These are things that you often hear:
‘Dads are the breadwinners’
‘Mothers look after the children’
‘Fostering is just a lifestyle.’
Colin Chatten, a full time foster dad from the North West reflects on his 17 years of full-time fostering and how some stereotypical beliefs restrict so many incredible individuals from taking the leap to foster.
In particular, Colin is advocating for men - whether in a relationship or single, to come forward and start a career in foster care. He said: “There are so many kids that would benefit from a single male carer, who would need a positive male role model.”
Male foster parents often receive the brunt of criticism, as many people seem to struggle with the concept of a ‘stay-at-home dad’. He later reflected on the stigma surrounding being a full-time foster dad and how the lack of information for male fostering can lead to much confusion.
He said: “I think it can be difficult if you allow it to be. I think if you hold on to the old fashioned belief that the man goes out to work and the woman stays home. I think a lot of people still have those beliefs. It still hangs on in society. There is that stigma that if you're a man, you go out and earn money. I can't believe that is still how people think.”
Colin and his wife Sue’s journey began in 2005 with FCA following difficulties to conceive a second child.
He said: “We have one child but we were having difficulties conceiving another one. We had treatments to try and help us out but that didn't work out either. I think it was my mum who spoke to us and said ‘why not foster?’
“My wife saw a little postcard in the local community centre for FCA and we said well let's make an enquiry with FCA. We were nervous but we didn't think twice about applying.”
Over the past 17 years, the couple have fostered over 19 children all together. Colin reflects on how close he is to all his foster children, even the ones that have left for good. He also reveals the benefits of wearing your heart on your sleeve as a foster parent.
He said: “We love all of them. So many people used to tell us not to get too attached to the children. In my opinion, that’s rubbish. If you want to do it properly, get attached and get your heart broken.
“You have to be hard on the exterior and put yourself out there to be broken. Don't get me wrong, you do learn to handle it better. I’ve never stopped, it’s never put us off.”
When asked about whether he had received stigma for being a full time foster dad, he revealed that people often didn’t grasp the concept of caring for children professionally, at home.
Colin said: “Most people are supportive, some will raise their eyebrows. I always get asked ‘What do you do for a living? What's your job?’ What I tend to say now is I’m a professional foster carer. That’s what I am. Surprisingly enough, it was the people closest to me throughout my life that struggled to accept it was a job.
“My older brother asked me once, ‘When are you going to get a job?’ and I had to say “I don't understand the question”, he said ‘Well, when are you going to get a job?’ and I said “I do have a job, you know” and he said “Fostering is not a job Colin, it’s a lifestyle choice”. I just didn't understand the point he was trying to make.”
He continued: “If I did this until retirement age, that is enough. I think when people experience it, then they will get it and appreciate the work. You can get criticism for it. Especially being a male carer, they say ‘Yes, well that’s what Sue does, what do you do?’”
He continued: “Male foster carers can feel confused about where they stand. Whether it's ok for them to be a full time foster parent or not. We lose so many potential carers because of that. It really needs explaining more from a male point of view.”
FCA encourages individuals to get as much information as possible from other carers and the fostering team about being a foster parent and realise you are never alone in the process.
Colin said: “I would make the phone call first to speak to someone. That doesn't mean you’ve signed a contract to foster for the rest of your life. People need examples of how it works. We do have some single male foster carers but not a lot, they are out there, good blokes are out there and they are the best carers I’ve seen sometimes.
FCA is currently recruiting for new foster parents, and men in particular, to come on board and make a real difference to children who need support through no fault of their own.
“It is amazing to see what wonderful children they have grown to become.”
March 15 2022
Christie, a Derbyshire local, has been fostering for the past three years and sat down to share her experience and advice for future foster parents.
“It’s not all about making them happy and giving them nice things, it’s about being a comforting presence and being kind. Sometimes they just need to know you are there.”
April 2 2022
Single foster parent, Marlene, based in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, has worked with children with autism, shares her incredible fostering journey so far.