Saturday, June 29, 2019


People who are thinking about fostering are generally good-hearted but a bit trepidatious. So was I when I started to think about fostering- it's a big step.

Most of all they have questions.

I received a text today from a friend who has a friend who's thinking about fostering. My friend asked me (on behalf of her friend) if the friend would be considered suitable.

The friend, I was told, is "a single mixed race mum to a 7 year-old son. She works part-time at her son's school and has experience working with kids with challenging behaviour. She lives in a small flat and she smokes and is on a low income". 

My friend added "Any difficulties?"

I replied that for one thing fostering takes a dim view of smoking, it should never ever happen in the foster child's foster home, and carers should never be seen to smoke in front of them, anywhere.

My friend replied that her friend complies with that already - her flat is tobacco-free and her son doesn't even know she has an occasional cigarette. I replied that if she puts herself up for fostering all she has to do is be up-front about everything. The Social Worker who will be assigned to process her application will advise her.

I added a note on something  that I strongly believe; that going into fostering is a good opportunity for people to polish their act a bit; you know, drop a few pounds, exercise more, eat better, quit smoking etc. One woman I know actually traded in her sunbed for an exercise bike while gearing up to start fostering.

I pointed out that to the best of my knowledge children in care must have their own bedroom. This is an absolute. I suspect that siblings in care might be allowed to share with each other. But my understanding is that a foster child would never be placed in a home where they had to share with a Carer's child.

My friend got back to me that her friend was hoping to go for a bigger flat if she was accepted as a Foster Carer. I guessed this meant she was in social housing.

I replied that I'm not expert on local authority protocols in social housing. I know for sure that local authorities are begging for more people going into fostering, but whether they'd upgrade someone's flat on the understanding that they would use the extra bedroom for fostering is a question for them not me. Nor do I know what view the Social Workers who would be assessing her would take about her situation.

As always I suggested she get in touch with her local authority or her chosen fostering agency and they would help. I told her she could call Blue Sky for free and they'd be able to answer all her questions.

My friend texted back that in fact her friend was a tenant in a private flat, so I replied she'd probably have to  upgrade and have a spare bedroom available before she'd be approved, but if her plan was realistic she'd be considered.

As to the low income, I replied that so long as she's just about managing she could sit down with her assigned Social Worker and take a look at her finances. Foster Carers are never out of pocket in their fostering, the allowance covers everything and usually more. Carers are taxed differently so we keep most of the income as it's an 'allowance' not a wage. Plus we can claim additional expenses for certain things such as travel.

Having said that, it's not good if the Foster Carer is seriously struggling to make ends meet as it might impact her fostering, but again; one for the Social Worker.

As to being 'mixed race' - I didn't bother to state the obvious namely that ethnicity, along with faith, sexual preference, age and marital status are totally the Foster Carers own business and that - as long as their personal circumstances don't adversely impact their fostering - diversity is becoming a real credential in fostering.

I hope I got the balance right between being encouraging and realistic.

Only Social Workers know all the requirements, which is why I usually recommend people who are thinking of fostering make the phone call.

But. There was one feature of my friend's friend's circumstances which was entirely a matter for her. And I wasn't sure whether either of them had spotted it and it's this;

If you have school-aged children of your own living with you in your home they need to be got on board with the whole project. It's not for me or anyone but the parent to be the final judge of whether having a foster child in your home alongside your own children will work for them. Again your Social Worker will have the knowledge and experience to help you with that decision, but it's really important.

I haven't heard back yet from the friend's friend, but fingers crossed.

The UK needs every Foster Carer we can recruit.


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