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Is being a foster carer a job, a vocation, a profession or all of these things?
Defining exactly what fostering is, can be the challenge that makes recruiting foster carers a difficult and expensive task, and is one of the reasons why Wales has such a shortage of foster carers.
This shortage of carers makes matching child and young people to “best fit” fostering families more difficult, and can lead to unnecessary placement breakdowns, adding further instability to lives that have already suffered loss and trauma.
Stability, within a caring and loving home environment, provides the best foundation from which to improve the life chances of looked after children, but finding enough carers, with the right skills and in the right place, is a challenge that faces all fostering agencies.
So is being a foster carer a job?
Well, you certainly are paid a generous fostering allowance, and get tax concessions for looking after each child, with higher allowances for looking after the most challenging of children, but it is a job like no other. It is difficult for carers to be wholly reliant on the income from fostering, because it is only when you have a child or young person in placement that you will be paid. This might need some planning on your part to make sure you can manage any periods when you do not have a child placed with you.
One thing you can be sure of, if fostering is just a job it is certainly not a 9 to 5 one and you will never feel bored or unchallenged.
Perhaps then being a foster carer is a vocation? For a job to be a vocation, its dictionary definition suggests that it requires a ” strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation” and that the employment or main occupation should be “especially regarded as worthy and requiring dedication”.
Being a foster carer is most definitely not simply about income. If you start you fostering journey with this belief or attitude then you are very unlikely to get through the assessment process! Successful foster parents have to be able to adopt a parenting style that combines boundaries with warmth, flexibility and not being easily upset. Fostering places an emphasis on relationships, and on problem solving, with an expectation that fostering families commit to building a positive relationship with the child they look after.
These expectations certainly lean towards foster caring being a vocation………and if you think that you can care for a child or young person in this way, and also can add in a healthy sense of humour to the mix, then you will be well on the way to fitting the bill as someone whose sees their vocation as being a foster parent / carer.
So, is foster caring really a profession? Well, it is a paid occupation that involves prolonged training and the opportunity of formal qualification, which means that fostering certainly qualifies within the definition of a profession.
Each and every foster carer has to go through extensive training during the assessment and post approval stage to ensure that they are able to provide foster care of a high standard. Your role is to help improve the outcomes for the children in your care, and our role is to help you achieve that through training and support. You would not expect a teacher without formal training to be let loose in the classroom, and so the same must be true for foster carers, whose influence on the children they look after is even greater than the impact teachers may have.
After reading this blog, you may begin to understand our dilemma……….. should we be advertising a job, a vocation or a profession – or simply a challenging and rewarding way of life where you can make a significant difference to someone else’s life?
You decide………… and if you think you fit the bill, please get in touch with us today.
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