Fostering: Make a real difference

Want to improve someone's life? Fostering could be for you.

Fostering offers the chance to make a real difference in children's lives. When foster care works well - which it does for thousands of children every day - it allows some of society's most vulnerable children to enjoy the benefits of family life while they are unable to live at home for a period of time. And with a shortage of over 10,000 foster carers across the UK, it is essential for these children that more people come forward to take up the challenge.

The reasons children need foster care are as varied as the families they come from. Parents may be too ill to offer care, need some temporary support while they deal with a family crisis or have a drug or alcohol problem. They may themselves have had a difficult childhood, and struggle to understand what their own children need. Some cannot cope with the extra stress of looking after a disabled child. In some cases, children in foster care have been victims of abuse or neglect. Every set of circumstances, every child and every family is different.

So, it follows that there are many different types of foster care. Emergency foster carers may take in a child for just one night, while short-term carers look after a child for up to several months while they cannot live at home. Long-term foster carers can take a child on from an extremely young age until they become independent. Some foster carers specialise in taking in teenagers, others young mothers and their babies. Foster carers with enough room may take groups of brothers and sisters to prevent them from being split up. Others decide to look after disabled children.

There is no doubt that being a foster carer is challenging. Not everybody has the ability to take a neglected child into a strange new house and make them feel welcome, valued and safe. Day-to-day life is not always straightforward when a teenager with challenging behaviour joins the family. It is not easy to let go of a six-year-old child who's been in your care for two years.

So why do people foster? Speak to enough foster carers, and a common theme will emerge. "We took in a teenage girl because it suited our lifestyle quite well," says Elizabeth, a foster carer from London. "She was rebellious and often angry, always staying out late, disobeying us. It was difficult at first. But one evening over dinner, we were talking, laughing, and I remember thinking: 'She's actually listening to me!' And things just slowly turned around. She began fitting in better, coming home on time - she even seemed happier. It's an amazing feeling, making that change in someone's life."

This job satisfaction is one of the prime reasons people foster. Job satisfaction does not pay the bills though, so all foster carers are given an allowance. Allowances vary widely between fostering services but should, in theory at least, cover the whole cost of looking after a fostered child. On top of this, around half of the UK's foster carers get a fostering fee: money paid to recognise the foster carer's time and skills. Again, this varies enormously between fostering services and foster carers, depending on the type of fostering they do.

Before becoming a foster carer, it is a good idea to ask a lot of questions. Speak to as many fostering services in your area as possible - that is, local authorities and independent fostering providers - and ensure that their financial and practical support, training and expectations match up to your requirements. Many fostering services put on information sessions for prospective carers to go along and meet social workers and foster carers; an excellent way to get a feel for the service and what fostering entails.

Once you choose a fostering service and apply, checks will be carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau, with your permission, to ensure you have not committed an offence which would automatically exclude you from fostering. You will also be required to have a health check, to show that you do not have any major health problems.

You will be assigned a social worker who will help you to fill in a detailed application form, and you will probably be asked to attend group preparation sessions with other prospective carers. The final approval is recommended by a fostering panel: a group of people including social workers, foster carers, people who were fostered as children and representatives from the local community, such as local councillors.

It is likely to take at least six months from the time someone expresses an interest in becoming a carer to being approved, but once this happens, you are ready to take on the challenge of fostering, and to make a vital difference to the lives of some of society's most vulnerable children.

Garry Lemon is the media and communications assistant at the Fostering Network. For more information on becoming a foster carer, see

Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus all the build-up to Man City vs Chelsea and Everton vs Palace
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Polly Borgen at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
peopleThe Emmy award-winner starred in Cape Fear, the Sopranos and Desperate House Wives
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam