carers the chance to recharge their batteries by caring for children during holidays, for occasional weekends or during the day. There are also short break foster carers who offer disabled children and their parents a chance to have a break from one another. Caring for a disabled child is extremely challenging, and it is important for both sides to have a break from each other every now and then.
If you have any experience in teaching, social work, the medical profession, law enforcement or the military, you will already be well-prepared for the challenges of fostering a child. And even if you don’t fit any of these categories, foster carers are offered ongoing training to continually develop their skills. Communication skills are essential to becoming a successful foster carer, as you will be in contact with a range of people involved in the child’s life, from social workers, to court officials and sometimes the child’s birth family. It is also an emotionally taxing role, and potential foster carers must be prepared to deal with troubling behaviour and difficult situations.
All the challenges aside, fostering is a highly rewarding career choice that can allow mums to stay at home with their own children while offering a much-needed lifeline to children and young people. If you’re interested in supplementing your income by becoming a foster carer, you should get in touch with your local authority or contact a private fostering agency to get the conversation started. The whole process of applying and getting accepted as a foster carer takes around 6 months, so you could soon be offering a much-needed home to one of the 64,000 children living in care in the UK.
By Rebecca Harper. A freelance writer living in London. After studying English at university, Rebecca pursued a career in journalism and now writes about business, politics and social justice.