Fostering a child is usually about becoming a carer rather than a career move, but there are now a growing number of people who successfully combine the two.
Foster carers provide a stable and caring home for children whose parents are unable to look after them for a number of reasons.
While ‘giving something back’ is the main driver behind people opening their home to a youngster who needs support, it is possible to make a living out of fostering as well if you have the skills, full-time availability and are able to care for older and more complex children.
For many people, providing support, encouragement and guidance to a young child is a hugely rewarding experience in itself, but foster carers receive competitive allowances and fees for the work they do alongside professional support and training.
A career carer could receive £502.58 per week to care for a child between 11 and 15 years or £546.44 to care for a young person aged 16 to 17 years. Some foster carers look after more than one child.
Emma, from Portsmouth, has been a foster carer since 2010, and in that time her motivation to work with children and young people has seen it evolve into a career.
She says: ‘I decided to become a foster carer after I was made redundant from my job as a youth worker.
‘My husband and I had provided a home for a teenager whom I had been working with when she became homeless, we had seen what a huge difference this had made to her life and decided then that we could offer this to others.
‘I really love fostering. Of course there are good and bad times, as is the case with teaching for example, or indeed any career you choose.
‘Some of the best moments I have been privileged to be a part of include hearing babies’ first words, first steps, meeting their adoptive mummies and daddies for the first time, helping teenagers moving to independence and seeing children excel in school.
‘Obviously, even more than other families, because of the experiences of the children we care for, we have plenty of challenges too... tears and tantrums, unruly behaviour, and at times even addictions in children, but the good times definitely make it all worthwhile.’
Emma adds: ‘I’m sure if I wasn’t fostering full-time, I would be working with children. I have a science degree, so I have thought about becoming a teacher, or retraining to do social work, but right now, for my husband and I we are sure that fostering is what we should be doing.
‘Many of the professionals I know working in teaching especially are challenged by the balance between targets, goal setting, and the pressures of a teacher’s time which prevent them from connecting with the children who are really struggling and need that extra input. I foster three children and those three children are my complete focus and priority.
‘I see fostering as my job and it’s important that these children get everything they can from me to help them in the future. I know fostering is such a great way to make a real difference in a child or teenager’s life.
‘In our time as a fostering family, we have looked after 20 children and young people, ranging from babies of just six months old, to 18-year-olds.
‘At times we have had just the one child, and at others we’ve had up to four at the same time. Some of those have been with us for very short times, while their problems at home are addressed, for example, whilst parents in crisis situations get the immediate help and support that they need.
‘Other times we have had children who were unable to return home, and we have looked after them for years sometimes, while a suitable adoptive home is found.
‘Some teenagers have simply needed a home where they can be taught the skills they will need to live independently, for example cooking and budgeting, how to maintain a tenancy, or help with job applications.’
Portsmouth City Council needs more people to become foster carers and provide loving homes for some of the city’s most vulnerable children, but while there is money to be earned the fostering team ensures it only works with people doing it for the right reasons.
Cllr Ryan Brent, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for children’s social care, says ‘It is great that some people are able to make a career out of fostering but the only people who get the opportunity to do that are those we know will give children the care they need.
‘Emma is a first-class example of the magnificent foster carers we have supporting the council’s work, but we do need to recruit many more.
‘We are looking for foster carers who can provide stability and care for some of our most vulnerable children and young people, especially teenagers, who need a range of periods of care from short to longer-term placements, and an environment where they can grow, develop and achieve their goals.
‘We are especially keen to speak to people who have existing skills and experience of working with children or young people, whether personal, professional or voluntary. I would urge anyone considering fostering to contact us.’
For Emma, it will always be more than just a career.
‘As well as my job, fostering is also my family, with children to read to and tuck in at night, meals round the table, scraped knees and hugs goodnight.
‘With fostering, there is no such thing as work-life balance, because my work is my life, my workplace is my home, and the clients are in my family, for as long as they need it, and in my heart always. I am so glad to be a foster carer and to have known and cared for so many incredible children. I can’t think of another job with that kind of privilege.’
n For more information on fostering in general, please contact the Fostering Recruitment Team on (023) 9283 4071 for a chat to one of our friendly fostering social workers, visit foster.portsmouth.gov.uk, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.