One of the most common misconceptions about parent and child fostering is that carers need to be young couples — but, while many young people choose to foster, this isn’t always the case.
Making a meaningful difference to a family’s life is possible at any age: in fact, recent research conducted by Ofsted found that 65% of foster carers in England are over 50 years old, and 25% of carers are over 60.
Parent and child fostering is designed to keep families together, and it’s widely understood in the community that fostering as an older carer means you’re able to bring unique qualities to those in your care — including the patience and empathy informed by valuable life experience. Here are just some of the benefits of parent and child fostering as an older carer.
Making a difference to both a parent and their child
Being an older foster carer can have a meaningful and long-lasting impact not only on a child’s life — but their mother or father’s life, too.
Older carers tend to be perfectly placed to provide this support to a parent, says Chris Webster at Anchor Foster Care. "Their life skills play an important part in guiding and supporting parents in the care of their young, tending to have a more laid-back approach,” Chris notes. “The placement might be for a short period of time, but it can have a lifelong impact on everyone involved.”
Translating care skills to parent and child fostering
Offering pastoral care to those needing support is not unique to parent and child fostering. Perhaps you’ve had a fulfilling experience working with children in a charity, nursing, teaching or outreach setting before, and you’re looking to make a difference in another way too.
Having this previous caring experience is not a requirement for fostering, but if you enjoyed working with children or their parents in a different context, fostering as an older carer can be a wonderful way to make a meaningful impact on a daily basis.
Offering a loving home to a family
Offering your home to a family through parent and child fostering can be a fulfilling way to change your lifestyle: whether this is the daily emotional care of looking after others, a chance to change your routine to make a long-lasting impact on a family’s life — or simply the opportunity to experience parenting again if your own children have left home.
Providing valuable life experience
Parent and child fostering isn’t just for young couples: all foster carers have different levels of life experience to offer. Older foster carers tend to be able to coach those in their care with the patience, empathy and understanding that springs from broad life experience.
Whether this is parenting advice, practical guidance or emotional support, this level of life experience can form the basis of an invaluable support system — enabling a parent to benefit from your guidance in caretaking, bonding and supporting their child’s development.
Having said this, younger carers also have a lot to offer, often being active and open to new ideas. So while the benefits of older carers are huge, younger carers equally meet the different challenges around care in a variety of ways, and enjoy the work just as much. Anyone who is loving and willing to open their home - and who has a spare bedroom - is a viable and important carer.
If you want to know what it’s like to be a parent and child foster carer then read our last blog which gives you all the information you need.