If you have a spare room, or the kids have flown the nest, you might have considered becoming a foster parent. But what else apart from that space do you need to take on this challenging role? Can anyone do it, or do you need to be a special type of person?

From the heart

Some carers think of fostering as their job or their career, and although there is nothing negative in this outlook, the decision should never primarily be about the money. First the income you earn will never make you a millionaire, but more importantly you should not choose to go down this venue because of a promised pot of gold. Your heart should always lead the way; if not then you and your foster children will never truly benefit from the experience.

The criteria

Heart aside, there are some necessary considerations you need to fulfil before going forward:

  • Be at least 18 by law, but in reality you will probably not be considered if you are under 21
  • A UK resident
  • You must have the time to look after a young person on a full time basis (as a rule)
  • You must have enough space in your home to accommodate a young person, and it must be safe environment
  • You must be fit enough to care for a young person
  • You must be financially stable
  • You should have a good network of friends and family to support you
  • Past experiences – have you been around or cared for young people? Have you lived abroad or do you have any convictions?

As you go through the assessment stage all of these criteria will be carefully checked, to ensure that a young person in your care will be safe and supported.

Common myths

Don’t assume that only certain types of people can foster. Myths abound about who can or can’t foster, but the truth is it does not matter if you are single or in a relationship. Your sexual preference won’t stop you fostering, you don’t need to own your home, it doesn’t matter what faith you follow and you do not need formal qualifications.

What does matter is that you show that you can support a young person, and can offer stability and structure. You must be prepared to train and learn, and welcome guidance and support when necessary.

Skills and abilities

Working with young people can be challenging, so having certain skills will help to make the experience better for both parties. Communication is a great tool, and the ability to listen is just as important as being able to impart information clearly, in a manner that is appropriate to the age of the young person.

Having a clear sense of right and wrong is essential, as is being able to instil boundaries in a way that cultivates mutual respect and responsibility. At the same time you need to have the necessary flexibility to cope with everyday occurrences that are thrown along your path, and maintain a certain resilience.

Being a foster carer requires focus, and as it is a full time occupation plenty of energy, positivity and motivation will help you all through the good times and the not so good times. A sense of humour, patience and understanding will also never go a miss!

You will also need to work well with the team of professionals who are responsible for the young person, as well as help your foster children maintain connect with their friends and family without judgement or discrimination.

In summary

Luckily for the foster service there are many people who possess these credentials, and go on to help many young people over the years. Have you got what it takes to join the esteemed ranks of foster carers?