The ideal characteristics of a foster parent are patience, a nurturing and supportive disposition and a strong desire to help and care for children. As long as you possess these qualities, matters such as age, relationship status, sexuality or gender cease to be an issue, as the critical factor is that you are giving a child a caring home and space that they can truly call their own, in an affectionate and benevolent environment in which they can thrive.
Fostering as a single parent is therefore possible and can be truly rewarding for both the parent and the child, particularly as an alternative for those who have not been able to have children, despite always wanting them. Do not be fooled, it is difficult, but people do not become parents because it’s easy. You will have your own set of challenges to confront, and we are here to support you in your choice to become a parent, regardless of your marital status.
Some people believe that they need to abstain from becoming a foster parent due to the fact that they are single, as they believe that having two parents is better for the child. However, having one parent that cares for and supports a child is better than growing up in a harmful environment. Indeed, some experts actually consider it to be a better match in certain circumstances, particularly in instances in which the child has suffered abuse by either a male or female in the past – being fostered by someone of the opposite sex is sometimes better for them to help them grow and recover.
Being single does mean that you will have to be more flexible as foster care does take a lot of work and your full attention.
Fostering requires you to devote a considerable amount of your time to it as you are looking after children – and vulnerable children at that. If you would like to continue working full time, it may not be advisable to go into full time fostering, the best option may be to provide respite foster care over weekends and school holidays: this work is invaluable as it allows children to have new experiences, receive additional care and learn from new role models, while also giving other parents some well-deserved time to have a break. This can depend on the age of the child and their specific requirements, but this needs to be addressed on a case by case basis with your fostering agency.
It is, however, entirely possible to work part time while fostering, particularly if you are caring for school age children or teenagers (again this can occasionally depend on their specific needs). You will need to be available to take them to school, attend meetings, training and support groups with your fostering agency, as well as promoting contact between your foster child and their family: all while also being a parent yourself. There is a lot of help available to foster parents, but it still remains hard work despite its tremendously rewarding nature.
As well as support groups we recommend seeking help from your community: your friends, family and potentially your neighbours if your friendship is good enough with them. Not only does this help you, it engrains a sense of real community and team work in your foster child. While you will remain the main source of support and care, instilling a sense of community and a feeling that there is a supportive network of individuals that is there to care for them can really put a foster children at ease. Just remember to rely on this network, but not to do so too heavily otherwise your foster child may feel that they are a burden that is constantly “handed over” to different people.
Fostering as a single parent is tough, in the same way that being a single parent is demanding. This does not mean that it is not possible, and certainly does not take away from the sense of accomplishment and pride that you will take away from helping a child that has come from a difficult background. The most important facet of single parent fostering is to remember that there is a lot of support out there for you.