Posts tagged as: Fostering Advice
Working After Retirement: Have You Considered Fostering?
While we all expect to retire one day, we don’t often think about how we will spend our golden years afterwards. Retirement is a significant milestone to reach, and is usually accompanied by a significant mix of emotions. Some retirees may feel relieved to have more freedom and leisure, while others might feel disconnected from a sense of purpose. This is especially true if you’ve enjoyed working your entire life — but is working after retirement worth it?
If you’re looking to find purpose in retirement and build meaningful connections, the answer is undoubtedly yes. Exploring the path of foster caring could be an avenue well worth considering. There’s no upper age limit to foster, and your wisdom and life experiences could make you the perfect foster carer.
How Fostering Can Help You Find Purpose in Retirement
Fostering can help you with finding purpose in retirement in many ways. One of the most significant ways it does this is by giving you the chance to witness the incredible impact you can have on a child’s life:
1. Make a real difference
Through opening your home and your heart, you become instrumental in transforming a child’s life for the better. The joy of nurturing and supporting their growth can be incredibly emotionally fulfilling, especially if you are an empty nester or have never had kids of your own. It’ll also leave a mark on the world around you, as by being a foster carer, you are playing an active role in building a stronger community, inspiring others to give a child a chance.
2. Sharpen your skills
Additionally, fostering is a great way to use your skills and learn new ones. For example, if you have a professional background in working with troubled individuals or crisis management, you can use those skills through our emergency foster care arrangements. You’ll also be constantly learning as you go, as no two children are the same. As you progress as a foster carer, you’ll begin to notice how much more resilient and understanding you have become. At Compass, we also offer all our foster carers a broad range of training to help you develop your skills even further.
3. Build meaningful connections
Finally, becoming a foster carer helps you build meaningful connections. Depending on your personal circumstances, retirement can be incredibly isolating. If you don’t have many people around you, fostering can be a great way to change that. You shouldn’t be afraid of fostering if you’re alone, as you’ll be opened up to a wider fostering community who will provide you with 24/7 support. During your time as a foster carer, you’ll work closely with social workers and attend support groups with other carers, which are great places to share your experiences and troubles.
Can You Work After Medical Retirement?
In the UK, whether or not you can work after medical retirement depends on a variety of factors, including the specific circumstances of your retirement and the nature of your medical condition. Fortunately, a default or forced retirement age no longer exists. This means you have the right to work for as long as you want, but it’s important to consider what type of work would be right for you, especially if you have a medical condition.
Remember too that fostering requires a significant commitment of time, energy and emotional resilience. Before considering becoming a foster carer, it’s essential to determine whether your medical condition will enable you to meet the physical and emotional demands of caring for young people. A fostering agency like Compass can assess your case on an individual basis and ensure you are capable of providing adequate care.
What About Other Traditional Part-Time Jobs?
While retirees might look to more traditional jobs, there are several disadvantages of working part-time after retirement compared to fostering. Firstly, many traditional part-time jobs often lack the emotional and personal satisfaction that fostering brings. Unlike routine part-time jobs, fostering allows retirees to form deep and meaningful connections with the children in their care, providing a sense of fulfilment that can’t be easily replicated in other roles. Additionally, fostering allows for a flexible schedule, which can be critical for looking after your mental health in retirement. You can balance your commitments and enjoy your retirement, except you’ll also be making an incredible impact on the life of a vulnerable person.
Can Foster Carers Claim Pension Credit While Receiving a Fostering Allowance?
The good news is that our competitive Fostering Allowance will not stop you from claiming your pension. For a state pension, you can claim this and foster as long as you are over the state pension age of 66 years old. You can also do the same with a private pension, as long as you have reached the age agreed in your provider beforehand. You might also be eligible for various benefits, including Pension Credit, as your Fostering Allowance isn’t considered income. If you’ve already claimed your state pension, you can apply for Pension Credit on the GOV.UK website.
What Other Support Is Available for Retirees Who Want to Foster?
While fostering can be rewarding, it isn’t without its difficulties. In some instances, you might have a child under your care who is dealing with significant trauma. This can lead to challenging behaviour, which could take a toll on your energy and mental health. This is why at Compass, we offer respite fostering to all of our carers. Respite fostering is when foster children take a short-term stay with another foster family, to give their birth family or foster carers a break. Every foster carer with Compass is eligible for 14 days of respite per year, with 21 days offered with our therapeutic packages. Even if things aren’t challenging, it can give retirees who become foster carers a much-needed break to recharge their batteries.
Additionally, we also provide a wide range of support and benefits to our foster carers. This includes local support groups, as well as planned days out. If you’re retired and thinking about fostering, you can get in touch with the team at Compass Fostering to find out more.
Exploring The Impact Of Fostering On Birth Children
Not only does fostering have a profound impact on the children living in care, but it also affects the birth children of foster families. While many people would love to welcome a foster child into their home, the impact of fostering on birth children should never be overlooked.
