Why do children need Foster Carers?

Foster Carers can provide a safe a secure home for single children, sibling groups and for children with additional needs and/or disabilities. This can be for a short period of up to two years, over many years until they reach adulthood or on a respite basis to allow a parent or carer a break.

 

Children who are unable to live with their own family and need to be ‘looked after’ will exhibit a range of emotions and behaviours that may be difficult to understand or deal with. The role of a foster carer is to learn to understand and to work with these difficult emotions and behaviour and to help the children work through them and begin to build a healthier, happier future for themselves.

 

Alpha Plus Fostering is confident in finding carers who are patient and understanding of each child’s individual needs and are committed to working alongside them to ensure the best experience for any child who is placed with us.

 

There are many reasons why a child might be taken into care. Our children have more than likely experienced some sort of trauma in their short lives.

 

Children who cannot live within their own family for whatever reason will experience a level of anguish by needing to be looked after elsewhere. Many children will also have experienced abuse, physically, emotionally or sexually and possibly have had their needs neglected for some time. They may exhibit behaviours that reflect the disruption and uncertainty of their situation and this can present itself in many forms ranging from challenging behaviour to a child whose despair makes them withdraw into themselves. They will find it very difficult to trust adults because their experiences may have been that adults hurt them and let them down.

 

Foster Carers are required to provide an environment where the child can feel protected from the dangers they have experienced for as long as it is needed. It is important that the needs of each individual child are taken into consideration which is why our staff are highly skilled in the process of matching each child with their carer.

 

Some children need a foster family for a very short period of time where there is nobody within their extended family who has the space or ability to look after them. Other children will remain looked after for longer until their parents are helped to make changes to their lifestyle that will enable them to care for them again but many children will need to live with a foster family until they are able to live independently as an adult.

 

It is understandable that these children will require immense patience, understanding and commitment from adults to stick by them and help them. Alpha Plus Fostering is confident of finding such carers and is committed to working alongside them to ensure the best experiences for children who are placed with us. The rewards of seeing children grow and develop into happy, healthy young adults are endless.

 

To find out more about the rewards of fostering click here

 

Top Tips from an experienced Foster Carer

If you are considering becoming a Foster Carer there are many things you will need to consider. One of the predominant things that potential carers worry about is how they will cope with difficult behaviours, or how they will get to know the child who is placed in their care.

Children in care can have complex behaviours because they have a lot to contend with emotionally. They have left their families behind and are coming to a strange home to live with you. They are just as scared as you are and sometimes they are angry and confused too. As a new carer you will have a support network around you to help you to support the child through this difficult change. It is hard work but it can also be extremely rewarding.

One of our Foster Carers, Lesley who has now been a carer for Alpha Plus for over 8 years provides these top tips for new carers:

Have no expectations, some children will struggle to form strong bonds with you at first; they will likely be confused, scared and maybe even angry. Give them time and space!

Learn to read between the lines. They might struggle to communicate with you and reading between the lines is likely to help you in meeting their needs. Many children in care have needed to be very independent and struggle to know when it’s ok to ask for help.

Observe a lot. You will learn a lot.

Try not to keep level with the child’s emotions – stay calm

Speak with other Foster Carers. They are the best support network you can have, they will help you to realise that you are doing ok and that they are facing the same challenges. Sometimes you might feel like they are the only other people who understand.

Gather as much information about the Child(ren) as you possibly can before you meet them, such as likes and dislikes. This will help you to make them feel comfortable in your home as soon as possible and will help you start to build a bond.

Take each day as it comes, some will be better than others. Hold on to the small wins and the progress they show, this will keep you strong through the rocky patches.

Get to know your Supervising Social Worker really well and be honest with them about your feelings so that they can offer you the best possible support. They are there to help you provide the best possible care.

Attend training and get to know your peers. Training is invaluable and will help you to understand your child’s behaviour better while developing strategies to support them. You will also gain invaluable knowledge about the support available for the young person in your care.

