Taking the first step on the journey to becoming a foster carer can feel daunting. You probably have a million questions: ‘Am I too old? Do I need to have experience with children? Is my home suitable? Do I have to be married? Do I need to give up my job?’ If you’ve never met anyone who has been a foster carer, you may also have preconceived ideas that may not be a true representation of what fostering is really about.
Regardless of your circumstances or where you’re up to in the decision-making process, the first step is to talk to a foster care agency. At Challenge Community Services one of our friendly team will have an initial informal obligation-free, face-to-face chat with you so you can find out more about what fostering involves.
Having what it takes
There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to foster carers, but an abundance of love and compassion is essential. Flexibility and the ability to go with the flow, as well as being willing to connect with the child’s birth family, are also important attributes.
Challenge Community Services has foster carers who are couples, including same sex couples, single people as well as grandparents. Some carers have biological children, either grown up or still living at home. Others have no parenting experience at all.
Applying to become a foster carer
Part of the assessment process involves interviewing each member of the family living at home, as well as checking that the physical environment is suitable. Although this can feel like a test, Challenge Community Services Compliance Officers Kayla Bevear and Jenna Cheng, are quick to reassure that they’re not trying to catch anyone out. Many potential issues can also be easily resolved, such as upgrading the safety around a swimming pool.
‘Our sole purpose at Challenge Community Services is to find a safe and loving home that’s the right fit for each child in need. Stability is critical for a child’s wellbeing, especially when they have experienced trauma or abuse which may have affected them physically as well as mentally. The approval process is necessarily rigorous and can take up to 8 months which can feel like a long time if you’re keen to start a placement. But it’s a good opportunity to get your home and/or family ready and learn more about how to manage different kinds of behaviour.’
Welcoming a child into your home
Once approved as a foster carer, you may have a child placed with you straight away, or you may have to wait a few more weeks or months for a suitable placement. Regardless, your foster care journey will usually begin with a short-term placement, such as respite care for several weekends. This is a good opportunity for both you and the child to get to know each other and see if the placement will be suitable.
‘It’s important that carers are up front with us,’ agree Kayla and Jenna. ‘We would much rather someone tell us if they don’t feel ready to take a child for whatever reason, than just say “yes” to a placement because they feel they have no choice. The carers need to feel comfortable and be fully committed – they need never feel guilty for saying “no” if they have concerns about the placement.’
Even with the right fit, caring for children in need can be a roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs. Yet, despite the challenges, most carers say that helping children in need is a hugely rewarding experience that also enriches their own lives.
Becoming a foster carer is a leap of faith. Whether you welcome a child one weekend a month or choose to care for children in need every day for the next decade or more, you will be making a huge difference to a child’s future. Now that’s one leap worth taking.
Are you ready to turn around the life of a child or young person?
Are you ready to take the next step? Meet one of our team here.
Or you can contact us on 1800 952 417, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.