Holiday Hero – A Fostering Story

Marios - Everyday Hero Foster Carer
Marios – Everyday Hero Foster Carer

 

We have all sat through mundane training courses that seem to go on to no end. This short story will inspire you to sit up, pay attention and listen next time you catch yourself drifting off while in the classroom.

Marios is a single male foster carer and has been with The Foster Care Agency for over 5 years. Recently, he visited Cyprus to enjoy a family break with his foster daughter (14) his partner and her daughter (10) and son (6).  After a long day enjoying the Cypriot sun, Marios took the two girls to his local football club, P.T.S.K, to have a drink with the owner of the club and close family friend, Murat.

Marios and the girls were enjoying a quiet drink in the late afternoon when a commotion started at a nearby table in the busy eatery. Three locals had jumped to their feet as one of their companions seemed to be choking and frantically gesturing to his chest area. Marios looked on, after what felt like an eternity to him, as the friends were trying to help this troubled individual with no success. The man had just started to lose consciousness, when Marios’ foster carer first aid training kicked in. Marios initially put the man, who he later learnt was called Ahmet, into the recovery position. While doing so, Marios recognised that Ahmet had no pulse and that he was now not breathing.

At this point Marios one thought came into his mind, something that he had picked up from the trainer during the first aid course, ‘ANY FIRST AID IS BETTER THAN NO FIRST AID’. With this thought in mind Marios started chest compressions. He remembered to count in elephants ‘1 elephant, 2 elephant ….’. Being the caring person Marios is, he allowed himself a couple seconds to think about the girls who were potentially about to witness Ahmet’s death.

He asked them calmly to go outside and play.

After a few minutes of pumping Ahmet’s chest, his colour started to return and he gained some consciousness. A short while after this, the Paramedics arrived and took over Ahmet’s care, giving him oxygen and rushing him to the Nicosia hospital.

Marios later on learnt that Ahmet had suffered a heart attack, which wasn’t his first. Ahmet is now on his way to making full recovery. There is no doubt that if Marios had not stepped in, Ahmet would have lost his life.

Reflecting on the incident, one the of the girls said “I would like to become a nurse’ and the other said  ‘that it is more exciting than TV’. Marios knows that if he hadn’t had the first aid training, which is one of the core training groups in fostering, he wouldn’t have had the confidence to step in to help. When discussing the training offered by TFCA to its carers, Marios feels that they allowed him to grow as a person and pick up many skills that have been crucial to him and his fostering role.

We wish Ahmet a well and speedy recovery and thank Marios, not only in being a hero who stepped in when needed, but also being a fantastic foster carer to young people who, without such people like Marios, wouldn’t have such fulfilling lives.

Marios Everyday Hero Certificate

Marios was awarded June 2018 Foster carer Everyday Hero of the month in recognition of his efforts, both as a foster carer and for saving Ahmet.

What to Expect from Your First Foster Care Placement

The path to fostering is a similar process for all new carers. You will go through a thorough assessment, meet other foster carers and child welfare professionals, take a basic foster care training course, and be interviewed as part of a panel assessment. Although to begin with some applicants are surprised with the amount of detail and depth of the assessment, most have said they found the process really interesting and once the approval is confirmed nothing compares to the excitement and trepidation you’ll feel after agreeing to your first placement.

When a child is being considered to be placed with you and your family, you will be given background information on the child to help you make a decision on whether you feel they are a suitable match. You will be left feeling anxious and excited about the possibilities and you will create a mental picture of what you expect them to be like. Awaiting their arrival can be exciting but it can also leave you feel apprehensive as there are many things you start thinking about and questions start popping up in your head.

At The Foster Care Agency you will be supported from the moment you start your process of application with us and your supervising social worker will adjust the support you receive according to each individual circumstance and they will help you prepare for your first placement. Alongside this, here we offer a guide on preparing for your first placement, including tips on helping them settle in and what to expect.

See Things from Their Point of View

No matter how anxious you are feeling about the first time you welcome a foster child in your care, take a second to consider how the child must feel. Whether it’s the first time they’ve been away from their biological parents or they’ve previously lived with another foster family or caregiver, they will be thinking not only about what kind of foster carer you are but will have other worries, too, such as:

  • What type of home will I live in?
  • What will the other children in the home be like?
  • What will they cook for dinner? Will I even like the food they give me?
  • Will I still be able to go to the same school?
  • What are the rules of the home? What if I get something wrong?
  • How often will I get to see my own family?
  • What if they don’t want me?