Be prepared to be busy! Between school runs, evening and weekend activities and birth family contact you will be out of the house a lot.

Have your own voice at meetings – Be heard! It is your job to advocate on behalf of these children.

Don’t rush getting to know the child – move at their pace.

Be prepared for chaos, mess, and hopefully lots of fun!

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.

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 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.

  • You’ve got a lot of love to give

 

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.

  • Children need to form lasting attachments

 

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.

  • Too many children don’t grow up in a family setting

 

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.

  • Your care can have a lasting impact

 

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.

  • Fostering is an opportunity to learn new skills

 

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.

The Fostering Assessment – What is a Form F?

Whether you’re at the very start of your fostering journey and doing research before you make an initial enquiry, or whether you’re preparing to have an assessment soon, we understand that you may feel apprehensive about this step.

As you’d expect, the fostering assessment process involves an in-depth analysis, but it shouldn’t be intimidating or frightening. So, to help you feel more at ease when your own assessment approaches, today we’re going to outline how a foster care assessment works in a little more detail for you.

When will your Alpha Plus foster care assessment happen?

The foster care assessment is usually the third stage in the foster care application journey. Following an initial enquiry, which may happen over the telephone or in person, you will receive a fostering pack full of information to help you decide if fostering could be a good fit for you. You will also have the opportunity to speak to our Carer Engagement Officer, Nicky over the phone who can answer any questions you might have and help give you an understanding about fostering for Alpha Plus. Next you will be visited by one of our social work team who will talk to you in more detail about fostering and how it might impact on your lifestyle, as well as answering any questions you may have about the process. If you decide to proceed with Alpha Plus, the next step is to complete a fostering application form. This will be followed by your fostering assessment.

What is the fostering assessment process?

Once we receive your completed application form, we will allocate an Assessing Social Worker who will work with you and your family during the assessment process. They will visit you at your home on a number of occasions over a period of a few months and work through your application with you, gathering information about your family life, your background and history and about current and previous relationships.

You will probably have been told during your enquiry and course that the assessment can appear intrusive and there is no question or apology that you and the social worker will be become intimately acquainted! The fostering assessment has no set time and you can be approved in a matter of months, we aim to complete it in less than 4 months but it can take over a year if necessary, depending on your circumstances.

So what does the assessment consist of?  Well mostly it’s you doing a lot of talking about yourself!

In no particular order, be prepared to discuss your family and origins, your relationship with your parents and siblings, religion, your childhood as well as any previous relationships and ex partners.  Discussing your ex partners is one that a lot of people can find difficult and social workers are often asked ‘why do you need to know that’?  If you’ve been previously married or have children with an ex partner, the social worker is required to contact them which again some applicants can find invasive.  We do take a realistic approach to these references and understand that relationship breakdowns can be difficult and this will all be taken into account.

It is not uncommon for applicants to express anxieties about issues from their past coming up during the Form F, that they may feel they no longer want to talk about or that it could reflect badly on them and hinder their chances of success. We often find that difficult life experiences can be a positive during the assessment process. Where applicants are able to demonstrate that they have overcome stressful life experiences and that they are able to reflect and learn from these events, this will reflect positively on an applicant’s resilience and capacity to manage stress effectively. Furthermore, an applicant who has had to face their own personal challenges in life is more likely to be able to draw on their experiences and demonstrate empathy towards a child in their care.

Why is the assessment so detailed?

There are legitimate reasons behind these personal questions and the bottom line is that the assessing social worker is required to check every link possible in order to protect any children going into your care. These requirements are outlined in the 2013 Government document:  Fostering services: assessment and approval of foster carers The reality is that you want to help children who have probably lived in very difficult and vulnerable circumstances and it is now our job to do everything in our power to protect them.

