Empty Nest Fostering

It’s that dreaded time for teenagers and parents alike – A Level results are out. Whether youngsters do as well as expected, or have to go through clearing, university life is just around the corner for around one third of the UK’s 18 year olds – and an ‘empty nest’ for worried parents.
For some parents, an empty nest is a welcome relief from the hectic schedule of looking after teenagers. No more loud music, no people creeping in the front door hours past bedtime, and no more sulky teenagers. However, for some, the quiet life just doesn’t cut it. That need to love, care, nurture and mentor someone just isn’t being met – could fostering with Alpha Plus Foster Care provide the solution?
Parents can go through a lot raising their children including – but not limited to – sleepless nights, stress, worry, tears of happiness and frustration, and at Alpha Plus Foster Care we think this gives them a fantastic set of skills which can be utilised through fostering. Providing a safe and secure home for a child or young person is only part of becoming a foster carer, having the patience, commitment, perseverance and determination to succeed are just as important. Fostering can provide a refreshingly different challenge from traditional parenthood – one that many find extremely rewarding.

For many, the ‘empty nest’ stage of their life is the perfect time to look into fostering. The impact of birth children is lessened as they begin their exciting new life at university; there are less financial pressures with one less mouth to feed, along with extra space in the home. When children return from university in holidays or visit as adults they provide an excellent role model for young people in your care and a welcome distraction.
The journey to becoming a foster carer usually takes around 4-6 months to complete. During this time a social worker will complete an assessment on you and your family – which includes contacting birth children, completing a series of background checks and references, and also involves attending a 3-day training course arranged locally. Once approved as foster carers, you will be supported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by our qualified Social Workers, attend regular training courses, and receive a generous weekly allowance to assist with household living costs. You will also be invited to various children’s events, charity events and support groups so that you always feel part of the Alpha Plus family.

Do I Need a Spare Room?

One of the most common questions asked when people are considering becoming foster carers is, ‘Do I need a spare room?’. The answer to that is, ‘Yes’!

There are clear National Minimum Standards* of children having their own room.

Most children in need of a foster home are at an age where they need their own space, to play or be creative without distraction. Their own room can provide a sense of security and allows children to have a dedicated place to be calm, where they can get rid of their frustrations and just be themselves. This is especially important for vulnerable children who may have experienced trauma and are having to adapt to life in a new home, with different people and routines.

Their own room can also be instrumental in helping foster children adjust to new routines, such as a consistent bedtime routine. Children that come into foster care have often never experienced clear boundaries or set routines, and it can take time to help them establish these.

The benefits of a spare room don’t stop at the foster child, there are also benefits for the foster carer and their family. If you have children of your own, a spare room will help foster children and your own children to adjust to the fostering lifestyle with minimising disruption.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what’s involved in becoming a foster carer, click here.

*For further information about Fostering Services, you can view the National Minimum Standards Regulations 2011. See section 10.6 in relation to spare rooms.

Child Safety Warning: Snapchat Maps Update That Reveals Users’ Locations

Police forces have raised child safety concerns about a new Snapchat feature that reveals users’ locations amid fears it could expose children to potential predators.

Parents have been warned to turn off the “Snap Map” feature on their children’s phones after Snapchat, which is a wildly popular messaging service among teenagers, introduced the location-sharing mode this week.

On the latest version of the app, “Snap Map” can be launched by pinching the Snapchat camera home screen. From here, users can choose to share their location with all friends, some of them or none of them with “ghost mode”, which hides their location but still pinpoints the location of other users, marking them with their Bitmoji character.

While the feature has been designed to help friends meet up or attend events together it has raised fears that it could be abused. Parents are being urged to make sure their children select “ghost mode”, and not the other two options.

The digital world is changing all the time and it’s vital to stay updated with how to keep your children safe online. For more tips on internet safety, click here

Are your foster kids at risk? New smartphone apps to watch out for

New apps come out almost every day, but how do you know which ones are suitable for children? Whereas some have age limits or are generally no-go zones, others are safe in themselves but get abused by trolls. It can be hard to tell.

Luckily, the West Midlands Police and Ofsted keep a list of over 100 apps to be aware of. You’ll find it in full at the end of the article, but first let’s take a look at a few trending now.

New apps to be aware of

Lovoo

This dating app uses the location of your child’s smartphone – and therefore your child – to search for nearby people to engage in private chats with. It also has a paid VIP option that lets users look at your profile anonymously so you don’t know if they’ve seen your photos and details. Definitely not for children.

Woozworld

Although it’s generally an innocent gaming app – letting your child fashion a character and do quests in a virtual world – Woozworld’s chat features could be abused by dishonest people. There’s no accountability as you only need a parent’s email address to sign up, and there’s no way of telling who strangers really are.

That being said, the game itself is fine for children. If you’re happy for them to play, advise them to only chat with people they know and to never give out any personal information. If strangers start talking to them, they should speak to you immediately.

Monkey

An app that lets you Facetime with randomly selected strangers, Monkey is by its nature risky business. There’s no telling what someone will be doing when their live video feed starts playing on your screen, so there’s no way of preventing inappropriate images.

In addition, because users can follow each other on SnapChat after connecting on Monkey, what starts as a random encounter could escalate with sustained contact. Another app that’s not for children.

