How do you balance work with being a foster carer?
An important consideration will be whether you foster alone or with a partner who can share responsibilities as a carer. Fostering couples can arrange work schedules to ensure there is always somebody available. It can be challenging and requires a considerable amount of organisation.
But fostering can replicate what many birth families do, where parents work a certain amount of hours every week, organised around their caring responsibilities. In this regard, the adoption of remote working by many employers has given foster carers more options. This makes it easier to organise working hours around the child’s needs and schedule. It also means you are more likely to be better placed to respond to if you are needed at short notice.
Carmelah, who fosters for Stockport Council, is a nurse who works for the NHS, while her partner is a British Telecom manager. They have been fostering younger children, as well as bringing up their own young son and daughter, and combine fostering with their work.
“We juggle a lot!” says Carmelah. “We are like any busy family, with children at school and the nursery and organising our work commitments around the children. We always find time to be together and enjoy being a family. Nursing is important to me, particularly at this time when the NHS is short-staffed, so we work as a family to make it possible.”
Combining fostering and running your own business is also popular. This gives foster carers and their partners more control over their working hours, with scope to rearrange commitments when they need to. Steve and Karen foster for Tameside Council. They combine their busy fostering lives with running their own digital printing business, specialising in embroidered workwear. Steve says: “I was made redundant eight years ago. At the time I was caring for my father, so with no job to turn to I set up my own business working from home.
“We had wanted to foster for several years but decided to wait until our son, Josh, was older. By this time the business was established and Karen and Josh were working alongside me. It works really well with fostering. The three of us make a good team.”
It should be stressed that none of these options are easy. Fostering is demanding, both mentally and physically. The traditional support network (grandparents, aunts and uncles, classmates’ parents) may not be available to you, so will need to think about what kind of support you might need and how this can be put in place. The best thing to do is to discuss your expectations with your social worker, who can help you get the most from your fostering career by advising what would be the best kind of fostering for you.
If you work, whether it is full- or part-time, it makes sense to keep your line manager informed about your fostering commitments from the outset. Tell them when you apply to foster and talk them through the process. It will help them to know that you have considered how it may affect your work and that you have arrangements in place to support you.
At the same time, your employer may be open to the idea of making adjustments to your working schedule to support your fostering. More companies are signing up to be Fostering Friendly employers, incorporating fostering and adoption into HR policies.
The Fostering Friendly Employers Scheme was introduced by the Fostering Network charity to support employers to understand and respond to the needs of their foster carer employees. This includes offering foster carers flexible working and paid time off for training and settling a new child into their home. Fostering Friendly employers include Asda, Boots, British Gas, Environment Agency, O2, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
Supporting foster carers is a brilliant way for businesses to show their Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) credentials while improving recruitment and retention. In any case, remember that your fostering provider is likely to contact your employer as part of the application process.