Before you start your fostering journey, it’s important to take time to evaluate the pros and cons first. Although fostering can have amazing benefits for your birth children, it can also come with many challenges. We have compiled a list of all the best and worst ways fostering affects birth children, so that you can decide whether it is right for your family.
The positive impacts fostering has on birth children
- They learn how to share. Not only will birth children learn how to share personal possessions, such as toys, but also their parents’ time and affection. If your child is an only child, this will likely be an unknown concept to them. In the long run, this can be incredibly impactful, as it teaches children to be selfless.
- They become more empathetic. Living with a foster sibling can help your child become more empathetic towards others. During their time living with a foster sibling, they gain a better understanding of how difficult life can be for others. This can help them treat others in their life with kindness, teaching them to be a better, more well-rounded person.
- They can learn to be more appreciative. As well as becoming more empathetic, your birth child can become much more grateful for their own circumstances. This can lead them to become more inspired to help others in the future, using their own privilege to benefit others.
- They can build authentic, sibling-like bonds. This can be especially beneficial if your child is an only child. Through having a foster sibling, they can have another person around them that they might feel closer to. Many children struggle to speak to adults, so having a sibling-like bond in their life can be beneficial for their wellbeing.
- They can learn more about different backgrounds. No two foster children are ever the same. Children and young people in care come from various backgrounds, cultures, and religions. Through having a foster sibling around, your birth child can learn more about the world around them, leading them to become more tolerant of others.
- They are introduced to different personalities. Linking to the previous point, birth children can greatly improve their social skills through a foster sibling. Fostering shouldn’t be a permanent solution, with the goal always being to reunite a child with their birth family. Because of this, your birth child will likely meet a range of children during your time as a foster carer. Not only will this improve social skills, but they also might find new hobbies and interests through each other.
The negative impacts of fostering on birth children
- Learning to share won’t be easy at first. This is especially true if your birth child is an only child. Regardless of whether you’ve had a proper discussion with your birth child beforehand, they might still struggle with this. However, this can happen in any family, not just foster families. The key to overcoming it is clear communication.
- They might mimic challenging behaviours. Foster children can come from incredibly traumatic backgrounds, so they might not settle in easily at first. As a result, they might demonstrate some challenging behaviours. You might find your birth child mimicking these behaviours, especially if they are younger and more easily influenced.
- They might struggle with goodbyes. As fostering isn’t a permanent solution, your birth child might struggle with the inconsistency of it. During different arrangements, your birth child might get attached to their foster siblings, making it harder to say goodbye. They might also find it hard to explain to their friends at school who don’t understand foster families.
- Tolerance doesn’t always come easy. Whether it’s a difference in personality, culture or religion, there’s always the risk your birth child might not tolerate their foster sibling. However, teaching your child to be tolerant of others is important, whether they live in a foster family or not.
How can I look after my child’s wellbeing during a fostering arrangement?
The topic of birth children and fostering can be daunting for many potential and current foster carers. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in your struggles, and there are ways to ensure your birth child doesn’t struggle in the process.
Before you even consider fostering, it’s crucial that you speak to your family and birth child first. You should explain what fostering is, explain they’ll likely have various foster siblings, and ask them how they feel about it. Setting up a plan beforehand, considering the challenges listed above, will make it easier for both foster children and birth children.
It’s also important to consider how you will manage behaviour and their relationship. Even in the face of challenges, it’s important that your birth child knows why their foster sibling is acting in that way. You should also be prepared to guide them into creating a healthy bond, which can have fantastic benefits for them both.
E, a birth child who’s had various foster siblings, said she loved the process, as “you can form amazing connections you never would have otherwise… I have been getting to know more people and hearing their stories.”
There are currently over 80,000 children in care, desperate for a stable and loving home. If you’re considering fostering, you can get in touch with the Compass Fostering team who can teach you more about the impact fostering has on birth children.
How To Encourage Healthy Eating Habits In Foster Children
As a foster carer, one of your primary responsibilities will be ensuring that your foster children have easy access to healthy meals and snacks. However, many foster children come from backgrounds of neglect and trauma, which can often result in unhealthy eating behaviour. Such behaviour includes food hoarding, stealing food and other concerning food-related patterns. In addition, foster children may have underlying attachment issues that can also have an impact on their dietary practices. So with that in mind, in this article, we will examine how to encourage healthy eating habits in foster children and learn to tackle these challenges head on.
What Is Food Hoarding?
Food hoarding is a common behaviour in foster children who have experienced food insecurity in the past. It is essentially a coping mechanism that provides them with a sense of control and helps them prepare for times when nourishment could be lacking. A food hoarding foster child may hide food in their bedroom to guarantee that it is there when needed, for instance. If you catch your foster child stealing food or suspect that they are engaging in food hoarding of any kind, it is important to address the issue with understanding and patience. Avoid shaming or punishing the child, as this can often make the problem worse.
How Attachment Styles Influence Eating Habits
We call attachment styles the various ways in which children form emotional bonds with their primary caregivers. There are four main types of attachment styles: secure, avoidant, anxious and disorganised. While children with a secure attachment style feel safe and secure in their relationship with their caregiver — and are more likely to have healthy eating habits — children with other attachment styles will often struggle with food-related problems:
- Children with an avoidant attachment style may avoid food to assert their control and independence.
