If someone asked you to describe a foster carer, what would you say?
Maybe you would describe a man and a woman, married with their own home? You may picture a woman as the main foster carer in the household with the man ‘helping out’ in some way. Whatever the scenario, you may be envisioning a female as the main care provider.
If someone asked you to simply describe a ‘family’, what would you say? Would your answer be more diverse? We know that families come in all shapes and sizes, with different dynamics, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. Could our idea of a family be different to a household that provides foster care?
It all boils down to various fostering myths and stereotypes, and how some people rule themselves out of fostering from the outset because they believe that they do not fit the profile of what they understand to be an ‘ideal’ foster carer. The truth is, there is no ideal fostering profile – and fostering is as inclusive as it is diverse.
Being male and believing that you’re not eligible to foster, either as a single carer or as the main carer in a household, is one of those key myths. In reality, male foster carers are highly sought – and not just because fostering is an inclusive life choice. It’s also to do with child-to-carer matching.
“I don’t believe there is enough awareness that males can be main carers. For a long time, caring for children has been seen as a woman’s job, but slowly this impression is starting to change. I hope that moving forward we can shed a light on males wanting to support and care for children in care, because I believe that we can have a huge impact.”
A male role model
A foster carer of any gender can be a role model for a child, but the matching stipulations for a young person may specifically request a male carer.
There are various scenarios for this. For example, a child may not have had a reliable male figure in their home – and this could be something that they desperately require from a fostering household. Alternatively, a young person’s historical experience of men may be entirely negative, so a nurturing male carer who is able to provide a stable and secure home could be an initial positive step.
Nathan, who has been a foster carer for TACT since 2020, said: “Many children in care may have a lack of a male role model and/or even a fear of males, so a male foster carer can have a real influence in undoing the damage this can cause. It can also have a positive effect on instilling boundaries and consistency and making lasting positive changes.”
Anthony, who has been a TACT foster carer since 2016, talks about what it’s like to be a foster carer:
Challenging the stereotypes
As mentioned above, there are preconceived ideas regarding gender when it comes to fostering. When we challenge the stereotypes and encourage more men to foster, we achieve a number of goals:
- Establishing males as caring and non-threatening, when young people may have experienced the opposite of this
- Showing males as being supportive of other members of the household (if relevant)
- Demonstrating that males can be sensitive, with the ability to show feelings and emotions. This could encourage male children to do the same
- Breaking down gender role expectations such as household chores, food preparation, school runs and medical appointments
- Further promoting diversity and inclusion generally
By challenging stereotypes in foster care, we help to break down outdated attitudes and set positive examples for children in care, whether they be male or female.
“I’ve been doing lots of activities since being with Julian – he’s taken me to the golfing range, played badminton, let me ride his electric bike – and at the farm I’ve ridden a tractor. I’ve also played snooker!” – TACT young person
Our training and support
Here at TACT, we offer specific additional training for our male foster carers – whether single or in relationships with shared responsibility. Delivered by a male trainer who is a foster carer himself, our course covers a number of key areas to help support our men who foster, including:
- Anxieties and perceptions of men who foster
- Why male foster carers are important
- What does ‘Role model’ mean in fostering as a male carer?
- Attachment issues for male carers
- Being male same-sex foster carers
In some of our areas, we also operate ‘Men Who Foster’ support groups. They provide the opportunity to share experiences and knowledge, or just to simply talk with other male foster carers.
“Working for the local authority, I knew of the need for foster carers. I saw being a single male carer as an opportunity to utilise my skills by offering a safe and caring home environment. I’ve also been through the fostering system, so growing up in the care system, I knew I could offer a different level of understanding.”
Could you be a foster dad?
Becoming a ‘Foster Dad’ could be one of the most rewarding life choices you make. You could be a role model for a child who has never had an adult male presence in their lives, or who has experienced negative male figures growing up.
At TACT, we have dedicated training and support tailor-made for our male foster carers, ensuring that our men who foster are fully equipped with the knowledge, resources and network to change children’s lives.
If you’re ready to start the process of fostering a young person, why not make a no-obligation enquiry by completing the form on this page – or call us on 0330 123 2250. Our enquiry team will be able to provide you with advice, and answer any questions you may have.