There are a lot of questions to consider when deciding to become a foster carer, but none more important than how a foster child will fit into your family – which might leave you wondering what to expect from foster children of different ages.
It’s important to know that you won’t be able to pick the age of your foster child, but you will be able to register a preference. After all, fostering is a matching process and how a child fits into your family is something you will discuss at length with your family-finding team during your assessment, and that includes considering foster child ages.
Whether you have an idea what age of child you’d like to look after, or you’re not sure what to expect from different stages of childhood, here are some things to keep in mind.
The nuts and bolts of foster home selection
When our assessment team approves a new foster carer, we approve them for 0-18 years. That means that you could receive a referral for a child of any age.
However, we are committed to finding the best home for each child, and there are many factors that go into deciding where a child will live. Your preference will matter, and we will never insist on a placement unless both sides feel it’s right.
What are children like at different ages?
Many potential fosters carers think they will prefer young children, or even babies – but every age group has its own advantages and disadvantages.
- Ages 0-5
Children this young can be very sweet, and might suit young foster carers whose friends and family have similar-aged children – but infants and toddlers are also a lot of work. They aren’t in school, which means you will need to be home all the time, and some foster children in this age group may be behind in their development and will need extra help to thrive.
- Ages 5-12
Children this age are in school, which makes for an easier schedule for some foster carers to manage. They are starting to become independent and are old enough to have a sense of self, but are at the wonderful stage where they are learning about the world. Foster children in this age group can also be behind in their development and might need more support and patience to help them succeed.
- Ages 13+
Teenagers are much more independent than younger children. They spend more time at school and in after-school activities, and have a more strongly developed sense of self. They tend to have better communication skills, and are at the stage of life where their achievements can be really significant and rewarding. They are also old enough to remember their time with you– and many fostered teens maintain lifelong relationships with their foster parents. However, teenagers in care may have built up harmful coping mechanisms that require patience and persistence to overcome.
What’s right for your family?
Each foster family is unique, and that’s why every home is considered based on the needs of both the individual child and the specific family. Some foster carers with young children prefer a child of similar age because they can share in activities and interests, while another carer with young children might prefer an older child who can bring a different energy into the home – it really does vary!
Think about what’s best for your family, and try not to make too many assumptions about foster child ages. While some foster carers are open to children of any age, the majority of carers stick with the same age group once they’ve found what works for them.
What’s right for the foster child?
Our family finding team will always keep a child’s best interest at the centre of their decision. They’ll consider the child’s background, including where they’ve lived in the past and what kind of households they may be used to, as well as what’s available in your area, such as schools and other amenities.
At the end of the day, the team will look for the home that will give the child the best chance at fitting in and getting the support they need to thrive.
What about boy or girl?
If you’re wondering about picking the sex of your foster child, the same principles apply – you can register a preference, but as with age, it’s about what’s best for the child.
Every family is different – one family with all girls might prefer not to have a boy entering the house, while another might be ready to bring some male energy in the home. No matter what, you can trust that our team will find the best fit possible for every foster child and foster family.
Have more questions about foster care? Read our most commonly asked fostering questions and answers or visit our fostering infocentre to get all the answers you need to start your journey!