- Children with an anxious attachment style may cling to food in an attempt to cope with their anxiety.
- Children with a disorganised attachment style may have difficulty regulating their emotions and struggle with both undereating and overeating.
What to Do When Children Are Hoarding Food
There are a number of things you can do as a carer to combat food insecurity in foster kids:
1. Model healthy eating behaviours
Foster children may not have had positive role models in their lives, having picked up unhealthy eating habits from their caregivers or biological parents. As a foster parent, you can model healthy eating patterns by enjoying a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods. Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues and avoid unhelpful comments about food in general — including comments related to body image. You can also eat together as a family to create a greater sense of belonging and connection.
2. Practise therapeutic parenting techniques
Any foster parent can also practise therapeutic parenting techniques to help children heal from their past traumas and form new, secure attachments to boot. Some of these techniques include:
- Being empathetic and compassionate. Try to understand the feelings behind their negative behaviours and validate them as often as you can.
- Being consistent and predictable. Set clear boundaries and expectations around food and eating and follow through with them every time.
- Refraining from punishing the child. Use ‘time-ins’ instead of time-outs to spend some extra time with the child and give them the emotional breathing space to calm down.
3. Use our practical healthy eating checklist!
Here are some other things you can do to encourage healthy eating habits in foster children:
- Create a consistent and predictable routine around meals and snacks.
- Set regular meal times and offer healthy options including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins.
- Involve children in meal planning and preparation, as this can help them feel invested in their food choices.
- Avoid using food as a reward or punishment, as this can also lead to unhealthy eating habits. Instead, praise children for making healthy decisions and offer positive reinforcement for trying new things.
- Consider seeking the support of a therapist, social worker or mental health professional specialising in foster children. At Compass Fostering, we also offer therapeutic fostering arrangements.
The Bottom Line
The quest to encourage healthy eating habits in foster children requires patience, determination and a willingness to work through challenges. By understanding the different attachment styles, creating a safe and secure environment and implementing healthy routines and practices, you can combat food hoarding and other negative dietary habits, and support your foster child’s well-being and health.
The Benefits And Challenges Of Being A Foster Parent
Becoming a foster parent is a unique and rewarding experience that comes with various benefits and challenges. Currently, there are over 80,000 children and young people in care across the United Kingdom, with fostering applications dropping by 2000.
While we urgently need more foster carers, it’s important that those interested know exactly what they’re getting into. At Compass, we believe all potential carers should take as much time as they need when thinking about fostering. Making the decision to foster is life-changing, so evaluating the benefits and challenges of being a foster parent is a great way to decide.
The benefits of becoming a foster parent:
You can make a significant difference to a child’s life
Of course, the most obvious benefit of fostering is the effect that you will have on children and young people in your care. Many children and young people in care have a history of trauma and abuse, never knowing a loving home. By opening your home and your heart, you’ll be giving vulnerable children a safe place where they can continue to grow and thrive.
You can build a long-term bond with a child
Being a foster parent gives you the opportunity to build a meaningful bond that lasts a lifetime. There are many types of fostering, but long-term arrangements allow children to stay with their foster families until they move on from care. These placements are ideal, as the child will feel more integrated into your family and supported. However, it’s only available if the child is unable to move back in with their birth family.
Regardless, even in short-term placements, the bond you create with your foster child never truly goes away. Even after they have moved on, your support and care will have left a permanent mark on them.
Fostering develops new skills
During your time as a foster carer, you will become equipped with various skills. Whether you’re already a parent or not, there’s always something new to learn. At Compass, we provide all our carers with different types of training to support you along your fostering journey. As you gain more skills and experience, you can do different fostering arrangements, such as therapeutic fostering.
Fostering can be a fulfilling life transition
You might reach a point in your life where your career isn’t giving you the same satisfaction as before, or maybe you’ve never found your calling. Fostering is extremely transformative and can make you feel as though you have a greater purpose. Caring for a vulnerable child or young person can give you a sense of direction, as you’ll be making an active contribution to the world.
Fostering gives you a sense of community
During your time as a foster carer, you’ll work with a wide range of professionals, such as social workers, therapists, and other foster parents. Through this, you’ll develop a huge support network that can give you guidance, resources or just be a shoulder to lean on in tough times. Through connecting with other foster carers, you can exchange knowledge, experiences, and emotional support.
Here at Compass, each of our different regions hosts various support groups for our foster carers so you feel welcomed into our community.
The challenges of becoming a foster parent:
It can have a significant emotional impact
You should never underestimate how much fostering can change your life – for better or worse. Sometimes it can be incredibly draining, as it often involves caring for children who have experienced significant trauma or abuse. Witnessing how it can affect them can be heart-breaking, so many foster carers need high emotional resilience.
It’s also likely that you won’t be prepared for the changes it brings into your life, which can also have a negative effect on your emotional state. You’ll need to consider whether you can make the necessary changes in your lifestyle to suit a child, and put them first at all costs.