All these questions, anxieties and fears will be ticking through the child’s head, so it’s important that you take into account their worries and trepidations when they arrive at your door. Remember, too, that it may take time for them to settle into life at your home, and that alleviating their fears and doubts takes time and patience and is rarely an overnight fix.

However, there are things you can do to make the child’s first day with you as comfortable and reassuring as possible, as we explore below.

Make a Friendly First Impression

First impressions can often be the most lasting, so make sure you are happy, smiling and welcoming (even if you are rather anxious yourself). This will go a long way in settling the tone for your home and will help put the child at ease.

Make sure introductions are made for any family members who are present. If you have children or a partner who isn’t at home, remember to include them in your introduction. This will help the child feel more comfortable when they meet them later.

 

Share Stories and Ask Questions

Icebreakers are crucial for getting your relationship off to a good start and will allow you to quickly build rapport and bond with the child. We’d recommend preparing a few conversation starters or questions ahead of time, but it is also good sometimes just to let the child settle in in their own way and that may be through allowing them to be quiet.

Talk to them about the area that they’ve moved to, let them know about the exciting things there are to do, and what activities you like to enjoy as a family. You should also ask them about themselves with relaxed, open-ended questions, including things like what they like to do, what they like to eat and their interests. Don’t be afraid to share things about yourself either; the more they learn about you and your family, the quicker they’ll settle in and begin to relax around the home.

Start with a House Tour and Give Them Time Alone

A house tour is an easy way to start a conversation and make the child feel at ease in your company. Show them around and point out things that tell the story of your family, such as photographs and mementoes. These small details will help paint an accurate picture of family life, helping them grow accustomed to the habits, customs and routines of your home.

End the tour by showing the child to their bedroom and offer them some time alone (depending on their age) to unpack, relax and compose themselves. By this point, they should be aware of meal times and other information that will help them settle in. However, try not to overload them with information and rules at this point – these should follow organically later.

Make Their First Night as Comfortable as Possible

Once they have had time to settle in, and depending on the time of day, you should ask them if they want to do an activity such as play a game or watch a film – something that you can involve the whole family in. The first night can be daunting for everyone, so make sure they’re comfortable and make sure you have the appropriate bedtime essentials, including a toothbrush, toothpaste, pyjamas and anything else needed. It’s important that you take the lead on this, as the child may not feel comfortable enough asking for things.

When the morning arrives, ask them what they like to eat for breakfast. Remember, take these opportunities to ask open questions and to share information about yourself and the family. Every interaction and conversation will help you bond with your foster child.

Things to Remember

Being a foster carer is a very special role. Remember, it’s the small things that can make the biggest difference to your child in the first days of coming into your care, so remain your warm, caring and thoughtful self and you will make the right first impression. This will go a long way in helping both you and your child to build a positive relationship.

Fostering puts you in a privileged role like no other, giving you the unique opportunity to make a difference to a child’s life not just for a day, a week or a month, but for their entire lifetime. If you think you have what it takes to foster, contact us today on 0808 178 8909 or visit our homepage to find out more.

 

Foster Carers and HMRC

For anybody who is considering becoming a foster carer, and for those that are already fostering, you have been invited to take part in a free webinar hosted by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The webinar aims to help you understand tax responsibilities and any National Insurance issues that may arise for a self-employed foster carer.

The free, hour-long webinar will take place at 11am on the 14th February and will include an interactive question and answer session.

The webinar can be accessed from all laptops, iPads, iPhones or tablets, provided you have internet access.

Spaces are limited and reservations are necessary.
To register, please visit HMRC Foster Carers Registration

Saying ‘Goodbye’ To A Foster Child

The time between the beginning and the end of a placement with a foster child can feel like no time at all. Saying goodbye can be one of the biggest challenges faced by foster carers, as well as for the young people in their care.

Having looked after a person for a period of time, you celebrate their successes, are a shoulder to cry on and you watch them grow up. They become a substantial part of your family.

The Importance of Staying Positive

Whatever the reasons for the departure, it’s normal for foster carers to experience a range of emotions when a child leaves their home. It’s important to realise that having stayed with you for a period of time will have benefited their lives for the better.

If they’re an older teenager and they’re now ready to live independently, you will have probably played the part of an important role model. You would have helped teach them valuable life skills such as learning to cook, clean and manage budgets in preparation for them to live their life on their own.

For younger children who move onto more long-term, permanent placements, it’s important to remember that moving on is in their best interests as it’s eventually helping towards placing them with their ‘forever family’.

Dealing with Grief

Losing a foster child is likely to provoke feelings of grief, so give yourself time to recover and also to celebrate the journey you’ve had together. Being open about these feelings with friend, family and other foster carers will help you to heal.

