Did you know that there is a condition that often affects parents and carers called “Empty Nest Syndrome”? It occurs when children have grown up to the point of becoming adults and “leave the nest” to begin their own independent lives. Sometimes this will be when they leave home to go off to college or university, and sometimes it happens when they move into a place of their own for the first time.
Of course, as parents you bring up children to be able to fly the nest, and when they take flight you have the satisfaction of a job well done, but the reality of watching them spread their wings can be very strange and disconcerting. It leaves many parents with a sense of dread, as a family home that was once filled with the sounds of children and young people falls silent. While some parents quietly cheer at the thought of having the house to themselves and more free time, others will lament the passing of time.
It really is the end of an era…….but it could also be the start of a brand new challenge.
It could be the perfect time for people to consider opening their doors to a vulnerable child or young person. Someone who wasn’t lucky enough to have had a safe and stable home life.
Many foster carers tell us that the idea of one day becoming a carer can take many years to shape and form. Circumstances can get in the way, and often one of the biggest challenges may have been balancing the needs of your birth children with the changes fostering will bring. Having your children leave home can open up the time and space to fulfil your ambition.
So if the prospect of an empty nest is keeping you awake at night, or raising questions about what to do with this next phase of your life, fostering may hold the answer.
While you think about what qualities you can bring to fostering, think also of what fostering might bring to your life at this moment of change. Be honest with yourself, but also be ambitious for your family, and for the children looking for a family like yours. Fill that empty nest.
Did you know that there are nearly 6,000 young people currently in the care of local authorities across Wales who need the kind of family life and experiences that you are able to offer?
Fostering is a way of making an amazing contribution to society, but more importantly it gives you the chance to make a real difference to the life of a young person who, for whatever reasons, may not have had the greatest start. It’s difficult to under-estimate the impact that good foster carers can have in helping a young person turn their life around, supporting them in creating opportunities to achieve and succeed in ways they might never have thought possible.
Essentially fostering is about providing a safe and secure family environment at a crucial point in a child or young person’s life. You as a foster parent, step into the role of being a carer for a looked after child. It isn’t like looking after your own children, and you aren’t trying to replace anyone’s mum and dad.
There is no way to describe the typical foster child. Each child is unique. The one thing they all have in common is that each child is unable to live at home with their family for a variety of different reasons. Some young people come to us as a sibling group. Sometimes all the brothers and sisters have is each other and local authorities often wish to place them together.
There often isn’t any way to know how long the child will be with you. It might be an emergency situation and the child could stay for a few days or weeks until he or she can return to their family home, or they might stay with you for months, even years - sometimes until they too are ready to fly your nest!
The uncertainty of how long the child will be in your care calls for flexibility and the emotional resilience to be able to love and support the young person but accept when the time is right for them to move on. It might feel like the end but often the young person will want to maintain contact and become a part of your wider family network. Because you have raised a family that has grown and gone, you will be familiar with the cycle of loving and letting go. You will already know what it is like to care for a child through the typical range of age-related behaviours. You will know what it is like to need patience and how much energy is involved in really caring for young people facing today’s challenges. You will have the experience to provide a home for children who needs one.
The journey to becoming a foster carer usually takes between 4-5 months to complete. During this time, a social worker will complete an assessment on you and your family – which includes speaking with your birth children, completing a series of background checks and references, and involves attending a 3-day training course called Skills to foster which will be delivered in a venue close to your home. Once approved as foster carers, you will be supported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by qualified Social Workers, attend regular training courses, and receive a generous weekly allowance.