It can be hard to say goodbye
The primary goal of foster care is to ultimately reunite children with their birth families. Fostering can sometimes be unpredictable, so you need to be prepared for this to happen. This can feel like a loss to both the foster carer and child, who may have formed a close bond during their time together. Saying goodbye can be emotionally challenging, but you need to be resilient enough to get through this.
You’ll need to navigate relationships with birth families
As many children in care come from complicated households, they may not want anything to do with their birth families. This can be tough, as if the goal is to reunite them, then their birth families might feel upset by the child’s reaction. It’s important that you can work together, regularly communicate, collaborate and reaching expectations to build a healthy relationship.
Fostering can be a complicated journey with plenty of highs and lows, but ultimately what you are doing is transforming a vulnerable child or young person’s life for the better. If you are considering becoming a foster carer, it’s important to take some time to educate yourself, connect with other foster parents, and seek guidance from professionals.
You can get in touch with our team to learn more, or have a look through our Fostering FAQs.
Why Teachers Make Great Foster Parents
Although fostering is open to many, teachers have desirable qualities that can build a stable and loving home. In a recent survey conducted by Compass, we found that 15% of our foster parents come from a teaching background. This isn’t surprising, given that teachers have experience working with children and young people of all ages and backgrounds, making it easy to understand why teachers make great foster parents.
Across the United Kingdom, we need more people with teaching backgrounds to become foster carers more than ever. According to the latest statistics from the Department of Education, there are currently over 80,000 vulnerable children and young people in care. Teachers considering fostering could help reduce this number and have a valuable impact on the lives of children and young people in care.
Teachers have invaluable experience with children.
The main reason why teachers make great foster parents is because of their experience in nurturing the talents of children and young people. Throughout their career, teachers work with children with different backgrounds, cultures, developmental needs and behaviours. Because of this, they often must be resilient and adapt to each child’s needs, creating a supportive environment for them to thrive.
It’s currently estimated that 63% of foster children across the United Kingdom have experienced abuse or neglect. Therefore, a teacher’s experience with children who require behavioural management or additional needs can make them ideal foster carers.
Tessa, our foster carer, says the skills acquired from managing a classroom can be effectively applied to behaviour management when caring for foster children. “When you’re teaching, you’re constantly working with children and gaining insight into how they think and learn,” she explained.
Teachers can advocate for a foster child’s educational needs.
Only 44% of children in foster care across the UK attain a good level of development by age 5, compared to 70% of children in the general population. This makes it critical that foster carers advocate for their foster child’s educational needs, which teachers can do well.
As professionals in the education system, teachers understand how the school system works. This means they can work better with schools to ensure that their foster child receives the support and education they need, greatly improving the academic outcomes of foster children.
Teachers know how to build strong relationships.
Teachers are incredibly skilled at building strong relationships with students and their families. Through this, they can work together to create a safe and supportive environment where children can express their thoughts and feelings.
Many children leave their foster homes because they are unable to build a connection and strong relationship with their foster carers. Teachers who become foster carers can work around this, as they can easily recognise their strengths and weaknesses, leading them to offer their foster child the best support.
Fostering can change teachers’ lives.
Although foster carers with a teaching background benefit foster children, fostering can also be a great transition for many teachers. While the work of teachers is inspiring, it can be an incredibly draining career path.
Our foster carer Tessa always loved her teaching career, but she knew she needed a break from it. Fostering had always crossed her mind, but it wasn’t until her children moved out to university and she developed empty nest syndrome that it became a reality.
Tessa is now an amazing foster carer, working part-time with vulnerable children in an education setting. Tessa has highlighted how much better her work-life balance has become, enjoying her leisure time with her foster children.
Fostering is a vital service that provides vulnerable children and young people with a stable and loving environment. If you are a teacher and feel equipped with the skills to transform a child’s like, you can contact our team or read our FAQs to learn more.
Why Keeping Siblings Together Is Important
The foster care system can be a difficult experience for any child, especially if they are separated from their siblings. This is why it’s important to understand why keeping siblings together is important for their emotional well-being and long-term development as they go through the foster care system.
Unfortunately, it is estimated that around 37% of foster care siblings are placed apart. Given the growing number of children in care, this data is likely to increase. This means more children will have to deal with the negative consequences of being apart from their sibling, despite the importance and benefits of keeping them together.
The importance of keeping siblings together
Siblings share a unique bond that is unlike any other, which can deepen if they come from an abusive or troubling household. The stability and familiarity of their sibling could be the only thing that gives them support and comfort. Separating them could have serious consequences, such as long-term emotional damage.
It’s believed that when children experience trauma, they have a great difficulty trusting adults outside of their pre-existing bonds. As a result, they may become disruptive when living with their foster family. By keeping them with their sibling, they have a greater chance of adapting to this difficult change, which is essential for their wellbeing.
Outside of their familial bond, keeping siblings together is also important to maintain their historical and cultural identity. Children with different cultural or ethnic backgrounds to their foster carers might feel disconnected, making it harder for them to settle. Having their sibling around can help maintain their cultural and family connections, while also learning about new ones.
