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.