The Process You Need To Go Through To Become a Foster Carer

Becoming a foster carer is a rewarding and extraordinary experience.

The process of becoming a foster carer can seem daunting to many as there are several process that a family needs to go through in order to foster a child or young person. We hope this will explain how the assessment process works and that it helps you understand what to expect.

Making contact with the agency and application

Once you have made that first important step of contacting the agency we will go through some details with you on the phone or in person and speak through the stages with you. We will be available to answer any questions that you may have and support you through each and every stage of the process. There is no such thing as a silly question. After the initial conversation we will arrange for a supervising social worker to come to meet you to do an initial visit.

Assessment

On average the assessment process takes between 3 – 4 months. Although this process can appear lengthy it is necessary for the safety of the child, children, young person or young people that you may foster and for yourself and your family. The reward you will get from being a Foster Carer will be well worth the process.

The assessments will be undertaken by your supervising social worker who will work alongside you and your family throughout the checks. They (alongside other members of the agency) will be there to support you and answer any questions that you may have. Your supervising social worker will visit you regularly during your assessment in order to collect all of the information needed for the assessment report.

During the initial stages the family must give consent for the checks to be undertaken. Checks are thorough and will be made by the Local Authorities and the Criminal Records Bureau. A full medical check (which is normally paid for by the agency) is also required.

3 references of non-family members must be provided. These people must be able to comment on the potential carers suitability to foster.

Once all of this information has been gathered this report will be presented to the Fostering panel.

Matching a child or young person with a foster carer/fostering family

By the time that you are approved at panel we will understand you and they types of placements that will be most suitable. When a potential match is being considered we will approach you with a few details about the child or young person. Your Supervising social worker will pass your details into the child or young person’s social worker. If all parties agree that this will be beneficial to the child or young person and the Foster carer/ family you will be given a more detailed report about the child.

If this is still considered to be a good match the child’s social worker will visit the family, giving them the opportunity to ask any questions and for the social worker to see if the foster family is right for the child.

If approved, the match between the child and foster carer will be considered by the Fostering panel. After reviewing the recommendations and comments the decision maker of the child will decide whether or not the foster family is right for the child or young person.

Meeting

Meeting the child or young person for the first time can be both an exciting and anxious time. You will be introduced to the child or young person over a period of time. You will also meet the people associated with the child or young person, for example, the child’s birth parents, their social worker and existing foster family.

If you, the potential foster carer have any concerns at this stage they will be able to opt out if they feel that the match isn’t right.

Moving in

When the child or young person is placed in your home you will receive regular visits from the child’s social worker who will assess how well the placement is going. Both the foster family and child/ young person will need to provide the social worker with regular reviews in order to assess the child’s welfare and progress.

During this time the foster carer / family will also have contact with those who are associated with the child.

Supporting the foster family

The Foster Care Agency offers 24/7 support to all of our foster carers as well as ongoing and continuous training. You will also have annual reviews in which you can recognize your strengths and weakness as foster carers. Additional training and support will be given following these reviews.

When a child or young person is matched with a child or young person on a permanent basis you will continue to receive financial, health and educational support. We will continue to be available to support you during the evenings, weekends and public holidays should you need any immediate guidance.

If you do have any questions on the process or are interested in having a conversation to find out more about fostering and becoming a foster carer please call us on 0808 1788 909 or email: recruitment@thefostercareagency.org.uk to arrange a conversation.

Protecting Children in Care Online

Advice on protecting children in care online

Before a child or young person is placed into your care, acquaint yourself with the online world of social media. Any child or young person placed with you will be looking to you for guidance. It is important to feel confident in your understanding of online networks in order to be able to deal with any potential protection issues that may arise.

If your partner or birth children use online spaces (for example social networking sites) ensure everyone’s privacy settings are set to private and check that all shared content is appropriate and that you are ‘friends’ with (and trust) in the real world.

As a family protect your child or young person online by practicing what you preach. Prepare your home by ensuring that all internet based technology (this includes games consoles, smartphones, pc’s and laptops) in a communal family space and ensure that parental settings are set-up on all devices.

Develop your knowledge and awareness of the child’s internet usage

Before any child is placed into your care find out about what technology then own that link to the internet and what sites they visit. Show an interest in these (for example smartphones, games consoles etc) and their online ‘lives’. If possible set up an account yourself in order to learn the safety settings. This way you can share an interest with them and can develop your knowledge in the site but also know how to protect them if something goes wrong. If you are not internet savvy either ask someone you know to help you or go to our local library to get help. There are also government courses available which can help you get up to speed.