The benefits of keeping siblings together
There’s various evidence to support why keeping siblings together is important in foster care. Not only does it make settling into a foster home less traumatic, but it has also been proven to support their emotional wellbeing. Children placed with siblings are less likely to internalise their struggles, reducing the risk of depression and anxiety.
It’s also been shown that children who are kept with their siblings also have higher academic performance. This is often because of the comfort that their sibling provides them, allowing them to focus on other things. They have also been shown to have more developed social skills than other foster children.
Foster carers who care for siblings may also find they don’t feel overworked, as siblings often play and spend time together. This can allow foster carers to take breaks during the day and do other essential household tasks.
Why do siblings get separated?
At Compass, we never underestimate the value of keeping siblings together. However, there are instances where it may not always be in the best interest of the child. This occurs when there is a relationship difficulty, a significant age gap, or one sibling requires additional support.
There’s also the issue of how many siblings there are, and whether there are the right foster homes to accommodate them. Siblings may also enter care at different points, which can make it more difficult to place them together.
What happens if siblings are separated?
The importance of sibling relationships in foster care is never overlooked, even if they are separated. To ensure that children can maintain their relationship with their siblings, training is provided to social workers and foster carers. This training helps promote the importance of sibling relationships, and why they should be maintained.
It’s important to ensure siblings can contact each other if appropriate, with regular visits or days out. Foster carers should also be prepared to provide emotional support when needed, as a child separated from their sibling might be more unpredictable. This can be worse if a child is placed into care before their sibling, as they’ll likely be scared.
I want to foster siblings, but I only have one room
While we require foster children to have their own bedroom, same-sex siblings are an exception. This is subject to each local authority, and we will always assess whether it is in the best interest of the children. It’s likely to be considered if the siblings have previously shared a room, or if the bedroom in question is large enough. Some local authorities will only allow the siblings to share a room up to the ages of 9 or 11.
If you’re worried about only having one bedroom, you shouldn’t let it put you off the opportunity to foster siblings. It’s worth getting in contact to see if this option will be available to you, as it could be a chance to give siblings in care a loving and stable home.
Keeping siblings together in the foster care system will always be a priority here at Compass. By fostering siblings, carers can have a significant long-term impact on their wellbeing, allowing them to grow and thrive as a unit. If you decide to foster siblings with Compass, we will provide you with extensive training and support to help you become a confident carer.
You can find out more about becoming a foster carer by getting in touch with our team, or by reading our FAQs.
How Fostering Gives Your Life Meaning
There are many harmful myths surrounding fostering, making it easy to underestimate how fostering gives your life meaning. In a recent survey conducted by Compass, we discovered that 20% of carers were motivated to foster because they wanted to do something important. Additionally, 34% also stated that their main reason to become a foster carer was because they wanted to help the children who needed it.
A common misconception about fostering is that many people decide to become foster carers to get money. However, just 4% of foster carers stated this as their motivation to start fostering, with the vast majority caring more about the difference they could make to a vulnerable child or young persons life.
Fostering can be a challenging journey for various reasons, but above all else, it is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience. Many current and potential foster carers will find that fostering can give their lives a sense of purpose and fulfilment that they may not have felt otherwise.
Fostering saves lives
An obvious way that fostering gives your life meaning is that it gives you the opportunity to make a positive and lasting impact on another person’s life. For children who have experienced trauma and neglect, being placed in a supportive home can be life-changing.
As a foster carer, you have the chance to provide stability, care and support to a child who may have never experienced any of those things before. Seeing the positive changes in a child’s behaviour and well-being can be incredibly rewarding. Knowing that you helped play a part in that transformation can be deeply meaningful.
Our foster carer Hayley has previously stated: ‘I’m here for the kids at the end of the day, and try my best to give them a better life and understanding of the world’. At Compass, we are proud to say that all of our foster carers share the same dedication towards improving the outcomes for all of the children and young people in our care.
Fostering gives your life purpose
Not only does fostering save lives, but it can also give your own life a sense of purpose. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine of work, chores and other obligations, feeling as though you aren’t making an active contribution to the world.
There may also be instances where your own children have grown up and moved out, which could leave you dealing with empty nest syndrome. As a result of this, you may find yourself struggling with grief, anxiety, distress and loss.
Fostering can help fight these negative thoughts by giving you a sense of purpose and direction that can be difficult to find once lost. Knowing that you are actively striving to make a difference, even if it is in just one child’s life, is incredibly empowering and rewarding.
Fostering gives you new skills
Fostering can help you develop new skills and strengths in life which you otherwise may not have gained. Foster parents need to have patience, compassion, and a willingness to adapt to new challenges.
Becoming a foster carer can be an opportunity to develop your communication skills, your problem-solving abilities, and your ability to be flexible and adaptable in the face of uncertainty. These skills can be valuable in many areas of life, helping you become a more capable and well-rounded person.
