This is not an easy question to answer. Different countries have different laws, policies and practices on foster care. Sometimes, even within the same country there may be differences if states or provinces have the right to make their own laws or follow their own policies and practices in relation to foster care. It is therefore necessary to contact the relevant national, state or provincial agency or their local offices responsible for foster care to get accurate information. Some IFCO members have provided us with information about fostering in their part of the world. This is not an extensive list, but it will give you some guidance on fostering. You can check if these relate to your country of residence by clicking on the country links under the menu section: ‘Foster care around the world‘.
You must love children and be content to take all that comes with caring for them – the good and the challenging.
Have you considered how fostering will impact on your own children (if you have any) and on your wider family and friends? You will need lots of positivity and buy-in from those closest to you to make fostering work.
Children who need foster care come from families who are having difficulties functioning. It is likely the child you care for will not have escaped the impact of those difficulties. You must be prepared for that.
You must be willing to work with social workers and other professionals from a foster service provider. Foster service providers have certain legal obligations which they must fulfil to ensure that the child who needs care receives the best quality care possible. These obligations include:
- A security/background check to ensure you have no criminal record;
- A thorough assessment of your circumstances. In carrying out that assessment, which will take place over many weeks, they will delve into all aspects of your life and your personal relationships. They may request to speak with your children, extended family and employer;
- You will have to agree to have supervision from a social worker who represents the interests of the child;
- You will have to engage with a social worker appointed to support you;
- You will have to provide regular information about the progress of the child you have in your care and you will be required to attend formal reviews;
- There will also be an expectation that you will attend training.
The child in your care will most likely have contact with their family of origin and you will be asked to be supportive of these meetings. There may be a reaction from the child before and after meeting their family and it is important that you are willing to support the child in processing these reactions and emotions.
If the child is with you for a long time, they may, in practice become part of your family and yet legally they are not. Depending on local law and practice in foster care you may have to seek permission to do things parents would normally do, for the child in your care.
If the child’s parent(s) improves the functioning of their life sufficiently to convince a judge in a court of law that they could care adequately for their child, they may well be returned to the care of their parent(s), even if they have been with you for a long time.
You will face many challenges as a foster carer, and you may get little recognition for your role. To be a foster carer is truly a work of love!
- IFCO promotes best practice internationally in foster and kinship care but we do not provide a fostering service.
- If you live in one of the areas referred to in our fostering information section, please go to that section for more information.
- If you have a query about foster care, we may be able to answer that query for you. If we cannot help you, we will endeavour to put you in touch with an individual or organisation in your country who can help you.
- IFCO can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Stacy Blythe, from Western Sydney University and an IFCO Board Member, takes part in a video about foster care, called ‘Foster Film’, in which she and other carers and a care-experienced young person discuss foster care.
This link is to a video of a young woman called Stephie who speaks candidly about her experience of foster care.
This short video highlights the challenges and possibilities of working with birth parents from the Coalition for Children, Youth and Families in the U.S.
Are you caring for a young person who is LGBTQ? This video from the Australian organisation, Create Foundation represents the voices of children and young people with an out-of-home care experience. It gives some LGBTQ young people a voice to inform carers of the ‘do’s and don’ts’ in their interactions with them.
[PLEASE NOTE: Links to external resources are for the information of the users of our website. IFCO does not necessarily endorse or agree with views expressed in these links]