The questions you are asked will be probing, but are designed to find out how fostering might impact on you and your family, so it’s important to answer fully and honestly. Your assessor will always try and make you feel as relaxed as possible. This process will help your assessor put together what is known as a Form F in relation to your application. This form is a mandatory requirement for all fostering applications regardless of who you want to foster with. The report will pull the collected information together and you will have the opportunity to review your Form F before it is passed to the Fostering Panel. You will meet with the Panel to discuss your application and find out whether they will be recommending that your application be progressed. This gives you the opportunity to discuss with them your experiences, circumstances and other details outlined in the form.

Want to learn more about the assessment?

Hopefully this post has helped you feel a little more relaxed about the fostering process as a whole and about any approaching assessment meetings you may have. Our team will do everything they can to make the process run as smoothly as possible  If you’re unsure whether you could be suitable for fostering or you’ve been put off by what seemed like a scary process in the past, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here. We are always happy to answer questions to put any concerns you may have at ease.

 

Becoming a Foster Carer – What you need to know.

If you’re considering becoming a foster carer this year, the process of applying is far more straightforward and inclusive than you might think. The most important, and time consuming, stage of the process is deciding if fostering is right for you. It is a big decision!

There are a few common myths which dissuade many from even taking the first step to find out more. Misconceptions such as thinking you can’t foster if you’re single, gay or if you don’t own your own home. Don’t rule yourself out; if you would like to foster but maybe have a concern that you will not be able to call us, our Carer Engagement Officer, Nicky is happy to have an informal chat with you and discuss any concerns or queries you have. There is no such thing as a bad question! If you’re between 21 and 70 and have a spare room then you can usually be considered for fostering.

If you fall in to that category then you need to decide if you have the requisite skills and personality to be a successful foster carer. Traits like patience, the ability to listen and a great sense of humour are essential as are communication skills, consistency and energy. Fostered children and young people are looking for someone who can offer them love, safety, security and support. You do not need to be a super hero just a normal person who is willing to give love to a child when they need it most.

 

What type of fostering is right for you?

There are many different types of fostering that people choose; all come with challenges and rewards; the more people learn about fostering the more they realise which type of fostering they and their family would be most suited to.

It might be emergency and short term placements which could be taken at short notice, while longer-term plans are being considered. Or you could be needed to offer a break to the family of a child with disabilities, or part-time care to children with complex needs so they and their family can have a break.

You might be able to offer short term care, which lasts up to two years while the family courts make decisions about what the best long term plan is for the child. The hope is that they will be able return home to their birth families but sometimes this is not possible and they will move into long-term fostering placements which allow children to stay in a family where they can feel secure, often while maintaining contact with their birth family. There is a particular need for these types of foster care for teenagers and sibling groups. The young people often stay with their foster family into adulthood and beyond and become a permanent member of the family.

It is estimated that this year over 1050 more foster carers need to be recruited in the North West. There is a shortage of family homes for these children and you could make a huge difference.

 

What is the application process?

If you decide you’d like to be a foster carer there is a thorough process to complete before being approved.

This process begins by speaking with Nicky our Carer Engagement officer who can answer any initial questions you may have and she will want to learn more about your motivation to foster. We will organise for a member of our team to visit you at home so you can get to know more about Alpha Plus and so they can see the bedroom you are planning to use and get to know you better. This is a two way process, when you decide to foster with Alpha Plus we want to you feel confident that you are applying to the best possible agency for you. So ask lots of questions!

After these initial conversations, you will be invited to make an application. This is followed by a three day pre-approval training course called ‘Skills to Foster’; statutory checks such as a medical with your own GP and a DBS check will be undertaken. You will then be visited on a few occasions by a social worker who will assess your suitability to be a Foster Carer and compile a report. This report, called a Form F, will then be submitted to a fostering panel which will make a recommendation as to your suitability to become a Foster Carer. The agency decision maker should then be able to approve you as a Foster Carer.

If successful, you will then be waiting to have your first child or young person placed with you – and that’s when the journey and the fun really begins!

 

Call Nicky today on Freephone 08082849211 or register your interest here to receive an information pack and a call back.

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.