02 Sep 2016

Children and Young People

Busting five of the most common fostering myths

In the run up to the next free information night on 5 September, five of the most common myths associated with foster care are being tackled by those who know fostering best.

With a growing need for potential foster carers to come forward to provide loving and stable homes for the city’s children in care, foster carers,  social workers and politicians have come together to lift the lid on some of the most common misconceptions.
Over 600 carers are needed in the South West in 2016 especially those with the skills and experience to care for teenagers, sibling groups and children with disabilities.

Free information nights are held throughout the year by Bristol City Council in a bid to give those interested in fostering a taste of what it involves. They are also great opportunities for current foster carers to share their experiences of what it means to care for a vulnerable child or young person.

Mark Pennington-Field, a recently approved foster carer, is one of those lifting the lid on some of the myths around fostering. He says: “I can’t overstate the importance of foster carers. The children we share our homes with are some of the most vulnerable in the city and really need someone to provide them with love and stability. I feel like what my partner and I can offer these children and young people is of real value and will help safeguard a brighter and healthier future for them.

“At first I was nervous about what lay ahead of us should we decide to go ahead and apply to be foster carers. It turns out that making that initial decision was the toughest bit about the application. It takes time to work through the approval process; however, in agreement with our assessing social worker, we worked out a suitable timescale that matched our needs. I want everyone in the city to know how much support you get when you apply and how looked after you are along the way.

“For us, the whole process from beginning to end was carried out professionally and we found it very supportive.  Any fears or trepidation were discussed with our assessing social worker who took time to answer any queries we had and consistently put our minds at rest. The foster skills training was an excellent insight into the caring role we were about to take up. It gave us so many excellent tools to use that we’re finding are coming in real use with the children we look after.”

Registering an interest in being a foster carer is the first step. Anyone wanting to know more can attend the free information events and sign up by speaking to the team or they can visit the Council website and fill in a contact form. Everyone who makes an application will have someone make contact with them within two working days.

Councillor Clare Campion-Smith, Cabinet Member for People with responsibility for Fostering and Adoption services, said: “Our team go to great lengths to make sure that anyone wanting to apply to be a foster carer can do so. They are there to support people through their applications and if approved, they’re then on hand to make sure our foster carers have everything they need to care for the vulnerable children placed with them.

“I hope that by shining a light on some of the more common fostering myths it will show potential carers just what to expect should they make the decision to foster.”

The truth behind five common myths about becoming a foster carer: 
Myth 1 – “I need to own a home.”
“You don’t need to own your home to be a foster carer. Whether you have a mortgage, or are a private or council tenant makes no difference so long as you have a secure tenancy. The most important things are that you have space in your home and life for the foster child and that you can provide them with love and stability.” Councillor Clare Campion-Smith, Cabinet Member for People with responsibility for Fostering and Adoption services

Myth 2 – “My circumstances don't make me suitable – I’m too old, not married, gay.”
“There are three things we ask before anyone applies. Are you over 21? Do you have the energy and the health to care for a child? Do you have the space in your lives for a child? Whether you’re young or old, married or single, gay or straight, we don’t turn anyone away who can answer yes to those three questions. Our carers come from many different backgrounds and all lead different lives. It’s important to us that we have carers that are as diverse as the city we live in, the city many of our children in care recognise as home.” Karen Amegashitsi, Family Placement Team Manager at Bristol City Council

Myth 3 – “I can’t afford to care for a child.”
“Supporting the care of a child did cause me some concerns when I applied but I was amazed to learn just how much support you get. Fostering isn’t charity. Neither is it a paid job. Foster carers get paid an allowance to cover the extra household and day to day costs of caring for a young person. I was delighted to find how the allowance you get is more than enough to cover the costs and I was really pleased to learn that Bristol City Council also pay extra amounts to more experienced carers who care for children with more complex needs. As a new carer it is a relief to know that the costs are thought of and accommodated for. You also receive all the equipment you need from beds and bedding to stair gates and car seats” Mark Pennington-Field, foster carer

Myth 4 – “I don’t think people from my ethnic group become foster carers”
“It’s so important to have carers from a diverse range of backgrounds. Children come into care from all over the city and from all communities. When we look to place a vulnerable child, often we find that if we can provide them with a foster home with a family that share their ethnic background it can help them settle in and be more at ease with their surroundings. We always want to hear more from BME communities in the city.” Karen Broughton, Senior Practitioner at Bristol City Council

Myth 5 – “How can I foster when my children still live at home”
“You’ve got children already – great! That means you know what it takes to give a child or young person the love and security they need to grow and flourish. Most of the people I know who were in foster care with families who already had children have really strong relationships with their foster siblings. When a child or a young person comes to live with a family they don’t know, often having other children about really helps and gives them someone to relate to, someone they can talk to who isn’t a “grown up”. It’s really comforting.” Rosie Fortune, care leaver and and Carer Ambassador at Bristol City Council

To find out more about fostering in Bristol or to attend a free information session follow us on Facebook or visit our website. The next information session will be held at 1 Smeaton Road, BS1 6XN from 6:30pm on Monday 5 September.