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What is an ideal foster carer?

At Perpetual Fostering, we observe and relate to many things that play on the mind of potential recruits. Time and time again, one of the most-asked questions on the minds of potential foster carers is: “who is best suited to being a foster carer?”. And each time, we reassure everyone: that “there is no such thing as a stereotypical foster carer”.

As outlined in the recent 2015 Ofsted report, we are an agency “underpinned by high-quality care built upon stable and successful placements” and we aim for a community of foster carers that is as diverse and vibrant as the children who benefit from our provision of care. Read on to find out what is – and what isn’t – important to us as we apply our robust recruitment process.

Diverse Community
For foster children of ethnic and minority backgrounds, a diverse community of carers is especially important. As much as possible, these foster children benefit massively from inspiring individuals who reflect their own upbringing and heritage.

Here’s an apt example. Denise Lewis wrote recently in the Guardian: “black children in care must be empowered to become confident adults, and identity and culture are an important part of this”. Whilst we wholly agree, we also need to emphasise how this is relevant for children from all communities across the UK.

Marital Status

Potential foster carers certainly don’t need to be married! In fact, we’d like to emphasise how positive and educational it can be for foster children to experience a range of lifestyles and backgrounds. If they can see that successful, strong people lead their lives in all sorts of ways, that can only be a positive learning experience for them going forwards.

Gender
For such a fundamental feature of each and every one of us, gender is one of the least important characteristics when it comes to fostering eligibility. Yet when asked about it, most in the UK are under the impression that a single male isn’t suitable for fostering. We’re keen to reassure our community that the opposite is the truth, and have worked with countless male foster carers over the years.

We hope the above points help to outline the possibility that fostering offers.
Above all, the following details are – alongside sound attitude and judgement – the most important attributes of exceptional carers:

  • the ability to provide a stable environment
  • being a tireless, genuine champion of the interests of foster children
  • acting consistently as a ‘team player’ with everyone involved in the process

Diversity and awareness are important to us as an independent fostering agency: please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to share your opinion, or if you think we’ve missed anything out. We also encourage you to read the Ofsted report in full for yourself.

On Monday 19th January, Caroline Selkirk, Chief Executive of British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) wrote in the Guardian about the importance of placing children in care correctly. Above all, her focus was on those “difficult to place … particularly adolescents,” and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

She asks a poignant question: “newborn babies can be easy to place for adoption and fostering, but what about older children?”

Regarding foster care priorities over the last two decades, she describes how general emphasis has shifted to placements with permanency in mind. This is because of the central role that parents and a family life play in the development of a youngster. Clearly older children also benefit from a sense of permanence and security: the age difference shouldn’t make them any less entitled to quality care than a newly-born child.

Caroline also outlines groups newly eligible for fostering:
“There have been recent positive changes that focus on reducing delay, opening the criteria to prospective carers … for example, gay couples”. As an agency keen on identifying more high quality foster parents, we welcome recruitment from a larger pool of potential carers.

She then goes on to cover some developmental points she thinks the care sector needs to address:

  • the revised framework for long-term foster care
  • further development of special guardianship
  • effective support, specifically financial help for carers
  • challenges to adoption

As she sees it, these issues will need to be dealt with partly by building on sector expertise. But also going forward, future solutions should be increasingly developed with child-centred responses in mind.

We’re really pleased to see that Caroline has done such a fantastic job in highlighting pressing issues, like the need for permanency, and that some children are easier to place than others. On top of that, we hope that with increased discussion – on a global platform like the Guardian – we can make 2015 the year that real progress is made, in improving standards of care for all foster children.