After the birth of our son, my husband and I couldn’t wait to continue growing our family. We loved the whirlwind that followed him around, and loved the way he could light up a room – and the lives of everyone in it.

Unlike most couples though, we took a slightly different route when it came to having a second child. We became foster carers.

We wanted to fill our home with a child’s laughter, but we also wanted to make a difference in a child’s life. After seeing an advert on Facebook recruiting carers in our area, we jumped at the chance and haven’t looked back since.

If you’re thinking of taking a new direction as a parent, foster care could be right for you. Here, I’m going to share with you a warts-and-all account of the process to help you make the right decision – for you and a child.

1. Are you prepared for the application process?

The process to become a foster carer was unlike anything we had undergone before. The first thing to be aware of is that this is a long, daunting, challenging, and often intrusive process; something which puts many prospective parents off.

Our journey took 6 months to complete, something which we were assured is completely normal. It began with us making an enquiry online, and was followed by a telephone chat with the agency.

Before you’ve even signed on the dotted line, you need to be aware that you will receive a home visit from the agency. This is to discuss your enquiry in more detail, and get a general idea of how suitable you will be. It is at this stage that you will then complete an application form.

The assessment that follows is pretty intense, and not for everyone. Our social worker visited 7 times to carry out a full assessment of our home and suitability as carers. We also had prior training to ensure we were fully prepared.

Finally, after this stage, we were approved and told to await news of our first placement. Be under no illusions that this is a lengthy process; and something you really need to prepare for before you begin your journey.

2. Do you have a spare room?

One of the first questions we were asked when enquiring about foster care, was did we have a spare room. Even though we already had a child of our own, any foster child would need their own bedroom to sleep in. You’ll need to prove that you have the space at home to house everyone comfortably.

In the UK, there has been some concern over how ‘Bedroom Tax’ will affect foster carers; a further challenge that has been putting many families off foster care. My advice would be to see how this will impact on you, before you enquire.

3. What type of placement are you able to offer?

Another thing to consider when deciding if foster care is right for you is what type of placement you are able to offer. Fostering is not to be confused with adoption; in fact, there are a number of important differences to consider.

When we looked into fostering, we didn’t realise there were quite so many types of placement. These include:

  • Emergency Placements – These are offered on extremely short notice, and are for children whose parents have been deemed unfit to care for them.
  • Short Term/Temporary Placements – These are only a few days or weeks long, and provide a ‘middle ground’ before a child moves on to long term care or adoption.
  • Long Term Placements – These placements can last months or even years, before children are moved on.
  • Respite Placements – These placements are designed to give the birth parents of challenging or disabled children a well-deserved break.

4. Can you deal with difficult children?

Another question to ask yourself when considering fostering is: “Can I care for a child with behavioural difficulties?”

When our foster daughter came to live with us she was very challenging due to her upbringing and it took her a long time to settle in and calm down. You may find yourself caring for a child with a physical or mental disability; and you need to be able to offer the specialist care they need.

While you will receive training and support, it’s important to do your research and be sure that you can cope with anything fostering throws at you.

5. Are you willing to foster children of all ages?

When we enquired about fostering, we were surprised to learn that there is a real shortage of carers for older children.

If you’re thinking about fostering, you need to be willing to care for children of all ages, backgrounds and upbringings. Making a difference to an older child’s life will no doubt challenging, but it’s the most rewarding job you can do.

Taking a new direction as a parent and becoming a foster carer was one of the best decisions we made, and we wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s challenging; but it is truly rewarding and we’d recommend it to anyone.


Rachael Walker is an ex-marketing manager turned full-time Mommy blogger. When she’s not looking after her children, you’ll find her baking, gardening, and keeping fit. Find out more about her journey as a foster mother on her blog.