Think you can't foster? We smash the myths and show you that you can!

Foster Dads LGBTQ Published: 18th Apr 2022

People who would make brilliant foster carers may be shying away for reasons that would have no impact on their application.

There can be nothing more rewarding than fostering a child and giving them a loving home.

Helping a child in need following a traumatic start to life can really build a solid foundation for their future and show them a new way of family dynamics.

But contrary to popular opinion, you really don't have to be the perfect family to become a foster carer. And unfortunately, some of those misconceptions can scare away potentially amazing carers.

So what are the myths?

  • I can’t foster because I’m single
  • I can’t foster because I’m in a same-sex relationship
  • I can’t foster because I’m not a homeowner
  • I can’t foster because I’m too old
  • I can’t foster because I have a medical condition
  • I can’t foster because I’m a different religion or ethnicity
  • I can’t foster because I’m a single male
  • I can’t foster because I work

Rebecca is a single foster carer for Foster Birmingham and has always been determined to take on challenges independently and fostering for her was no different.

“I never really considered being single a barrier to fostering. I know many wonderful single parents and have never been afraid of doing things on my own", she said.

"However, I did talk extensively with friends and family before and during the application process and, during my first 18 months as a foster carer, have realised just how important your support network is.

"My support network has helped in many ways: offering placements an alternative adult to listen to them; being a sounding board for me when I have had challenging situations to deal with; and practical support, for example with school drop-offs when one of my placements spent a week in hospital."

She added: "Being a single carer makes this support network even more invaluable as you don’t have the same capacity to ‘tag team’ as a couple might. But that shouldn’t put people off.

"I just have to plan a little more carefully and be mindful of my own well-being as it’s not always as easy to take a step back when you are doing it on your own.

"Having had a variety of placements now from a newborn baby to a teenage boy, with up to three children in placement at a time, I feel confident that being a single carer does not limit me in any way.

"In fact, at times I feel that it allows me to focus more on providing for the children in my care without as many other demands on my time. I’m lucky to have the support of so many other people which enables me to do the best job I can and make a difference to the lives of young people in Birmingham.”

Another misconception around fostering is that once a child is placed with you then you are left to get on with it until it's time for your placement to move on. However, this is not the case.

Foster Birmingham is committed to supporting its foster carers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, including:

  • One-to-one sessions with your Supervising Social Worker
  • Support groups run locally across the city
  • ‘Out-of-hours‘ support
  • A budding scheme for newly approved foster carers

It also provides carers with opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills through a comprehensive free training programme and regular support groups, including:

  • Pre-approval - you will be prepared for your new role with the ‘Skills to Foster’ training
  • Induction Programme - supporting you through your first year of fostering
  • Foster care development - deepening your skills and experience
  • Advanced programme - nationally accredited and specialist training

Starting training can be scary, so the programmes are developed by experienced practitioners and foster carers. The training is kept relaxed and real, focusing on the most important part of the job - caring for the children.

Sandie Paul, Assistant Head of Fostering Service said: “We need more foster carers because we are the service who care for all of Birmingham’s children who are unable to live with their birth families for a number of different reasons.

"Our foster families do an amazing job looking after these vulnerable children and young people and we would love to hear from anyone interested in joining our fostering community.”

The process to become a foster carer

  1. Enquire – Let Foster Birmingham know you’re interested in fostering by calling their friendly team on 0121 303 7575 or filling out an enquiry form at www.fosterbirmingham.co.uk and they will be in touch.
  2. Home Visit – A worker will visit you at home to explain more about fostering and the process to become a Foster Carer in more detail.
  3. Return Formal Application Form – If the Home Visit goes well, a formal application form (called a Registration of Interest Form) will be sent to you to fill out and return. Once this has been received Stage 1 of the process starts.
  4. Stage 1 – Stage 1 involves carrying out various statutory checks and references including a medical and criminal background check.
    The medical is simply to ensure you are fit and well enough to cope with the rigours of fostering. The criminal background check will tell us if you have any criminal cautions or convictions which would prevent you from fostering.
    Having previous convictions doesn’t necessarily exclude you, but it is important that you share anything that may come up so there are no surprises, and we can work through any potential issues with you.
    If you have any offences against children or sexual offences against adults, then it will not be possible to progress your application to foster.
    During this stage, you will also need to attend the Skills to Foster preparation training which aims to give you the skills and knowledge needed to help you care for children who may have experienced neglect and abuse.
    Your Assessing Social Worker will consider all the information gained during this stage in detail before making a decision about whether you can progress to Stage 2.
  5. Stage 2 – During this stage you’ll be visited regularly by your Assessing Social Worker who will assess your ability to foster and prepare your assessment report with you. This stage involves lots of conversations with you, your partner, any ex-partners, any children you may have, and wider friends and family to get a rounded picture of you and your family.
    Where possible Stage 1 and Stage 2 can be run concurrently and work towards a 16-week timescale.
  6. Panel (recommendation made) – The report is then presented to the Fostering Panel which you will be invited to attend. The Panel is made up of different people who have been involved in fostering; professionals, a medical advisor, social workers, adults who were fostered as children and foster carers etc. They will review the report in detail and make a recommendation about your suitability to foster.
  7. Approval by ADM – The final decision about your approval is made by the Agency Decision Maker. You will be advised in writing within seven working days of the Panel making its recommendation.
  8. Placement of children – Once you are approved you will be allocated your own Supervising Social Worker who will visit and prepare you for your first placement. When you are ready for a placement you will be considered for any suitable matches.