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What’s it like to be a male foster carer?

When you’re thinking of fostering, there are lots of things that won’t affect your eligibility – your age, your sexuality, your marital status or your religion. But why are there so few male foster carers in the job?

Keith and his wife Carol foster with us in our Eastern Region. He wants more men to step up as foster carers and realise that they can make just as much difference to a young person’s life as women can.

I was at a training session on equality and diversity recently and it made me think about the misconceptions people have when you’re a male foster carer.

When my wife and I first thought about fostering, she had to give me an extra push to make me recognise that I could do it. The hardest thing you have to overcome as a male carer is the stereotype that you won’t be as caring as your female equivalent. It’s simply not the case – people ask what I do in fostering and expect to receive a different answer than the one my wife gives, but I do exactly the same.

Some people have suggested to me that men aren’t as trustworthy as foster carers and shouldn’t be allowed to do all the tasks involved, but I don’t think that’s fair. They don’t mean to be rude or upset me, it’s just a challenge for people to understand that gender doesn’t make a difference in fostering. Men don’t want to feel like the spare wheel in fostering – they want to feel like they’re an essential part of the car.

Often people have the impression that men should be checked out more thoroughly than women during the fostering application process, but the checks for everybody are really rigorous. You’ll be sussed out long before any young people move in with you and the staff are on-hand to provide any additional training or support that you might need.

I’m trying to encourage two of my brothers to start fostering too but they always ask whether I worry about looking after other people’s children. They have concerns about the risks and possible volatile situations they might be in, and think that women are better placed to handle these issues. I always ask them what makes me any different? Just because I’m a man doesn’t mean I can’t manage these challenges in a professional and caring way.

Valuing male foster carers’ input is really important. One of my previous foster children couldn’t have got where she was today without my support.

Children in care are all totally different – that’s why we need a mixture of foster carers to look after them. I want other men to realise how rewarding it can be and know that they’re capable of changing a young person’s life too.

Learn more about fostering