There are many misconceptions that come with foster care. One of the most significant is that you will have to give up your working life to take care of a child.
While it is true that it takes a considerable amount of time and patience to be a foster carer, the care system understands that carers are providing an honorary service in looking after vulnerable children. As such, being in work does not mean that a person is ineligible to become a parent.
In this post, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions relating to foster care and work.
Can you work and be a foster carer?
Every fostering service will have its own policy regarding foster carers in full or part-time employment. However, they will also understand that it is not realistic for every household to be able to give up a steady income. For instance, some carers are single, meaning they may have to seek complementary income to support the household.
Every case is different, and the most crucial factor to consider is whether the needs of the children are met. That’s why there are several steps available should you wish to carry on working while fostering.
Can you work full-time and foster care?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a straightforward answer to; ‘can I be a foster parent and work full time?’, as there are multiple factors to consider.
First and foremost, foster carers are expected to provide for their children and be available to care for them whenever necessary. This includes everything from regularly attending school meetings, being part of foster support groups and maintaining contact with the child’s family.
If you are unable to balance full-time work with the heavy demands of looking after a child, then it may be deemed inappropriate to consider foster caring. This is especially true when fostering pre-school children under five years old or those will specific special needs as they will require a carer who is available on a full-time basis.
However other children – for example, those who are older and settled in their foster family – may be able to manage if their foster carers are at work on a full-time basis, as long as there is a strong support network around them.
This could include more than one adult in the household with time to look after the child, suitable after-school clubs or if the carer has a role which allows them to be flexible with the amount of time spent at home.
Can you work full-time and foster care as a couple?
If you are a foster couple, you would have more flexibility regarding work due to the simple fact one of you could always be available for the child’s needs while the other one is at work.
Fostering as a couple makes working more realistic, but it’s also worth noting that fostering itself acts as a full-time job – so it may be worth evaluating both of your commitments and assessing how best to approach work.
Can you work part-time and be a foster carer?
It is often much easier to work part-time and be a foster carer as you will have much more free time to look after a child. Your fostering agency may be more encouraging about part-time work than they would full-time employment as the time pressures will be much lower. Of course, it depends on which hours you’re required to work in your part-time job and whether these fit in with your commitments as a foster carer.
Can foster caring be considered a career?
Foster care is considered by many to be a full-time career in itself. It is a time-consuming but fulfilling choice which allows for the opportunity to work in a field where an individual can directly change a child’s life for the better.
Foster carers are already required to write reports, handle paperwork, contribute to reviews, manage contact with families and liaise with a wide range of other social, health and education professionals.
This means that a previous career in a similar sector will be beneficial if you wish to make the transition to foster caring full time. While basic training is compulsory in England and the norm elsewhere in the UK, more advanced training or specialisms is not yet universal.
As a standard, all foster carers receive a weekly fostering allowance which is intended to cover the costs of looking after a child in foster care. This includes things such as clothing, food and pocket money.
Each fostering service sets its own allowance levels, and the amount varies depending on the age of the child. Carers are entitled to Home Responsibility Protection as a way to make sure that you do not get less Basic Retirement Pension, due to the fact you decided to stay home with the child
Some fostering services also pay foster carers a fee on top of their allowance, in recognition of their time, skills and experience. For example, here at Olive Branch Fostering, we have ensured that our weekly allowance is enough not just to cover the child’s needs, but provide a reward for carers on top of the fulfilling nature of the role.
What are the options for short term fostering?
One avenue you may consider if have a desire to be a foster carer and want to continue working in some capacity is short term, or respite, fostering. A short-term placement can be anything from one night, a week or a couple of months per year depending on the circumstances and the legal situation.
Respite fostering is used when a child can’t stay at home or needs to be removed to a safe place because the parents are not able to provide care or require additional support. After the reasons for being fostered are resolved, and plans are decided for the future, these children usually return home or are found a new permanent home.
Becoming a foster carer
If you have questions about your ability to work or are interested in hearing more about different aspects of life as a foster care, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. As a foster care agency in the North West, our local team are on hand to provide open and honest advice in a non-obligatory setting.
Give us a call on 01706 558910 or send any questions over to firstname.lastname@example.org, and start your fostering journey today.