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.