Can I choose the age of the children we look after?
One of the questions you will be asked during the assessment process to become a foster parent is what age children you would like to look after, and if you have birth children of your own then the temptation can be to wonder whether younger children would be the best fit for you. After all, you will already have experience of looking after children of that age, or particular gender, and may think that a foster child will be a good playmate because children of the same age will have similar interests and needs.
The reality of course may be very different. Children, whatever their age are individuals and much like your own children, just because they live in the same house you cannot expect them to be best friends or to always get on. There will always be disagreements and differences –this is just part of the joy and challenge of family life!
Sometimes, matching a child looked after alongside your birth child, actually works best when they are not the same age. This is why we often recommend that there is a two, or three-year gap between the ages of your children and any other children who come to live with you. This can make children who are looked after either older or younger than your own children.
In this way, every member of your family will hopefully feel that they have the personal space they need to grow and develop as individuals without having to be compared with another young person of the same age. It also makes sharing toys and managing age related tantrums or the demands around social activities much easier to co-ordinate and manage.
There are challenges and rewards with looking after children whatever their age, and your supervising worker from Family Fostering Partners will help you to think about what these might be, and how you can gain confidence in looking after children who may be outside of the age range you had initially thought about for fostering. Don’t forget, throughout the assessment process and after you are approved as a foster parent there is LOTS of training to help you learn and develop as a foster parents. We will help you think about how you can best tackle some of the normal developmental changes all children experience, and how these life stages can be especially frightening for children who are looked after.
Parenting is about teaching and having fun with your family, and fostering is no different!