Fostering helps you to grow
Fostering is a deeply fulfilling and enriching experience for many. It can bring joy, laughter, and a sense of purpose into your life that can be difficult to find elsewhere. It can also provide opportunities for personal growth and self-reflection. You may find that during your fostering journey, you learn a lot about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses.
Of course, fostering is not for everyone, and it is always important to think about whether it is the right journey for you and your family. Fostering can be demanding and challenging, so it requires significant commitment of time, energy, and resources. However, if you feel you’d make that commitment, fostering can be a truly transformative experience.
Fostering gives you a sense of community
If you’re considering becoming a foster carer, it’s important to have a great support network around you. Not only can it bring you closer to people you trust already have in your life, but you’ll also be opened up to an entire community of other foster carers and professionals who can aid you along your fostering journey.
Here at Compass, we provide our foster carers with 24/7 support and host regular support groups. Foster carers who attend these groups are able to share their thoughts, feelings and struggles with each other, building long-term supportive friendships with one another.
Fostering gives your life meaning in many ways. It allows you to transform a vulnerable child or young person’s life, provides a sense of purpose and direction, helps develop new skills and strengths, grow as an individual and build friendships. If you are considering fostering, take some time to reflect on what you hope to gain from the experience and what you can offer a child who needs support.
If you decide fostering is the right journey for you, you can learn more by getting in touch with our team or reading through our fostering FAQs.
How Ex-Military Carers Can Change Lives
People from all backgrounds can become foster parents. In fact, most people do not realise how their backgrounds and professional experience qualify them to care for a child or young person. In particular, ex-military carers could have a substantial impact on a child’s life by utilising their transferable skills from their military service.
Compass understands how difficult it can be to transition from the armed forces to civilian life, especially when you are looking for a job. Even though armed forces leavers have many career options available to them, fostering may provide the mental stimulation and satisfaction that other jobs can’t.
Because of it’s drastic difference from life on the frontline, fostering often escapes the attention of many armed forces leavers, but making the transition to a foster carer can have an abundance of benefits for ex-military carers.
The benefits of fostering as an ex-military carer
Compared to other foster carers, ex-military carers are highly disciplined and adaptable, which are invaluable qualities when caring for children or young people who have experienced trauma and difficult upbringings. Armed forces leavers are also typically used to working under stressful conditions, which can be a huge advantage when it comes to fostering.
Our ex-military carer Sharon said her time in the armed forces made her extremely resilient, which she has found helpful throughout her time as a foster carer. Sharon also said that her time in the armed forces gave her crucial medical knowledge, which has also aided her on her fostering journey.
Armed forces families may also have a greater sense of teamwork than other families, with many ex-military carers having strong leadership skills that could help guide a vulnerable child or young person through the care system. In particular, many older children and teenagers in care could benefit massively within an armed forces family, as training and serving in the forces could be an ideal basis for being equipped to guide them through difficult life choices and preparing them for adulthood.
Ex-military carers may also find that fostering is a great way to continue to give back to their community, as it offers the opportunity to help and care for multiple children and young people, giving them the love and support they need to thrive. It is also a great way to establish roots in the local community, especially if ex-military carers are used to being deployed or stationed in different parts of the country.
We need ex-military carers now more than ever
In 2022, there were 82,000 children and young people in care, with the number of fostering applications dropping by over 2000. If more armed forces leavers became aware of fostering and how their skills are the perfect foundation for becoming a foster parent, we could slowly begin to see this number decline.
Sharon, one of our carers with experience in the armed forces, said she would definitely encourage other armed forces leavers to become foster carers. When talking about her journey, Sharon said that the most shocking thing was the number of children still looking for homes, saying: “Until you’re in the organisation, you don’t realise how many children there are that do need the help”.
Sharon has found that fostering has helped her to become more resilient, especially when moving children back with their families. However, she believes it is equally important to consider referrals and whether they are right for your family before making the decision to foster. As an ex-military carer, Sharon wanted to help every child she could, but it’s important to take your time during the process and evaluate clearly.
Foster carers are strong advocates for the children and young people they care for, constantly needing to be on their side and ensure that their voices are heard by authority figures. It’s not an easy task or one to be taken lightly, but it could be the perfect route for armed forces leavers to go down.
If you’re ex-military and feel like your skills would make you the perfect foster carer, please contact us to learn more about fostering. Our welcoming team of professionals will be happy to take you through any questions you may have.
I’m Thinking About Fostering – What Should I Consider?
Thinking about fostering can be an incredibly confusing process, especially if you’re unsure what you need to take into consideration first. Making the decision to foster is a life-changing decision that can leave a profound effect on the foster carer and the child or young person being cared for.
It’s important to take time to carefully consider whether fostering is right for you, your family, and your lifestyle before fully committing to it. After you’ve thought about all these things, you can determine whether you can offer a vulnerable child or young person the care they need.
How Long Do People Think About Fostering Before Doing It?
In a survey conducted by Compass, we discovered that 75% of foster carers think about fostering for over a year before deciding to do it. There can be a variety of different reasons for this, with many of our current carers emphasising the benefit of doing as much research as possible into fostering beforehand.
