Considering fostering a child? Here's what you need to know

Cute funny mixed race child daughter embracing black father holding tight feeling love connection af

One of the main benefits of fostering a child is knowing that you're making a positive difference to their life - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Offering a caring home for a vulnerable child to give them the chance for a better future can be extremely rewarding and worthwhile. 

Unfortunately, there's currently a nationwide shortage of foster carers, with local authorities struggling to keep up with the demand for placements. “There's a shortfall of around 8,000 placements at any given time,” says Parvis Iqbal, recruitment advisor at Excel Fostering, an independent fostering agency which supports local authorities across the north west of England. “We have all been touched by people in the community going above and beyond to help others throughout the pandemic, and I would like to appeal to people from all walks of life to consider fostering and make a real difference to a young person’s life.” 

With that in mind, Parvis shares his thoughts on what you should know before becoming a foster carer.

1. There is no typical foster carer

Same Sex Male Couple Reading Book With Daughter At Home Together Whilst Tickling Her

Carers at Excel Fostering come from all walks of life with different backgrounds - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

People often have preconceptions about foster carers being married, heterosexual and of a certain age with their own house, when in reality that’s far from the truth. “Our foster carers are from all walks of life with a variety of backgrounds,” says Parvis. “We have single carers, same-sex carers, carers who have had their own children, and those who don’t have children. The basic requirements are that you’re over the age of 21, in good health and have a spare bedroom.”

2. You don’t need any specific experience

Having experience in care or social work can be beneficial when fostering, but it isn’t essential. Excel provides extensive training to help prepare prospective foster carers for the role, with ongoing career development throughout the placement. 

“You don’t need any experience or qualifications – our carers bring a range of skills and experience to the job. The most important thing is that you have caring and nurturing qualities and the desire to help improve a young person’s life,” says Parvis. 

3. There are different types of foster care

Adult and children hands holding paper family cutout, family home, foster care, homeless charity sup

Fostering a vulnerable child can be an extremely rewarding experience - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

There are several different types of fostering placements you may want to consider. The main types are short-term care – providing a temporary home for a child until they return to their birth family or move on to a permanent placement – and long-term care – providing a home from a young age until they are old enough to leave care.

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There are other, more specialised types of fostering placements too. “Over time, you may become specialised in certain types of fostering, such as caring for children with disabilities and behavioural difficulties, or looking after parents and their children,” says Parvis.

4. The application process is easier than you think

“Many people are put off applying to be a foster carer because they think it will be too time-consuming or intrusive, but it’s a lot easier than you think, and we offer support and advice throughout the process,” says Parvis.

The first step is a preliminary chat with a fostering advisor, followed by a home visit (which are currently being done via Zoom) and DBS and reference checks. You’ll then be asked to fill out an application form and a social worker will begin the assessment process where they’ll get to know you and your household. The final stage is meeting with an independent panel for approval. 

5. There are many benefits

Like any job, fostering can be challenging, but the rewards are numerous and far-reaching. Providing a loving home for a child who has had a difficult start to life and knowing that you are making a positive difference can be a truly rewarding experience. 

It’s likely that the children you are fostering will be from your local area, so you’ll be helping your local community too. “Over the last year we’ve all had time to think about how we can help others in need, and making a difference to children's lives through fostering is a chance to give something back to your local community,” says Parvis. 

As a full-time job, fostering also comes with a weekly allowance that pays for general household expenses, school meals, clothing and pocket money, alleviating any financial stress.

6. Ongoing support is key  

Joining an independent fostering agency like Excel means you’ll receive continuous support from experienced social workers and other carers. “The feedback I hear from carers is how well they feel supported and valued by Excel staff. We’re on hand 24/7 to offer supervision and support, with visits from a dedicated social worker every few weeks,” says Parvis. 

The agency also organises regular activities and courses where foster carers can meet, socialise and learn from each other’s experiences. “Fostering isn’t your average nine-to-five job, so it’s important to come together as carers, even if it’s just for a coffee and a catch up, and to have support from like-minded people.” 

Find out more

If you’re considering fostering and want to find out more, Excel is holding a series of virtual fostering information evenings on the following dates:

  • March 24 - 6pm
  • May 25 - 10am and 3pm

The events will provide a chance to ask questions and hear from foster carers about their experience. 

Visit excelfostering.com for more details or contact Parvis on 01253 712734.