A common question that we get asked is ‘can I be a single foster parent?’. The answer is yes! If you can provide a stable, safe and nurturing space for a child or young person in foster care and are enthusiastic and committed, then it does not matter if you are a single male or female, co-habiting couple, married or divorced. Many single people chose to become foster parents, some who have biological children and some who have never had children. The main requirements to become a foster parent include being over the age of 25, having a spare room, being in good health and undergoing a Garda vetting process.
Things to Consider about Single Parent Fostering:
1. Working while Fostering
There is a misconception that if you work that this rules you out of fostering as a single parent. The child, depending on age, will be in school during the day and this means that you will have this time to work during school hours. However, a high level of flexibility is required within your job as you must be available to attend appointments, meetings and be available for the child if they are sick during the day.
If you chose supported lodgings placements as opposed to fostering a younger child, this will give you the opportunity to work without requiring the same level of flexibility within your job.
In general, the expectation is that you would be available when required for any young person in care just as you would if this were your biological child.
Finances may be a concern for potential applicants considering becoming single foster carers, however you will receive an allowance each week to support the foster child in your home and each child in care is entitled to a medical card. Fostering allowances for all foster carers are set by the Minister for Children and this allowance enables you to meet the needs of the foster child. As some foster children have more challenging needs and requirements, enhanced payments can be requested from TUSLA in specific circumstances.
All checks and medical checks are fully paid for by the agency as well as providing the foster parent training, meaning that there are no costs for the applicant throughout the assessment process. In general, foster carers are exempt from paying tax on the fostering allowance under the Finance Bill 2005. It also means that the money you receive is not usually classed as income when applying for certain benefits.
Fostering is a rewarding but challenging job that requires having physical and emotional supports available for you as a single foster carer or as a single parent. The level and type of support required may change with each child in placement and at different times throughout your fostering journey.
Fostering agencies provide a range of formal and informal supports, including regular supervision, respite, peer support groups, out-of-hours
support, birth children support groups as well as access to independent supports.
It is important that you have friends or family within your own circle who are supportive of your choice to foster as a single foster carer and who are willing to also go through the Garda vetting process. This is to ensure that you have practical supports in place for instances such as an illness or in times when you need extra emotional support.
A Detailed Look into Fostering as a Single Carer
Often the best source of information is from speaking to individuals who are involved in fostering and hearing about their real-life experiences. Supported lodgings carer *Janet and foster carer *Carina tell us about their experiences as single carers.
I was pleasantly surprised that the process was quite straightforward, and I was quickly approved as a supported lodgings carer
“I applied to be a single carer 7 years ago. A social worker came to my house and discussed the options and assessment process. I was pleasantly surprised that the process was quite straightforward, and I was quickly approved as a supported lodgings carer. Supported lodgings fits within my lifestyle as I am still able to work full time and able to maintain my interests outside of work as the children are age 15+. As a single carer I wanted to make sure I had 24-hour support should I have any concerns and that is one of the reasons that I chose Orchard as I knew I could call someone any time of the day. The training and support you get at start and throughout are invaluable and this also allows you to meet up with carers, share experiences and get advice.”
One of the important aspects that attracted me to Orchard is the 24/7 support they provide
“After toying with the idea of fostering for years I eventually decided to make enquiries. As a single carer I wasn’t sure my enquiry would be considered but encouraged by my sister (who is fostering for 10 plus years) I contacted Orchard Children Services. One of the important aspects
that attracted me to Orchard is the 24/7 support they provide.”
“A couple of days after my initial phone call a Social Worker arrived to see me. Then began the assessment process. To be honest I had no idea how invasive this was going to be. All aspect of my life was touched on; my family, relationships (past and present), finances, employment,
etc. I found each session gruelling and sometimes exhausting, however it didn’t sway me from continuing as by this stage, I knew it was what I wanted to do. Eventually, my file was presented to the foster care committee and I was passed to provide care for a sibling group of 2 children.”
“Within days of being approved my first placement was a temporary one for 2 weeks. The second and current placement – 2 lovely sisters – are with me still over 3 years later. These years have been eventful, challenging, difficult at times but also amazing. The two-little happy, confident
girls today are a far cry from the two-small frightened, confused, scared and traumatised little people who arrived at my doorstep over 3 years ago. The children have integrated into my very large family and they are loved by everyone.”
With all its challenges I am very happy to be fostering and to be providing care for two wonderful girls
“I’m lucky I have a very good family support system in place which has helped me especially during very demanding times. Access, school runs, etc still must go ahead even when you’re not well and without their support it wouldn’t be possible. I’ve also found that having an outlet for myself such as walking, the gym, and golf (although haven’t managed to play much) is a life safer to clear the head and destress. All the staff at Orchard have been extremely professional and always there to support me and offer guidance, even at the weekends.”
“With all its challenges I am very happy to be fostering and to be providing care for two wonderful girls. Their progress and happiness make it all worthwhile and make me very glad I made that phone call.”