The therapeutic effect that pets can have, especially on children who have been subjected to emotional trauma, is well known and the evidence for pet therapy is growing all the time. Many children coming into care find it difficult to trust adults and show their emotions, having often been let down in the past by those they have needed the most. Forming a bond with a family pet is often the easiest first step. Children can feel that they are more reliable and constant; they won't have an unwelcome opinion, tell them off or repeat anything that they are told.
Lots of our fostering families have pets. From cats and dogs to horses and hamsters and even spiders and snakes, having a pet is highly unlikely to stop anyone from becoming a foster carer - although it is a necessary part of the assessment process. As part of your fostering assessment, your assessing social worker will need to meet your pet/s and ensure that they are safe, with good temperament. Of course, any pet listed on the dangerous wild animals or dangerous dogs act wouldn’t be compatible with fostering, because of the potential risk to any child or young person in your home.
Some children may have had bad experiences with animals in the past, or witnessed animal cruelty. Any known experiences or risks should be shared with you before any introductions take place. Children should be closely supervised and slowly introduced to pets to ensure the safety of both pets and people. Children with allergies to particular pets would not be placed in your home.
Having the responsibility of caring for a pet, in however small a way can be a great way to boost a child’s self-esteem and confidence, as well as making them feel a part of family life. Most family pets love attention and will happily give that back, whether it’s a cat jumping on your lap for a cuddle or a dog popping his head on your knee for a fuss, this love feels pure and real with no strings attached. Evidence has shown that this all helps foster children settle more quickly into your home and allows bonds and trust to form more readily.