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Fostering as a "career"

(40 Posts)
Shewhoshallnotbenamed Mon 14-Feb-11 18:22:43


I'm after some insight, advice, realism please.

I am miserable in my current job, off work with stress (very long story). I have always said that I would love to adopt a child and over the years various people have asked if I would consider fostering (including a foster parent that I worked with). I always said that I wasn't sure I could 'let the child go' - I'd get too attached.

So, I've been reviewing what I want in life. My ideal 'job' would be a SAHM - cook/clean/play groups/school run etc (I know there is a LOT more to it than that, I have previously been a SAHM). I am a single parent, have 1 DD who is 7. No boyfriend, very stable life with an excellent family and support network.

I also have a good job - reasonably well paid. It is beyond stressful with long hours and then my 'mum' job on top of it, hence I'm off with stress.

Then I've read in my local paper this week an advert from Banardo's, advertising for Foster carers. It set all the cogs going in my brain.

With all that info, can you answer my questions please:

1 - Being a single parent, would they consider me

2 - I currently live in a 2 bed house, so would have to move, would the LA assist me (eg a house swap - I'm in LA housing)

3 - Is it a viable 'career'

I obviously would not consider this without wanting to help children who are in desperate need of care/love/support. This isn't a case of me looking to make money, but I need to be realistic and make sure that I can be financially stable.

I have lots of ideas/questions in my head - but would like your opinions before I continue, I'm imagining the replies will bring up more questions though lol!

Appreciate any advice you can offer!

(ps - I have written this quite naively of Fostering....I am stood looking up at the metaphorical door marked "Foster Carers start here" and deciding whether to walk through it!)

NanaNina Mon 14-Feb-11 20:28:22

Can give you lots of info. Was sw and tm mgr for fostering team and have 30 years experience (now retired) but don't have time now - sorry - back later, but others may be able to help too.

Shewhoshallnotbenamed Mon 14-Feb-11 20:39:17

Thanks NanaNina, I look forward to your reply

SquidgyBrain Mon 14-Feb-11 22:57:20

It has very recently become very apparent that all LA do have different rule/guidelines - so you may get a host of different answers and really you will only get a true picture by speaking to your own LA - or IFA

The letting the child go is the hard part I think for most of us. I think it is something that you get through with the help of your friends family - and places like this. I guess at the end of the day what makes me sure I can give the children back is the fact I have no choice in the matter.

Our LA do accept single parents, I have no idea about the housing issue, For me it is a viable career, but I was a SAHM with no income before, and my LA are very generous in both their allowances the fee for being a carer, I am a trained nurse and with the tax allowances I would struggle to make the same income (fee only) as I do from being a LA carer approved for only 1 child

It sounds like you should give them a call

good luck with it and do let us know how you get on

(NanaNina's advice will be brilliant )

NanaNina Tue 15-Feb-11 00:05:07

Hi notnamed - this is my 2nd attempt tonight - typed a really long reply and lost it aaaargh! So will try again.

Firstly you would be able to be considered as a foster carer if you are single. There are different types of fostering: short term (anything from 2 day to 2 yrs +) permanent, as its name suggests, and respite care which means taking a child from a foster carer who wants a break, (maybe for 2 weekends a month or whatever arrangement is worked out) and some LAs have schemes where respite carers take children for a short period from parents who are struggling to cope.

The thing with short term is there is no guarantee that you will be kept in work for 52 weeks of the year. With permanent fostering there is more security, in that you will be paid as long as the child is with you, BUT these placements can break down and if this happens and the child has to move the money is stopped.

Being a single carer will be something of a problem because social workers trying to place a child will almost always go for a couple. The other thing is that the foster child will need to be younger than your own child,so as he/she does not have to compete with younger children and it is important that your son retains his position as the oldest in the family. There needs to be at least a 2 year age gap and you would therefore be looking at a child of 5 or under. This would raise another problem if you were thinking of permanent fostering because the care plan for a child of 5 and under will be adoption. However there is still a shortage of adoptors for children of 5 and over, and sometimes under 5, dependent upon the child's circumstancs.

You will know I am sure that all children removed from parents will have been abused and/or neglected and will have to a greater or lesser extent behavioural problems, which manifest themselves in a variety of ways. All will by definition have insecure attachment with birth parents, meaning that they have learned that adults are not to be trusted and it is hard work to reverse this, but it can be done.

As for finance - of course you need to be sure that you are financially stable. In a sense permanent fostering would be best because the fostering allowance is mandatory and the adoption allowance is means tested and is discretionary and is reviewed annually and can be altered or even stopped especially as all LAs are now totally cash strapped thanks to the coalition govt.

However this leads to another problem because if you apply to permanently foster a child of 5 or under you will undoubtedly be asked why you are not thinking of adoption. You could be honest and say that you know adoption allowances are discretionary etc and you will probably be told that it wouldn't be a problem with allowances, but it could be at some point in the future.

The other thing is that sometimes adoptive homes are sought for children of 5 and under and cannot be found and then sws will be looking for a permanent foster carer, by which time the child could be 6 or 7 or older and of course your own son would be older.

