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‘Older foster carers bring life experience and skills from other work to fostering, and do an amazing job in providing homes for thousands of fostered children. However, given the need for over 7,000 more foster families in 2017, it’s vital that we also reach out to more people under 35 who are heavily under-represented among foster carers.
What is important is not age, but rather the skills and qualities to look after fostered children, and we believe there are many people in this younger age bracket who would make fantastic foster carers but may think they’re too young. Younger foster carers will also be in a great position to offer homes to the many children who need to live with a foster family for the long term, often until the age of 21.'Joelene Hodgson-McKail began fostering at 29 and believes being younger has been beneficial to the care she and her wife Yvonne provide. She says:
‘I thought my age would be a big concern at first and we had lots of discussions with social workers about the age of the children we could care for. However, we have found that our youth has worked really well, particularly with teenagers as we’ve been able to relate well to them. Even the basic stuff like knowledge of social media and sharing interests in music for example has helped us to build and establish bonds.
When we enquired about foster care there were never really any concerns about age. Prior to fostering, I worked for the Scottish prison service in a position that held a great deal of responsibility and maturity, and I had experience looking after nieces and nephews whose ages range from three to 21. During the assessment process the focus was very much on my experience with children and not the lack of “life experience”.’At the other end of the age scale, those in their sixties and beyond can also provide loving, stable environment for a child.
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‘I saw it as an opportunity to give back to the town and its children something of the privileged existence I had led, the love and care my son had received and the support of a large family, which I had never experienced before.
We think older foster carers bring a wealth of life experience to the task, tend to have a “longer fuse” and be more empathetic and understanding. They usually have more time to devote to the children and are also more active than in the past and can expect to make a worthwhile contribution for many years.It’s great to have the health and vitality to keep up this work a couple of years into my ninth decade!’