This September is Barnardo’s Fostering Focus Month, during which we will be shining a spotlight on our fostering services.
Over the last year the demand for Barnardo’s foster carers has increased. From August 2020 to July 2021, the total number of children referred to Barnardo’s fostering services shot up from 14,130 children to 19,144 – an increase of 35.5% compared to the same time period in 2020.
Whilst adoption may be better known and better understood, fostering can seem somewhat confusing. There are a lot of questions: Am I the right person to foster? What if I don’t own my own home? Are foster carers offered financial support?
We spoke to Brenda Farrell, Barnardo’s Head of Fostering and Adoption who has worked in this field for 25 years. She helped us address some of the myths and common misconceptions around becoming a foster carer.
I can’t foster, I don’t know how to be a parent.
Many people believe that they can't care for a child if they haven't been a parent. However, all of us can become parents at any time in our lives and with no previous experience. If you want to foster but feel like you don’t know how, that’s okay - we are here to help.
We provide training, information, and support to members of the public when they come forward to find out about fostering. We know this can help an individual or a couple who want to provide a caring, nurturing, supportive environment for a child, building on their own existing skills and insights.
Can I foster if I’m single?
At Barnardo’s, we encourage all members of society to consider fostering. Many people will rule themselves out on the basis that they are single. But we're very clear, when you become a foster carer with Barnardo’s, you are part of a team.
Coming out of the pandemic we have a stronger understanding of the importance of community, family and friends. That also applies in fostering. Nobody fosters alone, we do it as a collective team.
Therefore, we would encourage single people who are interested in fostering to contact Barnardo’s and find out about becoming a carer. They will be joining the many hundreds of others who have become single foster carers and gone on to provide stable, secure, loving family environments for children when they need it most.
Can I foster if I rent?
Renting is not a barrier to fostering; many foster carers rent.
We would firstly require applicants to inform their landlord that they are applying to foster, and we would need the landlords' agreement.
Secondly, we need to ensure that the accommodation has security of tenure. The children in our care have already had to leave their birth family, they may have lived with extended family members, and they may have already had experience of other foster families. So, we must ensure that our foster carers have stable living situations so young people in their care have consistency.
As long as they can provide a child with their own bedroom that they can make their own, make sure children feel part of the family unit, and that there is no risk of frequent moves or regular changes to the home environment in which they're living, we encourage renters to consider fostering.
Can I foster if I identify as LGBT+?
Yes. We strive to recruit the broadest range of people from across our society, so that we have representatives from across all walks of life. We are caring for children who come from many different backgrounds and will grow up to have a range of identities on their journey. Therefore, it's so important that we have foster carers from different socio-economic, religious and cultural backgrounds, people of different sexual orientations, people who co-habit, people who are in same sex relationships and more: they are representative of our society today
We need people who have diverse life experiences, who have dealt with societal challenges, whether that is the impact of divorce, discrimination, or family breakups, to name a few. We can't train or teach these experiences, but they offer valuable insight and a skill set that provides strength and understanding to that child's life experiences while they are growing up within the fostering household.
Can single males or male couples foster?
Yes. It is so important that we have role models as foster carers. For many of our children who come into foster care, they may not have had positive male role models.
Single males or male couples can also provide children with someone that they can look up to and get an understanding of what opportunities may lie ahead for them, and we invite them to start the application process.
I’m worried about the financial impact of fostering
I think it's reasonable to have financial questions or worries about the role of fostering.
At Barnardo’s we ensure that in line with the government guidelines, all foster carers receive an allowance, which is assessed based on the age of the child or young person.
From my perspective, there's always challenges. But with Barnardo's support, we would ensure that any of the child's increased needs that that would be addressed also with the placing local authority to ensure that there is sufficient financial availability to support.
Why should people foster with Barnardo’s?
As the UK’s largest fostering and adoption agency, Barnardo’s has over 100 years’ experience of providing fostering across the UK. Today I'm pleased to say that we continue to recruit foster carers for the most vulnerable children in our society.
These are children who may be older, who've experienced some loss, experienced abuse, neglect, or have had to live in poverty, and just need stability, security and love in their life. To help them move on to the next stage, whether that be on to further education, on to university, on to an apprenticeship, or on to employment.
We're particularly looking for foster carers for sibling groups those children who must leave their birth families and want a loving family together. Those significant sibling relationships, especially at a time of change, is so important. So, we want to ensure that we've got foster families who can care for those sibling groups to make sure that they can stay together and grow up together. That's so important.
By choosing to become a foster carer you can make a huge difference in a child's life - and yours. We've got plenty more information about fostering on our website.
If you’re interested in having a no obligation chat with our experts, you can make an enquiry about fostering with us without making any commitments. A member of our team will call you back to talk you through the fostering process, answer any questions you may have and ask you a few questions about yourself and your motivation to foster.