It’s a fact of life that emergencies happen, and unfortunately, sometimes they happen to young people.
In most cases, when a child finds themselves in an emergency situation – for example, if one of their parents is suddenly hospitalised – they have people they can turn to.
Whether it’s other family members or friends of their parents, children usually have an existing support network they can rely on.
However, not all young people are so lucky. So, what happens when a child finds themselves in an emergency and there’s no one they can turn to for help?
The answer is emergency fostering. Read on to find out more about this vital service and how you can get involved.
What is emergency fostering?
Emergency foster care is where usually a local authority refers a young person that’s not an adult yet to a safe, understanding, and supportive home with registered foster parents in a time of emergency. For example, this could be following the death of a parent, violence in the home, or similar unexpected and critical situations.
Due to the nature of the circumstances, such fostering is usually arranged at very short notice – and could be at any time of day or night. The duration of emergency fostering will depend on the specifics of the situation, but it’s a temporary measure that generally lasts anywhere from a couple of hours to a few weeks.
Why is emergency fostering so important?
Emergency fostering is a critical service that can make all the difference to the young people involved. When an emergency occurs, it can be a truly frightening and confusing experience for a child. They may feel lost, scared, and alone, with nobody they can turn to for help.
Emergency fostering provides them with a caring home for as long as they need it, helping them to feel safe and supported no matter what has happened. It could also enable them to escape violence, continue going to school, and give them someone to talk to about what they’re going through.
How can I apply to be an emergency foster parent?
If reading this far has sparked an interest in helping young people in need by becoming a foster parent, that’s great. In order to do so, you’ll need to apply through a trusted agency such as thefca.co.uk.
The process can take several months and involves home visits from fostering advisors and some preparatory training. Your application will be assessed by a fostering panel, and once approved, you’ll be matched with a child as soon as possible.
To be eligible, you’ll have to meet the following requirements:
- Be over 21 years old
- Have a spare bedroom where a foster child can stay
- Be a UK citizen or have indefinite leave to remain
- Be able to foster full time (in most cases)
There are no restrictions in terms of gender, relationship status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, previous childcare experience or qualifications. The most important factor is having the right attitude (see below).
What skills and traits do I need to be a good emergency foster parent?
There are no formal qualifications you need to have in order to be a foster parent, nor do you need to have children of your own or experience in childcare. What makes someone a great foster parent is having a genuine commitment to giving the young person in your care the best possible life while they are staying with you.
The sorts of skills and character traits that will make you well suited for the role of an emergency foster parent include:
- Flexibility and adaptability – emergency foster care is usually arranged at very short notice, and you may know very little about the child and their circumstances in advance.
- Patience – young people who require emergency foster care may have been through something traumatic and, as a result, can exhibit challenging behaviours or find it difficult to trust you.
- Compassion and empathy – being able to put yourself in the shoes of the child in your care will make it easier for you to understand and relate to them. This, in turn, will enable you to help them more effectively.
- Communication – it’s important for foster parents to be able to form a bond with the child they care for and communicate with them in an effective way. This could be different for every young person you look after.
- Energy – caring for young children can be tiring, especially if they exhibit some challenging behaviours, so you’ll need plenty of energy to keep up.
- Positivity – children in emergency foster care have generally experienced something very negative. If you have a sunny outlook on life, this will help them to become more optimistic too. It will also make it easier for you to overcome any issues you may face when fostering.
- Resilience – the truth is that emergency fostering can be a difficult and stressful role at times. Being resilient will enable you to deal with challenges in an effective manner and provide the best help for the child in your care.
If you’re considering emergency fostering but aren’t quite sure if it’s right for you, the best course of action is to contact your local agency. They will be able to give you a realistic idea of what emergency fostering is like; answer any questions you may have and get you started on the application process if you decide to go ahead with this vital and rewarding role.