Re your accommodation - this would be a problem because a fostered or adopted child will need his/her own room and it isn't fair in any event to expect your son to share his room. Are you sure your son is tough enough to cope with sharing you and having a young child around who may have difficult behaviour. And NO the LA will not help with housing costs as they are cash strapped - maybe if you were considering a sibling group of 4 or 5 they made see it as a cost effective way of placing these children.

I know it all sounds very mercenary but that is the reality I'm afraid. As far as I can see the bottom line is that you would be accepted as a permanent foster carer for a child who was waiting for adoption and this was not forthcoming and no couples were interested in permanently fostering this hypothetical child.

The other thing is that I would be very careful about going to Barnardoes or any voluntary organisation. They will assess you much quicker than the LA because they are very well resourced BUT they don't have children to place - only the LA have children to place. The voluntaries therefore recruit families and have to try to "sell" them to the LA for a particular child, and charge very high fees for the sale. LAs obviously have a preference to use their own "in-house" prospective foster carers and addoptors because it is the cheapest option. The next cheapest option is for an inter-agency placement (placing the child with another LA) the last resort is a voluntary because of the costs involved.

You could go along to Barnardoes and ask their views on your situation and they will probably be encouraging, but hopefully will be honest with you about 5's and unders needing adoption. It would be a good idea to ask how many children of this age (or slightly older say 6 or 7( they had placed for permanent fostering in the past 2 years - I would be interested in their response.

Also you can approach your LA (or any LA) and all follow the same legislation but may well differ in their response. Don't be reluctant to ask as much as you need to know - that's what they are there for!

Finally if you look on the following sites you will get more info: "British Agencies for Fostering & Adoption (BAAF) "Adoption UK" and "Fostering Networks"

Hope I haven't confused you too much.
Be interested to hear how you get on.
I am aware I have looked at worse case scenarios but that is often the best way and then if things turn our better, that is a bonus.

Shewhoshallnotbenamed Tue 15-Feb-11 11:34:32

Thank you so much for your advice, I really appreciate it! I have read it but think I need to go back over it to get the most out of it!

I will check out the websites and will see who I'd contact in my LA to get a bit more advice on what their practices are - as you say it differs from one place to the next.

Thank you once again, I will definitely keep you all updated as to what I decide to do.



NanaNina Tue 15-Feb-11 12:54:36

Hi notnamed - I realise I have bombarded you with a lot of info, and I typed it around midnight last night (for the 2nd time!) so if there is anything that isn't clear, please say so and I will try and make it clearer.

I'm sorry but I have thought of another possible problem. You say you are off work with stress (not sure if you are on meds or seeing counsellor)and this will undoubtedly be a concern to social workers, whether you are considering fostering or adoption. What they will say is that fostering or adoption is a very stressful business at times (which is true). I think if you were applying 2 or so years after being stressed it may be different and obviously attitudes will differ but I honestly think it will be a concern.

Have you thought of childminding? Children without behaviour problems, nice parents, they go home at the end of the day etc and I think dependent upon how many children you foster (and there are regulations about that) it can be a reasonably lucrative business.

Childminders of course have to be registered and approved (but nothing like fostering or adoption) and I think I am right in saying they are regulated by OFSTED, but they change these quangos so often I'm not sure You could google, or there might be a childminders topic on MN you could look at.

Just a thought!

scarlet5tyger Tue 15-Feb-11 14:36:55

Hi, I can't add much to what NanaNina has already written, except that I'm a single carer and it's always been sold as a positive by my SW - I take in quite damaged babies who need a VERY calm home life. I realise your situation is different as you have a child of your own, but I know my SW has mentioned placing abused children with me in the past who would be unhappy living with a strange man.

I also suffered from stress in the past but as it was related to my previous job my LA weren't concerned by it - although they did want to know about it.

NanaNina Tue 15-Feb-11 15:12:29

Yes I know what you mean scarlet5tyger and I have known situations like this too. Glad also to hear that your LA wasn't too concerned about your stress; it's just that sws opinions differ so much on this.

Just thought notnamed if you are reading this, you will have to have a medical carried out by your own GP and then the GP sends it off to the medical advisor for the LA and he or she then makes a decision on your "fitness to foster" or otherwise. Needless to say medical advisors are all different and some make a fuss over small matter and others don't. Smokers are a definite no no (and in the LA that i worked for they would not be approved for a child under 2 or one with asthma/bronchitis. Weight canbe another issue and many adoptors are told to go away and lose weight! I have always disagreed with this, as some people a stone or two overweight can be deemed to be obese.

maypole1 Tue 15-Feb-11 17:08:26

Yes i agree I started as am single carer for some children living in a family were their is a male is not a option and a single carer works better my la was only every pleases me being a single carer

Single carers are never passed over for 2 parent families in my la

NanaNina Tue 15-Feb-11 17:16:18

Glad you are doing well as a single carer Maypole, but it depends what you are doing - if it's short term it isn't a problem, but if looking for permanency via fostering or adoption, my experience is certainly that most social workers would go for a couple. You wouldn't really know though would you, whether single carers are not "passed over£ for a couple, unless of course there was a speific reason why a child would do better with a single carer, which can sometimes be the case, even for permanency

maypole1 Tue 15-Feb-11 17:31:31

i am no longer a single carer and we had we have had children moved to single carers for long term.

