Worried about having an empty nest? We have some ideas.
Emma Beddington’s rich Guardian article about the blow to parents when children flee the nest to move on to new homes, jobs and university lands at the time we launch our aptly named ‘Empty Nesters’ campaign.
Empty Nesters is a term that refers to a feeling of loneliness, sadness, or a loss of purpose that some parents experience when their child moves away from home. The grief-like experiences described in Emma’s article, when parents say farewell to their children, echoed the findings of a survey we recently conducted. The results told us that over *50% of parents whose children have moved away in the last 24 months, felt an overwhelming sense of sadness or loss of purpose.
As we step into autumn, this is a period where we see a higher-than-average number of enquiries about fostering, many of which are from people who are recalibrating and taking a moment to think about how they can help other children as theirs move on. It can be a time of reflection and an opportunity to put their parenting practice into action in other ways.
Fostering a child, or children, won’t be for everyone. Many will want this new chapter in their life to be free of parental demands and foster care will not be the remedy they’re after. Ahead of all the practical and legal considerations that come with foster care, above all, there needs to be a strong urge to look after someone else’s child. This isn’t always easy but it is, for the most part, hugely rewarding. In the 45 years, I have been working in social care, it is still so touching to hear how the relationships between carers and children can bring so much joy and love.
In a year when we see more undergraduates going to University than ever, there will be thousands of parents across the country struggling with many of the issues brought to life in Emma’s article. It would take only a small proportion of those to consider becoming a foster carer to tackle the drastic shortfall of carers across the country. Current projections estimate a shortage of 25,000 foster carers over the next five years.
These wouldn’t all need to be full-time carers, who devote their lives indefinitely to this profession. It could be made up of those who are prepared to offer short break care, a short and irregular commitment that supports full-time carers during times of annual leave. This could mean looking after a child, or children overnight, for a weekend or a week here and there over the year. These carers are a lifeline in the profession, as they provide support which means long-standing foster carers can continue their role and hold lasting relationships with the children they look after.
There is also a desperate need for more parent and child foster carers. These carers live and work with new, vulnerable parents and their small babies and children to help guide them as they learn to become parents for the first time.
It could also be an opportunity to offer short-term foster care, where you look after a child for a shorter period. This arrangement isn’t dissimilar to the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme that was launched to offer vulnerable children a safe haven in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis. We saw so many families open their hearts and their homes to offer refuge, there was a touching example of this in Emma’s article too.
For those who feel they could offer an occasional overnight stay, or help a parent who is struggling with a baby, or welcome a child or sibling group into their home on a short term or permanent basis, there are many different foster care roles available.
If you are feeling a sense of grief or loneliness, or that you have more to give to children across England who need a safe place to call home today, please call our carer enquiries team who will be able to talk you through the ways you could help on 03330 603 821.
Head of Fostering Operations
*Research commissioned by Five Rivers Child Care via Censuswide.