Check and be aware of the child’s Internet usage

Speak to your child’s social worker and ask if any of their case history involves behavioral issues or incidents of online abuse. If this is the case you will need to approach online risks in a sensitive manger and think about involving their social worker in conversations.

Set an Internet usage for your household

Set a house ‘internet contract’ and make sure that you create it together and address any issues that the person or young person has. The contract should involve what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. An IT plan should be available for all children and young people, not only for those who where it has been an issue in the past.
It is important to let the child know that you welcome the technologies that they use and that your aim is to keep them as safe as possible whilst using them.

A placement plan should be agreed at the beginning of any placement. In it specifically address IT issues (for example should the carer be an online ‘friend’ of the child or not).

Whilst the child is in your care

Keep up to date.

Keep up to date not only with new technology and new networking sites but with the issues that may arise online. Learn about what steps you need to take as a carer to protect your child. Any new technology coming into the home should be spoken about and parental settings set up.

Keep lines of communication clear and talk openly

Communicate with the child openly on a regular basis about the pros and cons of the internet. Take an interest in the sites and technology that they use.

If you have concerns share them

Share any concerns or worries that you have with your own /your child’s social worker.

After the placement ends

Keep the child’s social worker up to date both during the placement and once it ends. Let them know the steps that you have taken to protect the child online and ask them to ensure that these measure remain consistent in the next placement or if they are returning home.

Defining a Foster Carer

What makes a Foster Carer

There are many people who whilst have the motivation, strengths, aptitude and experience that would make them fantastic foster carers don’t apply as they are concerned that their lifestyle or personal circumstances would rule them out of being able to foster when if fact this is not the case.

We hope that by covering a handful of common characteristics and factors of successful foster carers as well as a few common misconceptions that will prevent people fostering that those interested in becoming foster carers will get in contact with us.

Diversity

Fostered children and young people come from a variety of backgrounds and the same applies to Foster Carers. The truth is that all Foster Carers are diverse and all bring a wealth of skills and experience to each and every child or young person that they foster. Whatever your employment status, sexuality, marital status, religion or race you could be the ideal person to provide a stable and loving home to a vulnerable child or young person.

Team Players

Each and every person involved in the Fostering process has a joint aim of providing a secure and safe home for a child or young person. When you become a foster carer you will need to work in partnership with the agency and other professionals. Foster carers will need to demonstrate that they can listen to the child and the agency as well as voicing their views in a professional manner. The agency is here to support you as foster carers therefore it is also important that you communicate any concerns and challenges as soon as they occur.

Experience working with children or young people in a professional role or as parents

Experience working with children or young people is an advantage (although not a necessity) as it could help you tackle any challenges that may arise with a child or young person placed in your care. The agency is here to support and advise you throughout any challenging periods.

Your individual personality

The process to become a foster carer is in-depth this is to ensure that any vulnerable child or young person placed with you will be safe and cared for in a loving home. The assessment can make potential carers nervous and as a result hide aspects of their personality. Our Foster carers have all sorts of personalities and that is what makes them such great carers. Our advice to you is just be yourself!

Can those with a criminal record apply to foster?

The assessment process will take into account any previous convictions and we would encourage those with a criminal record to be honest and speak about this with the agency early on in the process. The safety of the child or young person is of foremost importance.

Having a criminal record does not automatically mean that you will be rejected as a potential carer.

Raising the Aspirations of your Foster Child

Unfortunately it’s not that uncommon for vulnerable children and young people to arrive in care with a lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem.

It is likely that the environment and the circumstances your foster child has experienced are not the most ideal for being nurtured.
Foster carers are in a unique position where they are able to help rebuild and develop self-esteem and boost their foster child’s confidence to enable their foster child to follow a successful path in life.

Here are our tips for how you as a foster carer can help to raise the aspirations of your foster child.

Communicate

If your foster child suffers a blow to their self-esteem it is really important for you to let them know positive things about themselves as they will give them a sense validation which in turn will reinforce their self-esteem. Make sure you tell your foster child that you value them for who they are and not how they perform.

If you foster a teenager let them know your door is open to speak about higher education. Give them information on all of the options available to them and make yourself available to speak about it and provide them with advice whenever necessary.

Gain Trust

Show your foster child that you are able to provide them support and that they can trust you. By doing this your foster child is more likely to open up and discuss their aspirations with you as they will see you as being able to help them in achieving their goals.

A child’s self esteem not only comes from what a child feels towards themselves but also about how others see them. Act as a positive mirror to them. However realistically you won’t have a permanent smile on your face, by allowing your foster child to see this they will be able to see you as sincere which will lead to them trusting you more.

Achieve Goals

If you foster child has a path that they would like to follow help them with their search by looking at all the options for example looking at higher education and work experience options. Support them during their studies where you can.

