Thinking about fostering?
You might be wondering when is the right time to foster, and how to prepare for your first foster child. You might also be nervous about telling friends and family about your decision. From talking to your partner and birth children (if you have them) to friends, family, and your support network, let’s look at how to prepare to foster.
The process of becoming a foster carer isn’t about qualifications, but your ability and willingness to open your home to a child (or children) in need of a safe and secure space.
It doesn’t matter about your relationship status, gender, sexual orientation, religion, background, or whether you have children of your own or not, if you have the space, are over 21, and can legally work in the UK, then you can become a foster carer.
The fostering application process usually takes between four to six months. During this time you will be fully supported by FCA Scotland. We understand it can be quite an intense and emotional time, which is why our team of social workers, therapists, and educational experts are on hand to guide you whenever you need it. However, we believe it’s just as important that you have a secure support network around you of friends and family, who can be there for you as a soundboard when you need to vent, cry, laugh, or just talk.
This is why talking to your friends and family about your decision is crucial. After all, it is a rewarding but challenging role, and having your support network, along with your FCA Scotland team, in place can make all the difference.
When you make the decision to become a foster carer, both spouses need to be involved.
A lot of thought needs to go into your decision, such as if you have enough space, how your birth children (if you have them) will handle it, and if you can leave your job to become a carer full-time. Talking to your partner about how to prepare to be a foster parent is the first step.
Before broaching the subject, make sure you’ve done your research so you can answer any questions they might have. You can’t force someone to foster if their heart isn’t in it, but you can have open conversations about what it means to foster, including the benefits such as changing a child’s life and enjoying the allowances and rewards fostering brings.
If your spouse is concerned about fostering long-term, then talk about the different types of fostering (more on this below). They might be more willing to start with short-term or emergency fostering. By starting slowly and easing in, they could be more open to fostering long-term.
It would be unrealistic to assume your spouse is immediately as keen to foster as you are, and that’s OK. They will need to understand the process and the application and why you want to foster. This could help open their eyes and motivate them to look into fostering together.
At FCA Scotland, our specialist team will always work with you to provide the best match that will work well for the entire family and you will be supported throughout your entire journey.
If you have birth children then it’s important to involve them in your discussions about fostering, as their feelings need to be considered. Fostering is a life-changing decision and one that can enrich the family unit. FCA Scotland will be with you every step of the way to provide supportive resources to help your kids feel comfortable during the process.
As fostering involves the whole family, it’s important for your kids to know what is going on, who is coming to stay with you, and for (roughly) how long.
Here are some tips for how to talk with your family about fostering:
- Let them know that there are children in the world who can come from difficult situations and they might need a new family for a little bit while their parents get some help. Tell them that they can be a safe and happy place for children who need it most and what a difference it can make in their lives.
- Encourage them to always share their feelings about fostering. Whether they’re excited or nervous, no conversation regarding their feelings should be out of bounds and they should always feel like their voice is heard.
- Explain that a child in care could be with you for a few days or a few years.
- If you have chosen to foster a child with special needs, have a chat with your birth children about what this could involve. The house might need to be adapted for example. If they’re feeling uncertain or anxious, ask them to write down any questions they have so you can do all you can to reassure them.
- Tell them that having someone new coming to stay means some things might change, and it’s OK for them not to feel happy about certain changes. This could be something simple like having to share toys or the remote control! It could mean that you need to divide your attention, which could make your birth children feel left out. Explain that just because you are caring for another child, it doesn’t mean you love them any less, you’re just opening your heart to a child who really needs it.
- Have a chat about any rules or boundaries that might need to be put in place to ensure their new foster sibling feels safe and secure. There are certain rules set by fostering services that foster carers need to follow. Explain these to them and why they’re important so they understand.
- Tell them how exciting it is that your family is getting bigger and they have a lovely opportunity to make a new friend or companion.
- Explain that fostering isn’t just about “hellos” but also “goodbyes.” It’s highly likely that your children will form bonds with your child in care, and they need to understand that they won’t be with you forever but they can always stay in each other’s lives.
Most importantly, let your birth children know that their voices and opinions are always valid and they should always talk to you about their feelings. Your family’s supervising social worker from FCA Scotland will always be on hand to talk or visit to make sure the whole family is OK and to support you through your fostering journey.
We understand that talking to friends and family about your decision to foster a child in need can raise a lot of questions. Talking to others about fostering is important so they can be there to support you when you need it.
Don’t wait until you have a child in your care before telling those close to you about your decision to foster. This may garner confusion and surprise and could create conversations that make you or your child in care feel uncomfortable. Instead, let those close to you know about your decision once you’ve made it and while you’re going through the process. This way, when your child comes to stay with you everyone will be prepared when they meet them and can welcome them.
You know that friends and family will have questions about fostering, so do your best to answer them ahead of time. Typical questions could be “when do you start?” “What made you come to this decision?” “What kind of child do you think you’ll get?“ Some questions might feel awkward, but this is a personal decision and it’s your decision, so don’t feel the need to justify it. Explain why you’ve decided to become a foster carer and give them a breakdown of the process.
Depending on how close you are to the family members or friends you’re telling, you might choose to include them in the fostering experience. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, all might want to be involved the way they are with your birth children.
It’s OK to feel nervous about your decision, and you should always voice your feelings to those in your support network. The more they know how you’re feeling, the better prepared they will be to give you the help you need. Be transparent. You’re making an incredible decision to help vulnerable children. You can educate your friends and family by telling them about some of the situations that require children to go into foster care. The more they know, the better.
There are several different types of fostering you can consider when choosing to become a foster carer, so it’s important to understand what these are so you can decide which would best suit your family unit. Some children may need fostering for a few nights while others need a more permanent home. Some might have specific health needs, while others might have a young child or baby of their own to care for.
The different types of fostering include:
Once you have decided which type of fostering would suit your life and family, you might want to start having a think about how to prepare your home for your foster child (or children if you choose to foster siblings).
If you foster a baby or a younger child, you’ll need to furnish their room with the appropriate equipment such as a cot, changing table, baby monitor, and age-appropriate toys. If the child is a toddler, then items such as a potty or toilet step are great to help with toilet training. Your fostering allowance will help to cover anything you need to buy to help your child in care feel comfortable and settled.
Of course, if you’re preparing your home for an older child or a teenager then you won’t need to make the same level of adjustments to your home. Your team at FCA Scotland will give you as much information as possible about your child, so you can personalise their room to make it feel more like home. Remember, their bedroom will be their safe place, so fill it with clothes, books, and personal touches to show just how happy you are to have them with you.
If you have birth children at home, involve them in the process of preparing your home so they feel included. Have a chat about what they think their new foster sibling might like and discuss any house rules that they think they should know about. It’s important that the whole family feels happy and confident about your decision to foster, so involving them is crucial.
Join the FCA Scotland family
Preparing your children, friends, and family for fostering is an important step in the process. You should try to give everyone plenty of time to learn about one another before your foster child arrives, and always embrace those who support your decision to be a part of this wonderfully fulfilling journey.
When you foster with FCA Scotland, you will never be alone. Our friendly and caring team will be by your side always. If you’re ready to take the next step to change your life and the life of a child in care, then all you need to do is contact us.
If you’re ready to start your journey, or you just want to chat with an expert, then simply fill in the form below or get in touch with one of our dedicated team to talk through any questions you might have about the fostering process. We’re here to talk anytime you need us.