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Can I foster if I have a pet?

Of course, you can. Prior to becoming a foster carer, a full vet check is done to make sure it is safe to place a young person in your household with that pet.

February 15 2024 - 4 min read

If you are a pet owner, you might be concerned that this prevents you from fostering a child.

However, you’ll be glad to know that you won’t have to say goodbye to your furry (or scaly) friend if you choose to become a foster carer. In fact, pets can be a great addition to a fostering household as they can enrich the family home and help promote positive behaviour.

In this blog post, we’ll go over the various aspects of fostering when you have a pet, including any potential challenges, benefits, and important factors to consider.

Common Concerns About Fostering and Pet Ownership

Of course, every pet is different and every child is different, and it’s perfectly reasonable to have some concerns about fostering and pet ownership.

There are some simple guidelines to adhere to, all of which can be explained to you during your application process, but as long as these are followed then there is no reason why owning a pet should affect your ability to foster. A few examples of these guidelines include:

  • Keeping food and water bowls and litter trays or puppy training pads out of reach of children
  • Ensuring that furniture, beds, and carpets are free of pet hair
  • Ensuring your pet is able to be kept under control
  • Making sure your pet is healthy and has regular check-ups at the vet (and is kept on top of flea, worm, jabs, and any other applicable treatments)
  • Keeping your garden free from pet feces and urine

It's also completely natural to worry about how your pets will react to your foster child.

Introducing a new child into your home can cause anxiety in your pet due to changes in routine and environment. The best way to handle this is with gradual exposure and positive associations to help ease their anxiety. Allow your pet to explore your child's room and belongings before they arrive. You can also try using treats and lots of praise to create positive associations.

Being a foster carer and a pet owner is entirely possible. It just takes a little planning and preparation, which we will look at in more detail a little later. However, it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your fostering agency about your pet ownership, and how it might impact the placement process.

If you have any concerns then we’re here to help. Many of our foster families have pets, and we can discuss any questions you might have.

Benefits of Pet Ownership in Fostering

Owning a pet can be a brilliant asset when fostering a child, as they can often provide comfort, companionship, and emotional support (not to mention furry cuddles), which can benefit a child who is adjusting to being in a new and unfamiliar environment.

Pets, in particular dogs and cats, can also help break the ice and help your foster child feel more at ease, especially if they have come from a home where they had a pet too.

Involving your foster child in the care of your pet can be a great way to teach them responsibility, empathy, and routine. All of these are essential life skills that can aid your child’s emotional development and confidence.

Here are some other potential benefits of pet ownership in fostering:

  • Emotional support for both of you - Your pet has been there for you through the good and bad, so having them with you as you embark on your fostering journey can provide you with comfort and support, especially on those challenging days. They can also provide the same comfort and companionship to your foster child as they settle into their new home.
  • A non-judgemental ear - Pets can offer your foster child a furry set of ears they can talk to if they’re feeling a little apprehensive. Sometimes it can be easier to open up to a pooch during a walk or a cuddle on the couch.
  • Social skills - Interacting with a pet can help a child develop certain skills they might not have experienced before. Caring for a pet can teach empathy, kindle sympathy, and responsibility, and help get in touch with emotions. These are often life skills that are taken for granted, but for a child who hasn’t had the opportunity to develop them, they can make a huge impact on their life now and in the future.
  • Creating a supportive environment - Pets can make a home feel, well, more homely! Having your furry companion ready to greet and welcome your foster child as they come into your home for the first time can create a wholesome and nurturing atmosphere.

The sad reality is that many children who come into care have experienced past trauma. This can cause them to be distrustful of the new adults who are caring for them. They might even struggle to form positive attachments at first.

A pet can help in situations like this. They can provide a sense of calm and bring a lovely source of companionship which can break the ice and help them settle that little bit easier.

What to Consider

There are a few factors to consider when fostering with a pet.

As part of your assessment, we’ll complete a pet questionnaire, as your pet is an important part of the process too.

If you own a dog, we will contact your vet to ensure the health of your pooch, and we’ll make sure we meet them too so we can get to know them. As we place huge importance on matching potential foster children to their perfect carers, it’s important for us to assess your pet’s behaviour to ensure its compatibility with potential foster children.

If, for example, you own a dog and we have a child in need of a home who is afraid of dogs, we won’t be able to consider you as a match for them. If the child has particular preferences, let’s say they prefer cats to dogs, then - together - we will need to take some extra time and care when introducing them to your pooch. This might mean taking things slowly at first, providing them with photos and videos, and having a gentle introduction.

Another factor to take into consideration is any allergies or sensitivities your foster child might have. If they do have a minor allergy to pet dander, we might have to take extra steps to manage them effectively. This could be understanding allergy medication, potentially keeping your pet away from the bedrooms, and training your pet not to go on any furniture.

You also need to take into account the safety of your pet. Some children in care have never lived with an animal before or might have come from a troubling background that has led them to develop behavioural challenges. We can help you establish boundaries early on to ensure both your child and your pet are safe and happy.

As long as your pet is well cared for, friendly, and up to date with their vet checks, then they are more than likely to make brilliant foster pets.

Preparation and Planning

Preparation and planning are always key to ensuring a positive introduction between your pet and foster child. Before your child arrives at their new home, you can try taking these simple steps to ensure a smooth transition for everyone - including your precious pet.

  • Introductions - Take these nice and slow when your child arrives, and introduce them to your pet gradually. Of course, your foster child might be excited about having a pet, in which case you might have to gently encourage them to be calm so your pet doesn’t get overwhelmed. Depending on your child’s age, you can have conversations with them about your pet and what their thoughts and feelings are about them.
  • Pet training - Having some basic obedience training - if you have a dog - is important. If they don’t already, ensure your dog can follow basic commands before your child’s arrival. Things like “sit,” “down,” and “stay,” can help foster a safe environment and show your foster child that your dog is well-behaved. As your child settles in, they might even like the responsibility of further training your dog.
  • Safe spaces - Safe spaces aren’t just important for your foster child, but for your pet too. Designate certain areas in your home where your pets can retreat if they need some space.

It’s also crucial to keep an open line of communication with your fostering agency and your child's social worker to discuss any concerns or challenges that arise.

Grow Your Family with FCA Scotland

Owning a pet and having your foster child come home to a smiling furry face and a wagging tail can help them relax and settle into their new home.

If you’d like to learn more about the different types of fostering we offer and how you (and your pet) can help make a difference in a vulnerable child’s life, then we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with our friendly team today and we’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.


Are you thinking of fostering?

Download the FCA’s complete beginner’s guide to fostering a child. Find out more on how to foster a child and the process involved.

Download Guide

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