Can I still work full time and foster?
Every fostering organisation has its own policy on prospective foster carers who still wish to, or need to work outside of the home, but there are some general principles that they will all adhere to.
Depending on the needs and age of a specific child, it may be possible for foster carers to pursue careers outside of the home, but it is important to remember that all foster carers in addition to providing a high quality of care for children, are expected to be available to attend meetings, training, support groups, and to promote and support contact between a child and their birth family. Many if not all of these commitments will typically occur during regular working hours and all fostering agencies would expect foster carers to prioritise these demands over and above any other work commitments.
Working parents often need to develop a child care plan that includes after-school care and care for school vacations and holidays, but this high level of third party care may not be appropriate for foster children who will have already experience a high level of change and loss in their lives and will need more security and routine that birth children.
A fostering service would not consider it appropriate for a fostered child to be in full-time day care while their foster carer works. As any good parent, you will be expected to be at home for the foster child at the end of the school day, school holidays or if they are ill and cannot attend school. Sometimes children are excluded from school for a day or so as they may have been disruptive or finding some situations difficult to cope with. It is very important that as their foster carer you understand this and are available for them when such a situation arises.
If you have a partner or spouse who does not work, or works part-time, the position is different. When matching allows, that person may decide to take the role of the primary foster carer, which with appropriate planning and flexibility, opens up more possibilities.
Most foster carers who work full time are short-break foster carers, meaning they look after a child or children at weekends only. 'Short-break' or 'shared care', covers a variety of different types of part-time care. You might have a child to stay for anything from a few hours each week to a couple of weekends each month, giving their own family or their full time foster carers a break. Short break-care is ideal for families, couples or single people who work full-time but still want to make a difference to a child’s life by supporting a child in placement with an existing foster carer.
It is often possible for carers to work part-time, particularly when they are caring for school-age children and young people whose placements may be long term or may be very stable and settled. Your working hours will still need to be flexible to make sure children placed with you can be looked after, taken to and picked up from school, cared for during school holidays and transported to family contact sessions etc. There is no hard and fast rule regarding hours worked, the important thing is that any arrangements take account of the individual needs of the child.
The best course of action is to discuss your circumstance and your plans with the organisation you are thinking about joining, and having an honest conversation regarding your needs and the agency’s policies before submitting a formal application to become a foster carer.