If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a foster carer with The Foster Care Agency please call us on 0808 1788 909 (free from a landline).

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Coming into Foster Care can be a very challenging and upsetting experience for children.

Given time and support from their foster carers children do settle into their foster placements. During this time they may display more challenging behaviours than children who have different histories to them. Try to remember that the children may have experienced a great deal of upheaval during their lives. As a foster carer you will need to have patience and understanding in supporting and addressing these problems with your foster child although this may not be an easy task.

Your foster child may have some problems at school. If they do, a stable foster placement with carers who support them and value their education will help with this.

Recently the government reformed the system for supporting children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) in England. These changes came into effect from September 2014.

All schools are required to have a published policy for meeting special educational needs. In addition they will all have a named teacher who acts as the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). It is their duty to identify and make arrangements for meeting the needs of pupils who are having challenges with their learning and/or behaviour.

If your foster child does have significant difficulties at school they should put an Individual Education Plan (IEP) in place. This should be reviewed every term by the school. If your child isn’t making process the school may seek advice from external professionals. If the concern about your child’s progress at school continues the school may consider making a request to the Local Authority for a SEN which is a statutory assessment. The next stage of this would be the Local Authority to issue a statement of SEN where the child lives. A statement of SEN (Special Educational Needs) is a legal document that describes the needs of the child and sets out the type of support they need to help them make progress at school.

Further help:

Spotting the Signs of Bullying

Defining Bullying

The act of bullying is often a repeated behaviour intended to cause hurt to somebody either emotionally or physically. Despite ongoing attempts to stop bullying it is still very much present in society. As the internet and the ‘cyber’ world becomes more accessibility to children and young people so does the threat of being bullied.

If you consider that bullying is frequently aimed at people because of their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion. Foster children can often be more exposed to bullying for a variety of reasons including appearing to be more vulnerable as they don’t live with their birth parent; they may appear to lack self-confidence and be very shy or they may appear very precocious.

Why do people bully?

It seems difficult to understand why someone would want to intentionally hurt someone else (either physically and/ or emotionally) however with children it is often an attempt to show that they have power and strength. It could also be due to the bully having low self-esteem themselves or maybe they are having challenges at home or at school. Often children can express these issues in negative ways such as anger and frustration. Whilst this doesn’t make bullying acceptable in anyway it does help us understand the motivation of the bully.

Types of Bullying

Internet/Online/Cyber-Bullying

Technological developments in the last decade have led to there being a huge growth in interactive sites aimed at the youth market: Facebook, Bebo, Ask FM, Twitter, Snapchat, MySpace and many many more. This list also continues to grow. Bullying takes place over these networks. Examples of bullying include blackmail, threats, stolen identity and abusive comments and pictures that are aimed at causing someone upset. Due to the amount of time children and young people spend online (including developing their online profiles) it is not as easy to just turn off the computer and walk away from online/cyber bullying.

Additional information: Cyber Bullying

Physical/Verbal Bullying

Most people will, at some point in their life, experience someone calling them names or insulting them. This could be an insult relating to their appearance or weight or could involve a racist, sexist or homophobic comment that insults the person and/or their family. It is also not that uncommon to see children wrestling each other to the floor or punching each other. In some cases this is not with malice but it can often be difficult to tell the differences between the two. Persistent name calling or physical assaults can be very upsetting. If this upsets, hurts or your child feels uncomfortable about this it could be seen as bullying.

Recognising when your child is being bullied

Often children who are being bullied will act like they are fine on the outside however they may be afraid or feel stupid about taking about it (they may also worry that it may intensify the situation and make it worse). They may also start to believe what the bully tells them which will lower their self-esteem.

Watch out for signs of your child becoming withdrawn and anxious in certain situations. They may become frustrated and angry which they may take out on you or possibly other children (it is somewhat ironic that children that are bullied can often become bullies themselves).

Recognising when your child is being bullied can be incredibly difficult. Those that have managed to bottle up their emotions will ultimately break at some point. Although at the extreme end of things children can feel so isolated by bullying that they may begin to tamper with drink and drugs or develop an eating disorder.

If you’re normally out-going, happy teenager starts to appear withdrawn and not going out with friends, ask why. If they stop interacting with family or are avoiding social media, ask why. The following site may help you look out for warning signs: www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signals/

What you can do

Speak with teachers to see if they have noticed anything unusual. Keep and eye and monitor their online activity (including which websites they are most frequently visiting). Keep an open dialogue with them about the fact that nothing online is a secret. Be supportive and reliable so they feel that they have someone that cares about them and someone that they can turn to.