Why become a foster or kinship carer

Becoming a foster or kinship carer is a very important decision that will affect your life and the lives of those around you.

Experienced carers recognise the personal rewards this role brings to them and their families, but also acknowledge the many challenges in caring for the children placed with them.

Questions to consider

Becoming a carer is a serious decision for any family. It is a commitment that should not be made without prior discussion and consideration of the changes and challenges that are part of the foster or kinship carer experience.

It is important that you sit down with your partner, your children or any other significant people in your life to consider the impact that fostering may have.

Here are some questions you may like to ask if you are considering becoming a foster or kinship carer:

  • What other stresses are there on our family at the current time?
  • Is this a good time to invite new challenges?
  • How would we cope with the uncertainty of the duration children would stay in our care?
  • How would we cope if a child or young person placed in our home has difficult or out-of-the-ordinary behaviours?
  • Can we cope with a child or a young person returning to the care of their parents when we feel they may not provide the same standard of care we have?
  • How will our family adjust to the addition of other members? What changes, compromises or sacrifices will need to be made? Is everyone prepared to make these changes?
  • If you are in a relationship: is your relationship strong enough at this time for you and your partner to work as a team and support one another?
  • If you are single: have you considered the lifestyle changes and loss of privacy associated with sharing your home with a child or young person?

Here are some questions you may like to ask if you are considering becoming a kinship carer for a related child:

  • What do you and others in your household think will be the benefits and challenges you might encounter in your particular family situation?
  • How would you go about managing these challenges if you decide to go ahead with caring for related children?
  • What help do you think you might need and who would be available to do this?
  • If full-time care of related children is not right for your household, is there other support you can offer the children and their parents?
  • Can you help other relatives who might be able to do this?

Rewards and challenges

The rewards include:

  • helping to keep children and young people safe
  • helping children and young people to reach their full potential
  • helping parents to develop new ways of relating to their children
  • using your skills and life experiences for the benefit of others
  • enhancing your own parenting skills and knowledge
  • being a highly valued and contributing member of a caring team
  • expanding your social and personal contacts.

The challenges include:

  • managing your own children's feelings about sharing you, their home and their lives
  • responding to children's behaviours that you may not have previously experienced
  • being able to say goodbye to children when they leave to return to their families
  • feeling confident that children will be safe when they leave your care
  • finding space in your life for yourself when so many demands will be made on your time and energy
  • being able to persevere when the observable changes may be small or non-existent
  • sharing the decision-making for the children placed with you.

Experienced carers say the rewards outweigh the challenges and are most often found in the day-to-day moments that they experience through sharing their lives with children.