Infertility is something that many women shy away from talking about. It shouldn’t be this way, but is a sad reality for many women. As many as one in seven couples in the UK will have trouble conceiving, and this number is set to rise as more and more couples leave having children until later in life.
Fortunately, there are many ways to make a family, and while the solution might not be exactly what you were expecting, it can be a rewarding and valuable experience to explore. Fostering is one option available for couples who might struggle to have their own children, although it is advised that couples don’t start the adoption or fostering route until they have stopped trying to have their own children.
Can I foster a child?
Contrary to popular belief, fostering is available to single-sex couples, single parents, people in full-time employment and the unemployed. There are no upper age limits, and the only requirement is that you are healthy enough to dedicate time to a young child. Although it is often banded together with adoption, fostering is quite a different route that is more akin to a career choice.
What challenges will I face?
Although challenging, you are provided with continuous training that allows you to develop skills in childcare, communication and diplomacy. While some children will have no contact with their birth family, others will be in regular contact with their family members, which is something the foster carer will have to facilitate. It is also common for children who have come from neglected backgrounds, or children who have been in the foster care system for a while to display some difficult behavioural problems. Again, this isn’t something you would be expected to deal with alone and your local authority or private fostering agency will be able to offer assistance.
Why is this such a rewarding path?
Many people focus on the change they can make to a young person’s life through fostering and fail to notice the remarkable impact the child may have on their life. Fostering a child can help you to learn a lot about yourself, including your strengths and weaknesses. Like any professional, foster carers are expected to become experts in their field and court officials will often look to the foster carers in a child’s life to help them determine what is in their best interest. It’s a privileged position to hold and one that will have a lasting impact on your life and the way you view the world. While many fostering opportunities are about taking children out of abusive or neglected situations, it is also highly rewarding to play a role in reuniting a family that has hit a hard patch.
How can I start the process?
The first step is to establish that your entire family is on board, as they will all become part of your support system. You will then need to decide between fostering through your local authority or with a private fostering agency. The former is often quicker to place children while the latter is more likely to offer bespoke support. The first step is to simply get in touch, so even if it’s a distant dream, making the first contact will help to make it a reality.
Rebecca Harper is a freelance writer specialising in family and parenting. You can find her on Twitter.