Male Foster Carers
At Lorimer Foster Services, we have noticed an increase in male foster carers over the years, so to get a bit more of a male perspective as to why more men are becoming foster carers we asked Mike Wilson, an experienced Foster carer and trainer at Mackie Associates, to share his thoughts.
Mike Wilson, Foster Carer and trainer
I do not have any hard data relating to the growth of male foster carers in recent years suffice to say that, anecdotally, I am witnessing an increasing number of male carers who consider themselves to be ‘lead carers’. The male carers that I meet on my training course dedicated to ‘men who care’ seem increasingly comfortable in describing themselves as ‘foster carers’ rather than defining themselves by their job or profession with the addendum of ‘I also foster’ or ‘I support my partner’.
The drive for a dedicated training course for ‘men in fostering’ came from extensive research undertaken by, amongst others, the Fostering Network. Service providers are now encouraged to do more to involve men in their training and support programmes and to consider men more as joint carers rather than support carers. For men, this initiative had to happen. No male carers should consider themselves support carers; they play a key role in the care and development of the child in care whilst at the same time being equally (and some argue, more) at risk of allegations, complaints or causes for concern. It is imperative that ‘men who care’ understand this and that service providers meet their needs. Research says that single male carers still only represent about 1.5-3% of carer’s, however, the majority of fostering households are hetero-sexual couples where the male has a major role to play.
Ultimately, quality fostering is all about the child. Children in fostering need to be able to see and learn from positive role models. Their experience of men prior to coming into care is very likely to be a negative one. Children in care may see men as abusive, erratic, weak or powerful and/or absent. They see fewer men in nursery and primary education and fewer men in health and social work situations. It is critical for the children in our care to see men positively, for example, the use of ‘power’ to carry 6 bags of shopping rather than to dominate women and children. Within single female and same-sex female fostering households consideration should be given to available positive male role models. Indeed, I would encourage all fostering panels and new carer assessments to consider where a prospective child in care will directly witness positive males.
From the confidence that I now see amongst male foster carers, I believe that society’s acceptance of ‘men who care’ is growing nicely. Whether the man is a foster carer or part of the carer’s support network, men need to recognise how important they are in helping the child to grow to independence with a truer perspective on the value and role of men in society generally.