Many people cannot have their own child. They may go for IVF treatment but after some unsuccessful attempts and no more savings they look at other options. Can I adopt a child? Should I foster? This question can also arise from parents who already have a child or children but wish to give another child the brilliant chances they have given their own child/children.
There are some normal but awkward questions you may ask yourself and be worried about asking the professionals. Here are some thoughts you may have:
– I think I will foster because then I can see what type of parent I will be, and they may not stay for long. So it’s like a temp job and I gain experience and learn.
– I am worried about adopting because the child I get is not biologically mine and I am scared I will not love the child like my own.
– If the child doesn’t fit my family and I’ve adopted, I can’t exactly take the child back. What then?
– If I foster, I have no say in the child, in fact I am so restricted, it’s like being a 24 hour carer.
– I get paid for fostering which helps but I do not get paid for adoption
– A foster child may be a lot more work than an adopted one
I have split up the differences in 3 sections to touch base on each category. Hopefully this will help you to understand it and if it is something you are considering, I hope it will help you further in making a decision. But rest assured, when you speak to professionals about taking on a child, do not be frightened to ask questions even if you think they are awkward.
Becoming a foster parent means giving a child a home for as long as they need, depending on the situation. There are two types of fostering. Long term fostering and short term fostering.
Short term fostering could mean getting an emergency phone call telling you they need urgent/immediate care for a child that has literally just been taken into authority hands. You may need to look after this child for one night, 1 week or several months.
Remember there are many reasons a child can need an immediate foster home. It could be that they live with a single parent who has just taken ill and needs medical attention and there was no other family to take the child. Or it could be the child has suffered neglect or abuse, the social services have attended the family home alongside police and they have made a decision to take the child into care for the protection of the child. This generally happens to ensure the child is kept safe and social services will then investigate and write reports on what they feel is the best path for the child. Sometimes a parent could be a drug user and addict, until they are clean and able to put their own child first, the child would be placed in foster care.
A short term foster care placement provides a child a place to stay until they can return to their own family OR it becomes evident that they need a more permanent foster home. Short term is very important and the start of a whole process, a ST foster carer will need to be ready and prepared at all times. The child you will receive will most likely be extremely distressed and will need support in the transitional process and beyond. You will need to be able to attend urgent meetings, appointments, take the child to school, have possible contact with birth parents, help the child build relationships with new people in the home and/or repair relationships with their biological family. You will have a social worker allocated for the child. Sometimes in the case of short term foster placement, it may be decided between you and authorities that the child is settling well and it can remain as a longer term foster home for them instead of moving. It is a very hard job but extremely rewarding and the most vital part of fostering.
Long term fostering is when you will look after the child put in your care for a long period of time, providing a plan of permanence for the child until they cease to be looked after, which generally means until they reach adulthood. It means you would bond with this child across a number of years and this becomes their permanent home. Local authorities have an agreed process for matching a child with a foster parent (both ST and LT). If you take on a child LT and it isn’t working, it does not mean you are stuck. You can talk to the social worker and discuss the child’s welfare and the impact that the child can have or is having on other children in the home, yourself or your property. If it becomes unsuitable, the child can be placed with a different LT foster carer. This does not mean you have given up, and yes, you can still take on another child. One that will be more suited to your family and home life,
A foster carer once said to me ‘We decided to foster, I thought why not, we need to take the child to school, meetings, appointments and provide the child with a warm bed, feed them dinner and keep them clean … and when we actually started, I realised how naive I was. It was so much more! It’s hard work but so rewarding and 25 years later we are still going’
Generally, you will find that a foster child will have a 2 year gap on your own children. Whether that be older or younger. This is to ensure that each child is at a different developmental stage and they require different amounts and types of attention. It also reduces the risk of children constantly competing against each other. This obviously excludes if you took on two foster children that are siblings with a small age gap or even possibly twins.
To sum up fostering: you look after a child, provide love and support for the child whilst remembering that you are acting as a carer. You need to be readily available and it is very hard to foster and continue with a day job. Fostering is a full time job itself and you are provided with an income to help with the care of the child. You cannot make decisions for the child. The biological parents still make decisions (but not in all circumstances) and between them and the SW you are obliged to follow. You cannot change their routine, their school or decide they are getting 6 inches cut off their hair. Think of it like a childminder, only there is no ‘going home time’. At least not for a while anyway.
You need to have a spare bedroom in order to foster. They would not be able to share a bedroom with your own children. You will need to have background checks, interviews, some training, and possibly medical checks. The UK itself is screaming out for more foster carers so if the job is right for you, then give it all you’ve got.
Adopting a child can be a long process, but if successful, you can take on a child as your own. They become 100% yours. You will still need to go through all the checks and you are not just given a child if you are accepted. They look at your background, religion (rightly or wrongly), lifestyle and your age and if you have other children. They will work extensively to ensure they match the right child with you and your family. When there is a match, you can meet the child and get a feel of what they will be like in your setting. You can have a preference of age and gender and once you are happy, you start the process of bringing this child to their new home.
Once you have adopted a child they are absolutely 100% legally yours. They will not have contact with their biological family in as far as you will not be obliged to take them for visits every week etc. You choose the school, the haircut, appointments, what support you need and you can even move abroad with your adopted child and you can also change their name. Everything you do is exactly the same as your own child because that’s what they have become – your own child.
Depending on the age of the child you take on would depend on what you are taking on. A lot of people want new borns, or babies. But this leaves so many older children jumping placements in foster homes feeling unloved, rejected and a failure. So many more older children need a forever home. If you can give a forever home to an older child where they become legally part of your family, it would be the best thing the child has ever had. That’s not to say they won’t test you, because they will, more so than ever. They will most likely do the most outrageous things because deep inside they are frightened of rejection. They think they will get comfortable and you will change your mind, so to stay in control they may play up for some time to see if you give up on them, proving them right that no one loves them. So if you can, or do adopt an older child, remember they need so much love and once they have truly settled, trust you and realise you chose them, they will be a lot happier and less frightened of it all going wrong. After all they just want to be normal, they want a family to love them like all the other children. You will still be able to access a lot of support if the child needs it so don’t be afraid that you will be on your own.
I hope I have provided you with enough details on each topic to help you understand, educate you or maybe even make a decision. If you can’t have children, as heartbreaking as this is, remember there are so many kids out there absolutely longing for a family. Parents that foster and adopt are amazing and strong and it is so fulfilling. You will experience things you never considered but when the munchkins are in bed each night you can sit there and pat yourself on the back and be so very proud that you are part of a special community that has changed a little persons life forever.