From how to prepare for your first foster child to what support can carers expect, it’s normal to have hundreds of questions when starting your fostering journey. Above all else, carers want to know how a foster child will fit into their family and whether they can choose a child’s attributes beforehand.
We’re here to answer all your questions. In this blog we will explain how social workers and fostering agencies place children alongside considerations like age, gender, race and religion.
How are foster children placed?
We’ll get straight to the point – you can’t choose your foster child, but you can register preferences that help social workers and agencies find suitable matches.
However, because of the sheer number of children who need care, you may be offered placements that fall outside your preferences. Treat these cases with an open mind (it could be the best decision you’ve ever made), but remember you don’t have to accept if you feel you can’t offer adequate support.
Ultimately, you’re in control. Fostering providers will never insist on a placement unless it feels right for you and your family.
Can I choose the age of my foster child?
The question on every carer’s mind is whether they can choose the age of their foster child. While you can set preferences, you could receive a referral for a child of any age.
Every foster family is unique. Carers with young birth children may prefer placements of a similar age, whereas older carers may consider teenagers who are more independent and don’t need picking up and carrying about. Either way, decision-makers will take into account your reasons for selecting a particular age group.
However, don’t make too many assumptions about age. If you have young birth children, foster children of a similar age don’t necessarily make great playmates. Instead, there could be more tantrums and tears as toddlers get used to sharing toys and attention. Similarly, there are many misconceptions about fostering teenagers. People think it’s more challenging, but they tend to understand their circumstances a little better.
Generally, leaving a two or three year gap between birth and foster children creates a more harmonious dynamic, because everyone has more privacy and space.
What’s more, sometimes experience and setting trumps preference. Families without children are encouraged to start with older placements that need less round-the-clock care. Then, agencies try to place children with families in the same geographical area for school, appointments and family visits.
Can I choose the gender of my foster child?
When it comes to gender, fostering providers prioritise what’s best for the child. Some children have complex histories and backgrounds, perhaps including physical or sexual trauma, so their comfort informs the decision from the get-go.
For example, a girl in foster care may feel unsafe in a predominantly male household based on her experiences. In contrast, a boy might benefit from having plenty of visible male role-models.
For children who identify as another gender, providers place them in loving and supportive homes, with families who accept them unconditionally.
Can I choose the race of my foster child?
Policies around race, foster care and adoption have changed several times over the last few decades.
Transracial placements and adoptions (matching a child with a family of a different race) peaked in the 1950s and ’60s before research in 1972 suggested they could damage a child’s sense of identity. This research led to three decades of racial matching. In 2000, attitudes changed again when lawmakers argued that placing a child is more important than waiting for a perfect match.
In an ideal world, children live with families who understand their experiences. Black carers help black foster children to stay connected to their history and better navigate racism and discrimination. For children from ethnic minority groups, living in a non-representative family can deepen their sense of otherness.
With that said, there are too many foster children and too few foster families to always match ethnicity and race. While you can set preferences, the end goal is to provide loving homes to as many children as possible.
If you care for a child from a different ethnicity or race, it’s vital to learn more about their heritage. Provide children with opportunities to mix with people of a similar background. Involve the whole family in new traditions, holidays and celebrations. It’s wildly exciting and life-affirming – you’re now a multi-ethnic and multifaceted family.
Can I choose the religion of my foster child?
Fostering providers try to match children with families of the same religious background. Not only does it give children a sense of comfort and familiarity, but it’s logistically easier when everyone shares dietary requirements, religious observances and holidays.
However, there are times when finding a religious match isn’t possible. In these cases, you’ll receive training to help you support your foster child in their practices. If you cannot accommodate a child’s religious beliefs, be honest and upfront with your support worker. You’re never obligated to accept a placement, and they’ll help you to find a more suitable match.
Are you ready to become a foster carer?
Here at Olive Branch Fostering, our matching process is thorough and well-considered. We’ll always do our best to honour your preferences while prioritising the wellbeing of children in our care. Your comfort matters to us, which is why there’s no obligation to accept placements if you feel they aren’t suitable for you or your family.
What’s more, we offer a wealth of advice and assistance every step of the way, and you’ll always have access to support workers who will guide you in transforming the life of a young, vulnerable person. We have an extensive catalogue of training courses to help you get ready for placements of all ages, genders, races and religions.
If you’re ready to start your fostering journey or want to find out more, we’re here for you. Simply call us on 01706 558910 or drop us an email. One of our friendly team members will get back to you shortly.