Fostering only takes place after the prospective foster carer has been through vigorous checks and assessments. These are designed to ensure that once placed a child has a safe and caring environment that will support their physical and emotional growth and wellbeing.
There are no specific qualifications or experiences needed to be a part of the foster care network, but there are things you can do to support the assessment process and your journey.
You can provide foster care once you are over 21, this means that those considering these roles come with a variety of different life skills and experiences. While you don’t have to have a background in working with or supporting children, there are numerous reasons why gaining some experience of working with children of different ages is helpful. Firstly, it ensures that you are taking the right path, after if your experience of children is limited how can you know whether you have the right temperament and enough patience? This experience will also help you to determine which age group you are best suited to; the needs of a pre-schooler and a teenager are very different, as are the rewards and the type of interactions you need to be ready for. Some children may have specific needs, for example, they may need the best hearing aid to help them with their hearing troubles or they may have a learning difficulty that requires special assistance.
Other things that you can do to prepare yourself for the fostering assessment process is to check your home and garden. Are there any obvious dangers that can be sorted out now? Do you need a new fence or a cover for a pond? Also, if you don’t drive, it is a good idea to start learning, and if you have a family at home, ensure you have run this past all of them, prior to the assessment process starting.
Fostering to Provide Respite and Short Break Care
Fostering is not just about providing new short and long term homes for children who cannot currently live in their own home environments. It is also about providing respite and breaks for parents and carers. There are numerous reasons why a child may need respite or short break care. But, regardless of the reasons, there are some significate differences between this type of fostering and other types such as emergency and long term foster care. Understanding these differences can help you decide whether it is the right type of foster care for you.
Respite foster care is used to primarily support other foster carers. Where the carer has a longer-term placement with a child, they may need regular breaks. This is particularly true if the child placed with them has complex needs, or there are other children in the family that need additional support. It could just be that the foster carer’s family need a holiday. Respite care is also used in one-off situations, such as the original foster carer needing to go into hospital, or needing to travel away to deal with family. Short break fostering differs in that it is used to refer to foster care that gives the child’s own family a break, or the child a break from the family.
The reasons needed for this break are similar to those that set the conditions for respite care and the two terms are used interchangeably in some instances. The main difference is between these types of fostering, and more permanent or long term care, or emergency placement where the child needs to be removed from the existing home environment quickly.