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Can I Foster If I Have Pets? Yes!

Fostering while having pets is a topic with many misconceptions. If you are considering fostering, you may be wondering, “Can I foster a child if I have pets?”. The simple answer is yes! Contrary to popular belief, having pets doesn’t disqualify you from fostering. In fact, it can enhance the fostering experience significantly, providing added companionship, love, and support to the child or young person in your care. Let’s delve into what it’s like to foster a child alongside pets, whether that be furry friends such as cats or dogs or more unconventional companions like reptiles, and what the key considerations are.

Benefits of having pets while fostering

Pets can play a pivotal role in fostering, offering companionship and emotional support, and teaching valuable life skills to children and young people. Studies show that pets can alleviate stress, boost self-esteem, and encourage empathy while providing an added sense of security and stability that helps create a comforting environment for children and young people during times of significant change.

1. Emotional Support

Pets are known for offering unconditional love and companionship, serving as sources of comfort. The bond between a child or young person and their pet can provide a sense of security, helping ease feelings of loneliness and anxiety. This emotional support from pets is invaluable, offering a reassuring presence during distress or uncertainty.

2. Helping Learning and Development

From learning responsibility through the care of a pet, to developing empathy and compassion for them, pets help facilitate all sorts of learning and development. These interactions not only enhance cognitive ability but also encourage emotional traits and help shape children and young people into resilient and empathetic individuals to enhance their future development and growth.

3. Companionship

For children and young people who may have experienced trauma or loss, pets become much-needed companions and even best friends. Pets offer a non-judgemental presence and a listening ear, often helping children feel understood and supported during challenging times. This companionship can help children to navigate their new surroundings and feel more connected to themselves and their new home.

4. Lots of Fun

Pets have an innate ability to bring joy and laughter into the lives of children and young people, making everyday moments more enjoyable and memorable. Whether it’s playing fetch with a dog, cuddling with a cat, or watching fish swim gracefully in a tank, pets provide endless opportunities for fun and entertainment. Such moments can spark laughter and excitement, creating cherished memories.

Considerations for fostering with pets

While pets can bring immense joy, addressing any potential concerns that could be faced when welcoming a child or young person into your home is essential. Factors like allergies, behavioural compatibility, and safety precautions need to be carefully evaluated before fostering with pets. As part of the assessment process for becoming a foster carer, we work closely with you to navigate these considerations, ensuring a positive environment for both the child or young person and the pets. Equally, if you’re already an approved Foster Carer looking to welcome a new pet into your home, we will also assess them. After all, pets are members of your household family and, therefore, need to be assessed just like you!

1. Allergies

Allergies are a valid concern when fostering with pets. Some children or young people may have allergic reactions, which can result in symptoms ranging from mild irritation to more severe respiratory issues. It is so important that Foster Carers are proactive in addressing any unknown allergies with their Supervising Social Worker and child’s Social Worker. They can then help you implement measures to minimise exposure, ensuring the wellbeing of both the child and the pets.

2. Fear of Animals

Children or young people who have experienced trauma or negative interactions may develop a fear of animals. Foster Carers can help approach this fear with sensitivity and patience so that the child or young person feels supported to face their fears gradually in a safe and non-judgemental environment. Of course, the team at Fostering West Sussex will work closely with you to recommend the most beneficial way of approaching this should it occur.

3. Behavioural Issues

Pets, especially if not properly trained, may exhibit behavioural challenges while fostering. Foster Carers can play a crucial role in addressing these issues by establishing clear boundaries, routines, and positive reinforcement techniques to create a harmonious environment for the child or young person and the pets.

4. Safety Concerns

The safety of children and young people is our number one priority. As part of the assessment process, Foster Carers and their pets are assessed for any potential risks they may pose to the child or young person being cared for. Supervision, training, and regular veterinary care are essential components for maintaining safety while fostering with pets.

5. Dangerous Dogs Act

Foster Carers must adhere to any legal regulations such as the Dangerous Dogs Act, which prohibits the ownership of certain breeds deemed dangerous in England, such as the XL Bully and Pit Bull Terrier, among others. Compliance with relevant legislation ensures the safety of both the child you care for and the community.

Tips for fostering with pets

1. Introducing the child or young person to the pet(s)

Gradual introductions can be key when fostering with pets. Foster Carers should supervise interactions and facilitate positive experiences between the child or young person and the pets, promoting trust and mutual respect.

2. Setting boundaries and rules

Establishing clear rules and boundaries helps to create a successful and harmonious fostering experience for everyone involved. Foster Carers should communicate expectations regarding pet care, behaviour, and interaction with the child or young person, ensuring a nurturing environment for all.

3. Creating a safe environment

Creating a pet-friendly environment involves pet-proofing the home, securing hazardous items, and providing designated spaces for the pets where necessary. It is so important that the safety of the child or young person in your care is maintained at all times.

Our Success Stories

Real-life stories from our local Foster Carers and the children in our care underscore the positive impact fostering with pets can have. These snapshots highlight the bonds that can be formed while fostering with pets!  

Our amazing Foster Carers Gary and Holly shared these pics of their animal family with us, saying:

“We have three little bulldogs (Ceaser, Bella, and Bonnie), although Ceaser is no longer with us. He passed just before we met our first foster child. Then we have two of our four pigs, Niko and Patty. Two characters, full of fun and love every minute of being around the kids. Our animal family has been huge for our foster children. The relationship they all have and the responsibility of feeding, cleaning, and caring for them really empowers them. The best thing is the pigs share the same love of mud as our kids, so in the summer, when they dig a wallow, the children are right there with them.”

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Another one of our Foster Carers, Siobhan, highlights the great support her dog has had on her adoptive family and how this will translate into fostering:

“My adorable pooch is called Lilly she is almost 12 years old. She is special because she was a great support to my adopted children growing up and now, I hope will be a therapy support for my foster children. She has been very unwell over the past few months being diagnosed as having cancer but is still like a pup and full of love and has such a funny personality!”

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But that’s not all, one of our amazing cared-for children has shared a picture of their beloved pet with us and tells us how much he means:

“This is my pet dog Barney, also called Wallace. Barney is a sausage dog and is funny and very playful. Barney lives with my sister/ But I like to go over and see him. If I didn’t have Barney I would feel lonely. I like to play with Barney because it make me happy and calm”

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Have a question about fostering with pets? Give us a call!

If you have any questions about fostering with pets, our team is here to help. Whether you’re curious about the fostering process, want to learn more about pet-friendly fostering arrangements, or need guidance on integrating pets into your fostering home, we’re just a phone call away. Please call the team or complete our website form.

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