With a new child coming into care every 22 minutes, the number of children coming into care across the UK now tops 92,000.
Being a foster carer is certainly not an easy ride. Looking after children and young people who have experienced abuse and neglect need foster carers with tolerance, dedication and understanding.
A rewarding career
Fostering is not simply providing a roof over someone’s head. It is about showing a 12-year-old how to build a sandcastle because she has never seen a beach; it is about sitting up all night comforting a child who is sobbing uncontrollably; it is reassuring a terrified teenager they are safe and secure every single day. Taking a vulnerable child under your wing requires strength, patience, and lots of love. And more than anything, you need to believe in the child, no matter what they do.
A foster child may test the boundaries and take their anger out on you. They may push you away and make the wrong choices at school. As a foster carer it is important not to take their behaviour personally. You need to offer them a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, a smile, a cuddle!
Foster carers can play such a vital role in a young person’s life and make a real difference – they can change the lives of these children so that, step-by-step, they can trust, relax and smile again.
Caroline is a foster carer for Barnardos. When she received the phone call asking how she felt about fostering a four year old boy called Matthew*, she remembers her reaction, “I listened to his story, I went for a short visit and fell in love with him.
Caroline was astounded by the steps Matthew* made whilst in her care. He didn’t know how to play when he first came to me…He would never go out into the garden on his own… it dawned on me the steps he’s made, I nearly started crying.”
She highlights how rewarding being a foster carer is. “I won’t make out it’s all plain sailing – there are ups and downs. But I’ve found that sticking by the child and working on the attachment they form pays off…The balance swings from being pushed away, to being accepted. The high points for me are seeing those children make progress. It may be in small steps but when you look back, they’re huge for that child.”
Poor outcomes for care leavers
The number of children across the UK coming into care has risen for the 7th year in a row and now tops 92,000, with a further 8,600 foster carers still needed. Due to a lack of foster carers, it is estimated that a third of all children in foster care will have two or more placements in just one year. That’s two bedrooms, two schools, new sets of friends, and two or more carers, per year, to get to know and begin to trust. Not knowing how long you will be with each foster carer, however, makes being able to settle, trust and feel secure very difficult.
Due to statistics like this, it is no surprise that outcomes for children in the care system are poor. Care leavers are more likely to be homeless, unemployed, suffer from a mental illness or even spend time in prison.
Make a difference
More people are urgently needed to foster to help provide stable homes for these vulnerable young people. If you are thinking about becoming a foster carer you have the privilege to really make a massive difference for the better in children’s lives and help shape their future.
Not only do foster carers transform the future for the children in their care but they also teach them their own parenting skills for later life. The legacy of every foster carer lives on for generations to come. It is a very special gift to give.