BECOMING A CARER
Does my partner have to be involved in foster care if I am?
At a glance
- Why does my partner have to be involved in fostering as well?
- Is there room for compromise?
- Nerves, information and foster care myth-busting
- My partner does not want to go to training
- My partner is not keen to become a foster carer because of their own past
- When you become a carer, you become a role model
It’s one of the most common questions we get asked: does my partner have to be involved in fostering if I become a foster carer?
The short answer is, well, yes. But don’t give up just yet!
If you’re keen as mustard to become a foster carer but your partner isn’t as enthusiastic, then this article is for you. It’s filled with information, tips and advice that could help your partner become as enthusiastic as you are about giving a home to a foster child.
Before we look at ways to get your partner as excited about fostering as you are, let’s give the long answer about why it’s important to get them on board.
It’s our vision that every foster household should be like a family.
Therefore, like in a family, we want every single member of the family to be involved in a relationship with every other household member. So we don’t just take one-half of a couple; we need both parties to be invested in foster care.
We’re a private foster care agency that believes in systemic fostering practices. That is, we think it’s relationships that create the environment needed to help a foster child recover from trauma and to help create positive change in any young person.
To do that successfully, we need buy-in from everyone (including your children).
Both you and your partner need to be committed to fostering. However, that doesn’t mean the care has to be a 50/50 split – one person can take the lion’s share of the responsibility. It could be more like 60/40, or maybe even 70/30 if one person is working full-time and the other person is not working.
But even if they’re less involved in care, it’s vital they are 100 per cent dedicated to a relationship with the young person and have a 100 per cent commitment to helping that young person recover from trauma.
Generally, if someone isn’t keen on becoming a foster carer, we don’t push them too hard on it. After all, foster children have already experienced trauma and we wouldn’t want them going into a home situation, where they’re meant to feel safe and secure, and have them feel unwelcome.
However, it’s possible your partner is just experiencing nerves, or feels like it’s a big commitment they’re unsure about, and, actually, with a little more information they might decide they’re keen on fostering after all.
For this reason, if you called us and said you live in south or east London and wanted to become a carer but your partner wasn’t very keen, we’d probably still come for an initial meeting with you both, so we can provide that information and answer any questions you both have.
It’s an opportunity for us to meet each other, do a bit of myth-busting and share the realities of fostering.
Let’s look at some of the reasons a partner might not be keen, and how we can handle it.
This is a really common reason partners don’t want to become carers. There are four to six training days to get you prepared for becoming a foster carer, and then probably about the same again each year.
We give you the training dates well in advance and we often have evening and weekend workshops, to accommodate those who work full-time.
That training is the bare minimum we require from a partner.
We also would encourage all applicants to demonstrate through their actions that they are prioritising their young person. It may mean taking some annual leave off work in order to develop their skills, so they will be better prepared to look after a young person with challenging behaviours and complexities.
Sometimes partners aren’t keen to become foster carers because they’re worried about something in their past.
Perhaps they have a minor criminal record from their own youth and worry either about that information being exposed or that it would discount them. Or perhaps they have bad or complicated family relationships that would see an application to become a foster carer knocked back.
Firstly, we would say that transparency is always the best way. And, actually, a lot of those experiences that people worry about – if they’re something the person has been able to reflect on and learn from – they make them stronger candidates to foster a child. (The caveat being as long as it’s not anything that’s hurtful or dangerous, or inappropriate towards a child or young person.)
For example, we had one applicant who feared he wouldn’t be able to become a foster carer because at one stage he’d sent his own son away to live with his uncle for a while, after discovering the lad had been out drinking as a minor.
For the applicant it was a story he felt embarrassed about, but it had happened many years earlier, and he’d had time to reflect. He told us the reason he sent his son away was because at the time he didn’t feel he had all the skills to respond to his son’s behaviour. He felt powerless, like he had lost all parental control. But after attending our fostering skills course, he felt – and we knew – he had gained the skills to handle a situation like that.
The man went on to become a foster carer.
Foster carers are basically role models. You’re setting an example to a young person about how they can be as an adult, including how they can be in their own relationships one day.
So everything that you do in your household is basically giving a script, or a road map, to that young person about how to be.
For that reason, if your partner is ultimately not interested in becoming a carer – whether that’s after our initial conversation or after going through training – then they’re the wrong person to become a carer.
Why? If they are disengaged from the young person, they’re showing them a model that says it’s OK to disengage from other people when they’re adults. It could mean they might not have fulfilled relationships or emotionally intimate relationships, for example.
So a carer needs to be able to show a commitment to the young person who is coming into their lives. They have to show the young person they’re worth being invested in, that they’re worthwhile, and that they can become something. If they can do that – even if they don’t have as much time available as you do – then there’s a great starting point for a conversation about fostering.
Being a Lika foster carer means always receiving specialised and consistent support from our expert team of professionals.
Your support will include:
- 1 to 4 weekly supervisions with your supervising social worker to talk through and understand the needs of your young person
- 24/7 out-of-hours access to one of the Lika team, so you’re never unsupported if things feel difficult
- Access to Lika’s team of skilled and knowledgeable Systemic Psychotherapist Consultants and Systemic Social Work Practitioners, who are never stuck for ideas on how to support
- Virtual monthly foster carers support meeting, led and chaired by experienced foster carers
- Virtual fortnightly Therapeutic Family Consultations, facilitated by one of our psychotherapists and open to all our agency’s foster carers
- Membership to the National Association of Therapeutic Parents and The Fostering Network
- Life coaching for foster children, birth children and foster carers
- Our Mentor Support Scheme, which partners new foster carers with more experienced foster carers
- Free training for fostering support networks. (Your family and friends are welcome to join any of the training Lika offers.)
- Access to Lika’s support workers, depending on the level of need for the young person
- Access to Lika’s Educational Consultant, who can offer ideas and advocacy in supporting young people to achieve in education
- Help from Lika’s Systemic Social Work Practitioners/Therapists, who can undertake skilled direct work without waiting lists for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)
- 14 to 21 days of paid respite (depending on complexity) to recharge your batteries and have some space for self-care.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, give the helpful team at Lika a call on 020 8667 2111. We’re here to answer all your questions.
We’re currently in Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Brent, Bexley, Bromley, Camden, City of London, Croydon, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing, Haringey, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Westminster, Enfield, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Kingston upon Thames, Richmond upon Thames, Waltham Forest, Harrow, Essex, Nuneaton, and Tameside.