This is a guest post from Lorimer Foster Services
Every 22 minutes a child is taken into care (figures from fostering charity, the Fostering Network). Some need long term fostering and some just need short term fostering or respite care, either way there are over 4000 children in need of a safe place.
Lorimer Foster Services are on a recruitment drive to get more carers to help with the number of children in care, but also help raise awareness that anyone can become a foster carer.
It is a common misconception that single parents cannot become foster carers. Somewhere down the line the idea that the perfect foster home is a stay at home Mum and hard working dad with older children who may have left home has become the norm.
There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ family; it is now common for children to grow up with 2 Mums, 2 dads, a step family and half siblings or just 1 parent. Single parent families are becoming more normal and while they face particular hardships and challenges, they are doing a great job at the same time.
Being a single parent, you sometimes have to make a compromise between work and your child. You make a decision that suits your family; this may be going back to work and paying for childcare or you may decide to be a stay at home mum or work part time. Foster care is not a typical career, but many single parents who have decided to stay at home find it is a good career option for them and their families.
Being a foster carer is a good career choice if you enjoy looking after children and have room. A social worker will help find a suitable foster child who will thrive in your care without impacting your birth child, or children, too much. Some social workers will advise that if you foster a child that they are a different age to your birth children, as this can help your birth child and the foster child settle much better. However, some carers find that if the children are the same age they can participate in similar activities which can make things easier, you can discuss this with your social worker and figure out what is best for you.
Looking after a child that is not your own, entitles you to certain allowances that are tax free and will not affect any benefits or tax credits you currently receive. Once upon a time, fostering was considered a voluntary service or charity, however, now to recruit and retain good foster carers it is accepted that local authorities offer financial support, especially as some foster carers give up full time employment to foster and enjoy fostering as a career. Fostering can work really well for single parents as they may already need to stay at home to care for their own children. If you join a good fostering agency they can negotiate up to £500 a week tax free for each child you foster.
From the applicants we see, single parents are often some of the best foster carers; they are committed to the role and have a good experience of parenting their own children.
Although anyone can apply to be a foster carer, you are more likely to be successful in your application if you can demonstrate parental skills, as single parents have already assumed the roles of mother and father in some cases. A good foster carer is optimistic with a good sense of humour.