How We Can Help Foster Carers

If you are a foster carer or are considering becoming a foster carer, we can provide a range of training on how to deal with foster children moving on. Contact our team for more information by clicking here.

Fostering February 2018

Don’t rule yourself out…find out!

This month we will be showing our support for Fostering February by starting conversations about fostering both online and offline!

What is Fostering February?


Fostering February is a month dedicated to raising awareness about the facts of becoming a foster carer and aims to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions which surround it.

It gives an invaluable opportunity to people who are considering becoming a foster carer to have their questions and concerns addressed.

Have you ever thought about becoming a foster carer, but immediately ruled it out?

“I’m in a same sex relationship so I won’t be allowed to foster”
“I am disabled so I won’t be allowed to foster”
“I don’t have a driving license so I won’t be allowed to foster”

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

There are lots of different family living situations that can allow for a foster child which are often assumed can’t. Be sure to find out before making assumptions. For example, your sexual orientation won’t affect whether you are allowed to become a foster carer. The most important factor is that the children feel safe and loved and importantly are properly looked after.

How can you get involved in Fostering February 2018?

Whether you are considering becoming a foster carer or just want to help raise awareness, there are plenty of ways for you to get involved with Fostering February 2018. Take a look at their website here.

If you think you could help a child, please register your interest by clicking here and a member of our friendly team will be in touch.

National Storytelling Week 2018

Connect with your foster family through stories

 

From 27th January – 3rd February 2018, it is National Storytelling Week, held by The Society for Storytelling.

The week is the perfect chance for families to come together and celebrate the power of telling stories, an oral tradition which was the very first way of communicating life experiences and the creative imagination!

Sourced from https://www.sfs.org.uk/national-storytelling-week

What’s so important about storytelling?

Storytelling isn’t just a fun activity for children and young people, it can also have a significant impact on their psychological development. Not only can it improve their language skills and imagination, but their ability to tell their own story, articulate their emotions and make themselves heard.

Stories can provide a child with insight into how the world works and can help them to understand themselves and others. Stories can help give a child a greater understanding of human emotion and feelings.

The Importance of Storytelling in a Foster Family Environment

Storytelling can be useful for foster children to help strengthen their relationship with their foster carers, as the process of telling and listening to stories can build attachments and relationships.

The storyteller’s own reactions, both in how they tell and talk about the story, can create an environment that brings well-being and playfulness to the relationship.

Go on, join us in celebrating National Storytelling Week and find time to sit down the with the family to tell some inspiring stories!

Reasons to Kick-Start Your Fostering Journey

If you’ve been thinking about fostering for a while, but have been dwelling on the reasons not to foster, here are some reasons that might encourage you to make your initial enquiry.

  1. You’ve got a lot of love to give
  2. Feeling loved and cared for is one of our most basic and fundamental needs, no matter what age we are. However, when children miss out on the feeling of love and care during their early years, it can have a negative impact on their personal development and cause low self-esteem.

    Becoming a foster carer is an opportunity for you to provide a vulnerable child with the love and care they deserve.

  3. Children need to form lasting attachments
  4. Forming lasting attachments in our early years is important to help develop relationships in later life. Unfortunately, many children within the foster care system have not had the opportunity to form these attachments in their childhood due to their changing environment.

    Foster carers play a crucial role in helping children and young people to trust people by forming positive, responsive relationships with them.

  5. Too many children don’t grow up in a family setting
  6. Too many children within the foster care system grow up without their basic needs being met in a safe and happy family environment. Fostering is an opportunity to provide a child with the guidance and support that we all need.

  7. Your care can have a lasting impact
  8. The impact you could have on a foster child, even in emergency and short-term placements, can stay with them forever. Foster children can learn what being part of a caring family environment is like which can, in turn, have a positive effect on their outlook on family life and can positively influence their future.

  9. Fostering is an opportunity to learn new skills
  10. Foster carers receive ongoing support and training, which provides the opportunity to develop new skills and improve existing ones. Your supervising social worker will be there to help you along the way and will provide you with access to various training courses.

    If you’re ready to take the first step to becoming a foster carer and changing a child’s life for the better, click here to get in touch with our friendly team today.

Helping Foster Children Through the Holiday Season

Christmas can and should be one of the most wonderful times of the year for children, excited about the arrival of Father Christmas and the magic the festive period brings. But, for many looked after children and young people, Christmas can be a stressful and difficult time of year.

In the build up to Christmas, all around us the vision of the perfect family enjoying the festivities is portrayed – not only through the media, but through conversations with friends about their plans for the holiday, with whom they’ll be going to visit and what activities they have planned with their families. For a looked after child who has been separated from their birth parents this can evoke powerful emotions, both positive and negative, and stir up memories and feelings from their past.

