We are in the middle of Foster Care Fortnight, raising awareness for the need for more foster parents in the UK. Jemimah Wright asks two foster parents why they do it, and what they would tell those considering it


Source: Photo by Patty Brito on Unsplash

On the weekend I watched the 2018 film Instant Family, staring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne. If ever there was good marketing for the benefits of fostering, it is this film. A married couple (played by Wahlberg and Bryne) end up fostering three siblings. One is a teenage girl who has previously parented her younger two siblings because their mother was on drugs. The film is based in the USA, but the message is universal, showing that love and a safe home is what every child needs to grow and flourish.

Of course the film has a Hollywood rose-tinted ending, but it did not shy away from the difficulties of becoming foster parents – the joys and the challenges.

the message is universal, showing that love and a safe home is what every child needs to grow and flourish.

This week and next is Foster Care Fortnight (13-26th May) the UK’s biggest foster care awareness raising campaign, delivered by leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network.

Established for almost 20 years, the campaign showcases the commitment, passion and dedication of foster carers. It also supports fostering services to highlight the need for more foster carers.

According to The Fostering Network, ‘Thousands of new foster families are needed every year to care for children, with the greatest need being for foster carers for older children, sibling groups, disabled children and unaccompanied asylum seeking children.’

I spoke to a friend and foster mum, Helena Kittle about why we should consider fostering. She said:

‘Fostering is important as research shows that however well you plan a children’s home or orphanage, they are institutions. The children and babies don’t experience the same benefits as from a family home and a primary care giver. For new-born babies that is crucial for their child development for the rest of their life.’

‘I believe there is such a strong biblical command for us as the Church to step into this space of caring for the widow and the orphan (James 1:27). It is also a thread running through the Bible where God is an advocate for the vulnerable.’

‘I believe there is such a strong biblical command for us as the Church to step into this space of caring for the widow and the orphan

Jo Squires is also a foster parent. With her husband, Steve, she has fostered three very young children for different amounts of time, from seven months to six weeks. She said:

‘My husband and I had worked running a national children’s charity for years, and had worked to support the organisation called Home for Good at their annual gathering. This really sparked in us the desire to help the most vulnerable children, and it grew over a number of years from there. My husband was at a point of a career change, and this seemed like the right next step for us as a family as it also coincided with our youngest starting school which would allow us more time.’

The Squires have three biological children who were four, six and seven when they started fostering.

‘We made sure that we had talked about it as a family before we started the journey and explained to them why this was something that was important. They are all very loving, caring and hospitable children and so it made perfect sense to them to bring children in who needed a safe space. For us it was really important that they were involved in the whole process, and that it wasn’t just Mum and Dad who had decided this was what we were doing.’

‘It wasn’t always easy of course, and particularly with our final child, who was with us for so long. We knew it would be hard for them to say goodbye especially as she was very embedded in the family (especially as we navigated multiple lockdowns/ Covid-19 with her in the house). It is also challenging as children who have experienced trauma can of course display complex behaviours that the other children can find distressing and confusing.’

I asked Jo what she would say to anyone considering fostering. She said: ‘It’s wonderful, but it is definitely hard. I don’t think that anyone would tell you it’s easy! I would make sure that it’s a whole family decision as it’s going to be a whole family journey!

‘Make sure you have a good support network, and that your wider family are on board, and are going to be available to support with babysitting and other help. Speak to others who have been through the process, and ask all the questions you can before you get involved.

‘It is however an incredible thing, and we are so proud of what we have given for those three little girls who came into our lives. We miss them, but they will always be a part of our family.’

Fostering is not possible for everyone, but in honour of Foster Care Fortnight, maybe a place to start is to pray and ask God if you should consider it? And then watch Instant Family and see if that won’t pull at your heart strings!