Fostering: one of those emotionally stacked words that will undoubtedly mean very different things for all types of people. We have been programmed to react to this type of word – a tender smile, empathetic nod or a resounding ‘well done you’ when a friend announces their intention to join the many families who open their homes to kids who need some extra love and care for a while.
We think of the huge difference this word makes to everyone involved and for the vast majority of people we feel… what? Humbled? In awe? I know from time to time when I speak to people who have opened their hearts to children they know nothing about I find myself searching the heights of my own compassion and abilities as a parent. Could I do that?
Because of course, for every amazing story like John Halverson’s (>>> Read here.), a man who, with his wife, has fostered hundreds of children over the years, there is a media headline scaring the daylights out of us. Wrap the words ‘The System’ around fostering and you are immediately charged with very different emotions; children with issues, baggage that will never heal and years of torment all about to be unleashed on your loving home. Like most sensationalist headlines however, this is irresponsible reporting doing damage way beyond their ken.
Speak to any child who has found a loving home, any family like John’s who have spent years welcoming in the kids from all backgrounds for all sorts of reasons, and you will find stories filled with love, compassion and a huge sense of fulfilment on both sides. The truth is simple; these foster parents are people just like you and me. The kids are children just like yours and mine.
Let’s just cement that fact shall we? I say ‘just like you and me’ but the chances of everyone reading this being a 45 year old single mother who writes stories, dyes her hair blonde and spends most of her free time alternating between reading books and trying to dream up new ways to eat cheese, are extremely slim. You might be one half of be a young married couple, maybe you’re a single gay man, you may have won the lottery or you might be saving your tips for a holiday to Crieff.
You see, when I say ‘just like you and me’ I mean it in the emotional sense of the word. Foster carers can come from any background. It doesn’t matter if you are married, single, have kids, don’t have kids, nor whatever your sexual orientation is. It doesn’t matter if you are young, middle-aged or retired, have thousands in the bank or manage your money on a more month to month basis.
What matters is that you want to help. That you have compassion, patience, a sense of humour (essential for most things I find) and a stable environment to help the children you foster get the chances in life that they deserve
Are you feeling a little curious? I hope so, because the unfortunate truth is that the number of children needing the love and care of a foster family is increasing here in Perth & Kinross. Fostering Services are currently looking to chat to people just like you - people who would be willing to open their homes and welcome in kids who need the love and care of another family - about the incredible difference you could make in a child’s life.
They do of course look for you to have some experience with children but this doesn’t mean you need to have kids of your own – it could be you have nieces and nephews, or have spent time with kids in a professional or non-professional environment. As you’d expect, full training and ongoing support is provided by the team – everyone is rooting for foster parents and their placed child to work out. It matters that your new family feels supported at all turns.
That’s also why there are different types of fostering for different types of family and they are all welcome:
Temporary Foster Care: This can be for weeks, months and sometimes even years.
Permanent Foster Care: Caring for a child or young person until they reach independence. Essentially, you are welcoming them into your family and caring for them without the legal responsibilities that would come with adoption.
Short Breaks Care: This is where carers provide support to families where their child or children have disabilities. This will normally require support for the same child and family over a number of years and can be a good introduction into fostering.
Respite Care: Where care is provided for children and young who are either being looked after by existing foster carers or their birth parents as required, for example at weekends or in the school holidays.
Let’s not forget there are many reasons as to why the word is so emotionally charged; foster care can be challenging but it is also extremely rewarding and one of the few experiences you are likely to have that will see directly impact and change the course of another human being’s life for the better.
The experience that these children will gain from you could give them that chance that they deserve and in return you will be rewarded with the positive glow that comes from seeing a child in your care flourish.