and espically with older children were their views are counted other wise they simply vote with their feet if they have come from a single parent house hold it can be quite diffcult when trying to place them with in a neclur fmily and seem to settle better with asimar family set up to what they had before they came to care.

as we see from the threads most las and ifa work so diffrently

dorie Tue 15-Feb-11 20:20:40

I have had children move on to single long term female carers, particularly those who have experienced abuse by a male. I have never had a child move to an adoptive placement with a single person though.

fishtankneedscleaning Tue 15-Feb-11 20:50:09

I don't think Fostering should be seen as a "career". There are too many uncertainties. You can be the best foster carer on the planet and the children can be thriving in your care. BUT... If you disagree with a Social Worker, in the best interest of the child, then bye bye you.

Shewhoshallnotbenamed Tue 15-Feb-11 21:29:36

Just wanted to pop back as I have been reading your replies but it is, as I'm sure you appreciate, a lot to take in.

I am still thinking about it and I want to sit and read NanaNina's post again (as well as the others) when I have the time to take it all in.

The one thing that sticks in my mind is my daughter, it is a lot for her to have to deal with so it's how she would be affected/would adapt.

The other thing that has come across is that it is not a 'career' choice, that has become obvious (thank you!).

It has kind of led me back around to adopting and thinking about that - I have heard that they do consider single parents? (as opposed to single people with no children) I may have been told incorrectly though.

My, so much to think about.

Thank you to all who have replied, anybody with any further advice/info please feel free to contribute


Grockle Tue 15-Feb-11 22:03:17

Hello She... I have nothing to contribute to this thread but wanted to let you know that I am in a similar position - lone parent (DS is 5), in a well-paid job that I love but that is VERY stressful and really becoming unmanageable. I am really interested in Fostering and have some experience but it is such a huge commitment (for DS & any child that might stay with us).

I contacted my LA and they seemed to think it was all fine. I need to do much more reading and talk to the LA again.

Good luck with your decision.

Shewhoshallnotbenamed Tue 15-Feb-11 22:16:24

Thanks Grockle, good to know I'm not the only one considering it as a LP!

fairtradefloozy Tue 15-Feb-11 22:43:28

Just to add that some local authorities have arrangements with housing sssociations regarding housing waiting lists for those registered to foster. Can't list who I am afraid but its worth asking the question. Note that i am not saying they will move you or pay for bigger houses etc etc - just worth asking whether your LA has any agreements in place. Of course it also goes without saying that you would need to be an LA carer to benefit from that rather than with a voluntary agency.

Shewhoshallnotbenamed Tue 15-Feb-11 22:53:59

oo, sorry just to clarify - I wasn't asking if the LA would pay for bigger housing, just if they would assist me in a house swap ie - I'm in a 2 bed house which is ample for me and DD but would need a 3 bed or bigger - would the fact I was intending to foster count in regards to points etc.

I'll contact my LA and ask the question.


scarlet5tyger Wed 16-Feb-11 15:40:32

She... and Grockle, my LA were actually quite pleased when I said I was thinking of fostering as a career - if you know you're doing a job then it makes it (a tiny bit!) easier to let go of the child when it's time for them to move on.

Boohooyou Wed 16-Feb-11 20:26:16

Hi She

I am a single parent and am just coming to the end of my assessment and should hopefully be going to panel next month.

So obviously no fostering experience yet, just the process.

I second what scarlet said, my LA said it is a career, sadly there will never be a shortage of children that need fostering.
If you do short term fostering you get paid whether you have a placement or not.

I am doing respite care. My LA initially said there has to be a 2 year gap, older or younger, but for respite they said it isn't as important.
My ds is 2 and my age range is 2 - 8 years.

The best thing for you to do is contact your LA and they will give you good advice. But as you can see there is no discrimination against single parents.

The process can take over a year so if you are considering it I would get the ball rolling.

Good luck and let us know how you get on and what you decide.

FluffyMuff Fri 18-Feb-11 10:35:44

Hi (it's Shewho - I've name changed smile )

Thanks scarlet and boohooyou. This information is invaluable, I need to sort out my housing situation (move to a 3 bed) so it's going to be at least a year long process I imagine.

I'm still leaning toward adoption but then I rethink and go back to fostering confused

I don't think I can come up with a final decision as there is so much to think about, not least the impact on DD.

Lots of food for thought though - thank you all, once again.

maypole1 Fri 18-Feb-11 14:08:33

Their is always an oppatunitay To adopt as a foster carer I know two foster carers who have gone on to adopt my la always give foster carers first refusal if children are not going home and are over five when chance of adoption dwindle so don't think at all if you foster you couldnt adopt

Also I believe its puts you in a better position as a adopter because you would have invaluable fostering experience.

maypole1 Fri 18-Feb-11 14:09:20

Also the road to becoming a adoptive is shorter if your first. Foster carer

FluffyMuff Fri 18-Feb-11 14:21:26

Thanks Maypole - I have a lot to think about!

Appreciate your advice and I will keep that in mind x

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