With this in mind, we’ve come up with simple things you can do this Christmas time to help looked after children cope and make this festive season a happy one…

  1. Talk about Christmas
  2. A child in care may not have a good understanding of the Christmas holiday, what it means and what traditions it brings in your home. Take time to read a few books in the run up to Christmas and be ready to hear about their past Christmases. Encourage them to share good memories, then work out ways that traditions can be integrated. Let them know what to expect, even if it’s as simple as decorations, Christmas music, stockings and lots of family meals!

  3. Maintain routine where possible
  4. Christmas can be a hectic time of year, with gifts to be bought being left until the eleventh hour and plans being changed last minute! It’s important to remember the importance of planning and how children thrive on routine. If for any reason routines can’t be maintained, talk the potential changes through with your foster child, discuss any worries they may have and outline the steps you can both take to help them cope.

  5. Involve everyone
  6. Make your home inviting and cosy together! The key is to ensure that the children or young people see the change in setting as positive and a fun activity to do together.

  7. Write a letter to Santa
  8. For younger children, if this is their first Christmas with you, it’s important that Father Christmas knows where to find you!

  9. Anticipate Christmas to be an emotional time
  10. Expect Christmas to be an emotional time for the children you look after, especially for those who may be unable to see their family. All families have their good moments, even if they are few in number and children may want to talk about these and share memories with you. Take time to listen and enjoy time to bond.

  11. Prepare for guests
  12. Introducing children or young people to extended family or family gatherings can be a daunting experience for them. Planning around family gatherings is important – let them know who’s coming and when. Sometimes, it helps to talk about the visitors in advance, so that your foster child feels a familiarity and level of comfort before they have arrived. If the children or young people want to social that’s great, but remember to give them time and space to get comfortable at their own pace if they would rather.

  13. Be alcohol aware
  14. Be wary that children in care may have witnessed the misuse of alcohol and drugs at home, and seeing people drinking at home could cause anxieties to surface, so drink responsibly.

Tips for a Successful Winter’s Day Out

Winter is a wonderful time of year, but often the chill of the outdoors is motivation enough to close the curtains and stay well within the warmth of your home. Whilst this is cosy, it often doesn’t take long until the kids are bursting with energy and looking for things to do. Here are some tips and ideas for a successful Winter’s day out:

Staying warm:

  1. Make sure everyone is all wrapped up with scarves, hats and gloves. Keeping heads and hands warm is crucial and will ensure nobody catches a cold!
  2. Waterproof clothing – expect the expected! Always take big coats or waterproof anoraks with hoods to hand. An umbrella is always a good idea if you’re planning to be outside, and of course wellies! After all, squelching about in the mud and jumping in puddles is what it’s all about.
  3. Thick fluffy socks are a must.
  4. Don’t forget lip salve and hand cream – cold, windy weather can dry out lips and hands.
  5. Portable hand warmers – an inexpensive treat.

Things to do:

  1. Take a walk around the park. Though it can be a bit nippy, admiring the changing season, kicking up piles of leaves and stopping for a quick coffee or hot chocolate can make for a lovely time with the children.
  2. Trip to the local cinema. You can find great deals online to keep the kids and your wallet happy!
  3. Ice skating – search online for a Winter Wonderland near you.
  4. Visit somewhere you haven’t been before, or haven’t visited in ages. Beaches can be perfect this time of year, especially with dogs.
  5. Explore the Christmas markets! Christmas comes around quickly – now’s the time to start your Christmas Shopping and pick up little gifts for the family.

Short Term and Long Term Fostering

Fostering is about providing a child or young person with a safe, comfortable place that they can call home for a while. There are many types of fostering placements, but the main two are short or long term.

What is short term fostering?

Short-term fostering is more common with young children, and can be anything from a one night emergency stay up to up to two years. These placements often occur whilst plans for a child or young person’s future are being made, for example in between care proceedings or court hearings.

What is long term fostering?

Long-term fostering placements provide children with more permanency if they are unlikely to be returning to their family. Children and young people in long term placements are typically cared for up until they reach adulthood and are able to care for themselves.

Which type of fostering is right for me?

Whether short term or long term placements are suitable for you depends on your own family and lifestyle, and the needs of the looked after child. The type of fostering you provide will be agreed as part of your foster carer assessment and may change as you move through your fostering career.

There is a national shortage of foster carers who are looking for long-term placements, with most placements being short-term.

If you’re interested in finding out more about becoming a carer or would like to find out more about the other types of fostering, get in touch today – click here.