Our foster carers Mark and Nick have previously said that “you don’t just open your home when fostering, you open your heart, your mind, and a whole new way of life for all those involved”. Fostering can be complicated, and it’s important to understand what it entails.
While just over 27% of foster carers were thinking about fostering for under a year beforehand, we advise all potential foster carers to take as much time as they need to think it through and prepare.
Fostering Is A Huge Commitment
If you’re thinking about fostering, it’s important to understand that it is a huge commitment that requires significant time, energy and emotional investment.
Before deciding to become a foster carer, it’s crucial to consider factors such as your long-term goals and how fostering fits into them. You should think about things such as your lifestyle, your family situation, your job and any other responsibilities you may have.
Even things such as making sure your housing is suitable are vital. While it doesn’t matter whether you rent or own your home, you must have a spare bedroom that’s suitable for a child or young person.
For example, our foster carers Julie and Neil were thinking about fostering for many years before doing it but needed to complete their attic conversion beforehand so it could be turned into a spare bedroom.
Fostering requires flexibility and patience, and it’s important to think about whether you have the time and resources to provide the care and support needed.
Fostering Involves A Range Of Challenges
Fostering is an incredibly rewarding experience, but it isn’t without its challenges. Foster children may come from abusive or negligent backgrounds and have complex emotional or behavioural needs.
As a foster carer, you may need to provide support for trauma, attachment and behavioural difficulties. While some children will be happy to settle into your home, others might find it a bit more difficult to do so.
When thinking about fostering it’s also important to consider the fact that you’ll be working with a team of professionals, such as social workers, throughout your journey. Social workers will need to visit your home sometimes, to ensure that the child or young person is receiving the appropriate care and support.
There may also be times where you have to be in contact with a child’s birth family, making it vital that you think about whether you’re able to put judgements to the side in order to help the child or young person under your care.
It’s essential to think about whether you have the skills and resilience to manage these challenges before committing to fostering.
Fostering Requires A Support Network
Fostering is not a journey that you should undertake alone. If you’re thinking about fostering a child, it’s important to have a support network in place to help you navigate the challenges that can come with fostering and provide the necessary care and support.
This may include friends and family, support groups, or other foster carers. In fact, here at Compass, we regularly organise support groups for our foster carers to meet, connect and draw on each other’s experiences.
During the time you spend thinking about fostering, it’s important to start building your support network in preparation, so that you have other people to lean on during tougher times should they arise.
It’s Okay To Take Your Time When Thinking About Fostering
There are many more factors to consider when fostering, making it crucial that you take as much time as you need when thinking about fostering a child.
Although it can be an exciting and rewarding journey, it is okay not to feel completely ready yet. There is no time limit on deciding to foster, and the fact that you’ve even thought about it is a step in the right direction.
At Compass, we offer various support and advice for individuals thinking about fostering. If you feel you need more information to aid your decision, please contact us or take a look at our Fostering FAQs to learn more.
Thinking about Fostering? Here’s 8 Questions to Ask Yourself First
Welcoming children and young people into your home can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Foster care can have a transformative effect on the lives of foster children, helping them heal, learn, and grow in a safe environment.
Yet, the idea of fostering can also seem a little daunting. While rewarding, being a foster parent also comes with its challenges, and over 73% of our foster carers said they thought about fostering for more than a year before applying.
Choosing to become a foster carer is a big decision, with plenty to consider along the way. But Compass are here to answer anything you might want to know during your deciding process.
Questions to Ask Before Becoming a Foster Parent
The first step in your fostering journey should include a lot of research about foster care and the various fostering agencies available to you. But alongside gathering plenty of information on fostering, what kinds of questions should you be asking yourself?
In this guide, we’re looking at the things to know before becoming a foster parent, including the kinds of factors you should take into consideration before making any decisions.
1. Do I Meet the Fostering Criteria?
Before you even begin to consider fostering, it’s important to make sure you meet the fostering criteria. Foster parents come from a range of backgrounds, with varying life experiences and skillsets. At Compass, we try to see the potential in everyone.
However, there are a few key criteria that we ask all our foster carers to meet before submitting an application. Some of our key criteria for fostering include being over the age of 21 years old and having a spare bedroom. If you do not meet these criteria, then it is unlikely you will be accepted as a fostering applicant.
2. Am I Prepared for the Assessment Process?
To be approved as a foster carer, you will have to go through something known as the fostering assessment. Assessment helps fostering agencies get an understanding of what you would be like as a foster carer, as well as ensuring that any children placed in your care will be happy and safe.
Whether you’re prepared to go through the assessment process is important. This process can be time consuming – taking between 3-6 months, depending on your availability and how quickly your checks and references can be completed. It’s also a very personal process, as much of the assessment requires us to look into your past and speak with various people you’ve met throughout your life.
One of our foster carers, Terri, said: ‘what I wish I knew before becoming a foster parent is that the assessment delves into every aspect of your life and it’s a very emotional journey. However, Compass was very supportive throughout – and there was always somebody to talk to.’
