A foster carer is someone who looks after children who have been removed from their birth families. There are lots of reasons why this happens, but the role entails you looking after them until they either move onto adoption, a more permanent placement or return to their birth family. Becoming a foster carer is a long process, but one that is worth the investment. So, if you are looking at this as a potential career path, here is some advice about starting the journey.
Check Your Eligibility
There are certain criteria that dictate who can and who cannot become a foster carer. Generally, you must be aged over 21 years, have the legal right to live and work in the UK, not have any major criminal convictions (like abuse, violence, or manslaughter), not be dependent on drugs or alcohol, and have a spare bedroom for the foster child. If you think you meet the basic prerequisites, then you can move on to the next stage.
Read Up On the Official Guidance
It is vital that you learn about how to foster a child from an official source. Misinformation is dangerous and detrimental to the process, and will not help you make the best decision about whether this is right for you or not. So, always check your resources and verify all the facts when you decide which agency to sign up with.
Pick a Route of Access
Here you get to decide who you are going to work with. There are usually two clear routes of access when it comes to fostering, and these are local authority led placements and ones from a private agency. It is really up to you which path you go down, and each has its own advantages. Factors to help you decide include looking at remuneration packages, support options, respite care facilities, and the efficacy of training on offer. Whoever you decide to go with will be with you through the good times and the hard ones too, so it is a big decision that deserves careful consideration.
Set Up Your Home
When you have completed your training and gone to panel, it is time to set your home up for the day that your first foster placement arrives. To do this, you have to focus on getting the bedroom ready, stocking the cupboards, and ensuring everything is organised in a way that feels welcoming. Everyone does this bit differently, but the general advice is to keep the bedroom the child is going to move into as neutral as possible so they can make it their own after they arrive.
Embrace All the Training
When you are halfway through the process of becoming an official carer, there will be a lot of training you must undertake. This training is invaluable because it teaches you how to respond in certain circumstances, what kind of behaviours you may see, and all the safety information that is needed to keep everyone guarded in the home. You will learn about things like attachment disorder, trauma informed responses, safeguarding, and red flag mental health signs, and you may just use all of it on the job!
New foster carers have a lot to process, but once you start, all the training will kick in and your professional experience will know how to take the lead.