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Working and fostering: Striking the balance

Friday 05 November 2021
working and parenting

Over 40% of Action for Children foster carers work and foster. But what should you consider when doing both?

Any fostering assessment will explore how you'll balance any commitment alongside fostering. It’s about risk-assessing what could go wrong (and what could go right) before a child comes into the mix.

This article gives you a head start. Learn what to expect from being part of the wonderful world of fostering and working.

The child must come first

It’s vital children get what they need from you as their carer. To start with, you'll need to be available to help a child settle in and feel safe.

Ruthy is one of our foster carers and a qualified teacher. She recalls how she approached fostering with her employer.

Ruth foster carer

Ruthy

“I’d already started fostering when I decided to work at my current school. When I met the head teacher, the first thing I said to him was; 'I’m a foster carer and that’s first and foremost my priority.”'

It can take children time to develop trust and feel secure. If your job is highly demanding, ask yourself - is there room after your working day to focus on the needs of a child?

I’m a foster carer and that’s first and foremost my priority

Ruthy

It’s not the same as parenting your own child

When you foster, there will be bigger expectations on your time. The role of a foster carer goes beyond parenting because there’s a whole team around the child. You’ll be expected to meet and talk with professionals regularly.

Our foster carers regularly attend:

  • Training
  • Local authority meetings
  • Action for Children group meetings
  • Supervision with a social worker
  • Support groups with other foster carers
Mother and teenage daughter sitting on sofa and drinking tea together

You will have regular monthly visits from a social worker

There's other commitments to consider, too, like taking your child to see their birth family. Depending on what’s been agreed by the local authority, this could be weekly, monthly or yearly visits.

You'll also be expected to provide a 'diary' to your social worker. When a child first moves in with you, the expectation may be to provide daily updates. As your young person settles into your home and their new routines, you may only need to provide monthly dairies.

Is your employer flexible and understanding?

Employers can be very supportive of foster carers, but it’s always best to check. Your contract is a good place to start. If you have a good relationship with your manager, talk it through. All fostering agencies will need a reference from your current employer as part of the assessment process.

Rhonda is a foster carer for Action for Children, this is what she said about her experience with an employer.

Rhonda smiling

Rhonda

“My employer was very understanding. If you foster or have your own children, you can’t help them getting ill or being called to school last minute. Whether it’s foster or birth they are children, and we just do what we need to do as their adults.”

We just do what we need to do as their adults

Rhonda

Your support network

Your family can support you and your foster child by becoming a 'back up carer'. After a short assessment and some training, you’ll have a support network who can step in when you need it.

Back up carers become like family to our young people. For the child, these carers become like an extended family. They’ll help with pickups from school or babysitting duties if you need to dash to a appointment.

The support doesn’t stop there. The occasional sleepovers are also okay and can be exciting for a child.

Group of friends

Friends and family are a great support for foster carers

Do you have the time to foster?

Whatever your commitments, we can help you explore balancing work and fostering. By talking through your working arrangements early, starting your fostering journey is one step closer

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