3. How Will Fostering Impact My Family?
Fostering can have an impact on not just yourself, but your family too. Having a vulnerable child or young person in your care means sharing your family home with them.
The first few months can be an adjustment period. Any birth children you have will have to learn to share their space, toys and parents with other children. While, long term, welcoming a foster child into your home can be beneficial for everyone, it’s worth thinking about how you’ll navigate those first few months with your family.
Julie and Neil have been fostering with us for a few years now. When they first began, they were concerned about the impact fostering would have on their birth children. However, Julie told us that though her kids ‘have had to adapt to the fact (she) might not be around for a few hours, they’ve ‘adapted brilliantly’ and both Julie and Neil ‘can see how much (their) birth children have got out of it.’
4. Do I Have a Strong Support Network?
One of the most important things to know about fostering a child is that it can be stressful at times. Providing care for vulnerable children and young people who have had adverse experiences requires a lot of time and patience.
That’s why it’s essential that foster carers have a dedicated support network surrounding them that they can lean on during tougher times. This includes family, friends – and fellow foster carers. After all, no one knows the ups and downs of fostering quite like another foster parent.
At Compass, we understand how important it is to support our carers to continue doing what they do. We regularly organise support groups for our foster carers to meet, connect and draw on each other’s experiences. Once you’re approved, be sure to participate in any support groups – as these will help you begin building links with other foster families.
5. Do I Have the Time to Foster?
Another of the most important things to know before fostering a child is that fostering can sometimes be demanding timewise. While it is possible to continue working alongside fostering, being a foster carer is an in-depth role which requires flexibility.
Foster children cannot be in full-time day-care, nor should they be spending each of their mornings and afternoons in preschool and after school care. You’ll need to be able to attend meetings, drop them off at school in the morning and pick them up, as well as taking them to any appointments they have, or any contact time with their family.
Consider your current responsibilities in your day-to-day life, and how these might affect your availability when it comes to foster a child. The safety and wellbeing of the foster child should always remain a priority, so it’s good to think about how you’ll be able to meet their needs on a daily basis.
6. Can I Stick Around When the Going Gets Tough?
Many foster children come into care having experienced trauma like abuse or neglect. As a result, they might act out or behave in a challenging way, like swearing or being aggressive or destructive.
If you’re wondering what to know before becoming a foster parent, consider how you’ll cope when a foster child might be displaying behaviour that challenges you. Will you be able to remain calm? Can you continue to love and care for them, regardless?
In these situations, patience and understanding are essential. Sometimes referred to as ‘stickability’, foster parents need to have a certain level of resilience. Foster children need security and stability to thrive, allowing them to form healthy attachments and positive relationships.
At Compass, we give our carers all the necessary support and training to know how to respond therapeutically in these situations with the help of our REACH approach. As our foster carer Haley says, ‘you have to be prepared for anything. But, when a child says they love you, when a month or two ago they wouldn’t even acknowledge you – that makes it all worth it.’
7. Will I Be Able to Say Goodbye?
There are lots of different types of fostering. Some fostering arrangements last only a few days, while some can last anywhere between a few weeks to a year. However, unlike adoption, fostering is not a permanent arrangement.
No matter how long your foster child is with you, the truth is they will one day move on – whether it be into a different care arrangement, back to their family (once any issues have been resolved), or on to independent living. Consider how you’ll navigate these feelings, and the kinds of things you might need to prepare yourself for.
After all, forming strong, trusting attachments is what fostering is all about. It’s natural that you’ll get attached to the children and young people in your care. Some birth parents, adoptive parents or other foster carers allow past foster carers to maintain a relationship with the child once they have moved on – but this is not a given.
Goodbyes are never easy but are a necessary part of being a foster carer. As foster carer Mark says, ‘there are some sad times, like when a foster child moves on. But seeing them blossom is what keeps us from giving up.’
8. Do I Have a Lot of Love to Give?
Fostering can be challenging at times – which is why it’s crucial that foster carers have a lot of love to give. People foster for different reasons, but most carers share the same goal: to provide children and young people with the love, care and support they need to succeed.
Foster carers have the unique gift of sharing in some of the most important moments in a foster child’s life. From their first words spoken, to their first proper birthday party, to decorating their first Christmas tree – foster parents support children in learning to trust others and celebrate their achievements.
For our foster carers Mark and Nick, one of their most memorable experiences so far has been seeing one of their foster son graduate from university: ‘having seen the children grow from strength to strength and achieve awards for everything they put their minds to is reward enough for us.’
Having a lot of love to give is one of (if not the) most valuable traits that a foster parent can have. As Mark and Nick say, ‘you don’t just open your home when fostering. You open your heart, your mind, and a whole new way of life for all involved.’
As with most big decisions, deciding to become a foster carer will take lots of time and plenty of consideration. However, if you can answer ‘yes’ to most of the questions above, it’s likely you’d make a brilliant foster carer!
At Compass, we understand that becoming a foster carer is a lengthy process. You’ll may still have questions about fostering – and we’re happy to answer them! Take a look at our Fostering FAQ’s or get in touch with a member of our team to find out more about fostering with Compass.