A great app for parents: Gallery Guardian

Many children take inappropriate photos of themselves without thinking about the consequences. But with Gallery Guardian, an app that detects nudity in images, you’ll know if it ever happens.

If your child takes or is sent an explicit photo, or downloads one from the internet, an alert is sent to your smartphone so you can deal with the problem. The app has a 96% success rate so it’s well worth getting.

More apps that could cause problems

Don’t panic if you find a child using these apps, it could be perfectly harmless. Just make sure you look them up on Google to find out exactly what they involve. Search for: “Is [app name] suitable for my children?” Then talk to whoever’s using them so they understand the risks and the right way to behave.

Content sharing apps

4Chan DeviantArt Dubsmash Foursquare House Party
KamStar Keek Live.ly Live.me Medium
Musical.ly MyMFB Peach Periscope Pheed
Reddit Renren Secret Piano Slingshot Vimeo
VK Weibo Wishbone Yellow Friends YouNow


Dating apps

Badoo Blendr Down Fuzz Gaydar
Grindr Guy Spy HookedUp Hornet Hot or Not
Huggle MeetMe Meetup MyLOL Skout
Snog Swipe Flirts Teenber Tinder Twoo
W-match Waplog Zoosk    


Gaming apps

Bin Weevils Boom Beach Clash of Clans Club Penguin Double Dog
Habbo Hotel Minecraft Miniclip Moshi Monsters MovieStarPlanet
Roblox Runescape Second Life Steam Twitch
World of Warcraft Woozworld Zgirls    


Messaging apps

Ask.fm Battlenet BBM Burn Note Cake
Chat Avenue Chatroulette Curse Cyber Dust Dischord
Disqus FMYLife GroupMe ICQ InstaMessage
Kik Messenger KK Friends Line Live Chat Meow Chat
Mumble Omegle ooVoo SayHi Send safe
Secret Shoutout Signal Snapchat Streamago
Tango TeamSpeak Telegram TigerText Ventrillo
Viber Voxer WeChat Whisper Wickr
Yik Yak Zello PTT Zobe    

 

 

10 tips to keep the kids safe when they chat online, share and play

The internet has endless entertainment and opportunity to offer, but it does have a nasty side too. With cybercrime on the rise, it’s important to make sure our families are well versed in online etiquette, from protecting their identities to steering clear of bullies.

Here are the 10 most essential topics to discuss with your foster children to keep them safe as they learn and grow online.

  1. Encourage them to share safe selfies

Children, like adults, sometimes share inappropriate photos without thinking about the long-term impact. An image sent to one person can be posted online and seen by thousands, and it can stay on the internet forever. So advise them to only share what they’re happy for the world to see.

  1. Keep their personal information offline

Protect your family from potential risks like identity theft. Set social media accounts to private, and remove phone numbers and other personal information from public sites.

  1. Make sure they’re old enough for the networks they use

It may sound obvious, but many children lie about their age and set up social media accounts before they should be. Check the age limits and help them understand why some content is not suitable for younger people.

  1. Switch off location sharing in apps

Some smartphones share their location with games and apps, which is a risk to the privacy of the people using them. You can turn off location sharing in the settings menu – ask Google if you need instructions for how to find them on your specific model of smartphone.

  1. Advise them to only chat and play with real friends

Let your foster children know that some people hide behind fake profiles, so try to only play games and chat with people you know. If you’re unsure who you’re talking to or playing with, don’t tell them who you are or give them any personal information.

  1. Explain the difference between friends and followers

Whereas friends are people you know and trust, followers are usually strangers who may have a shared interest but may not have the best intentions. Some kids have hundreds of followers, so advise them to block suspicious people and tighten their security settings.

  1. Tell them to think before sharing embarrassing posts

As with inappropriate images, some posts include controversial opinions or silly actions that seem like a good idea at the time, but probably won’t after a few years. Help your foster children understand how to think critically about what should and should not be shared.

  1. Deal with Cyberbullying

Stay calm and don’t judge if you ever suspect your foster child is being bullied on- or offline. Talk to them, listen and reassure that you can help. Encourage them to save any evidence and not to retaliate.

  1. Prepare them for social media in moderation

Set some restrictions on how much time your foster children can spend online each day, and try to keep to the rules yourself too. It’s unhealthy for anyone, especially a developing child, to spend too much time focusing on a screen and living their life online. Moderation is key.

  1. Show them how to be a good digital citizen

As well as being wary of the risks online, make sure your foster children understand that their actions can hurt others too.

They should be mindful not to attack or ridicule opinions they don’t agree with, and they should understand the consequences of peer pressure and offensive content. Only when we all consider each other can the internet be as enjoyable and safe as it should be.

 

What is your motivation?

Are you thinking about becoming a foster carer? What is your motivation?

There are many reasons people decide they want to get involved in fostering, some of their own life experiences that drive them to this ambition, others have a lifelong dream to help children. Whatever your motivation all types of people make great foster carers.

Janet, an Alpha Plus foster carer, has been fostering since 2002 and cared for twenty-three children. She shares what motivated her to become a foster carer at the young age of 32 years old.

Janet’s mum had always fostered and she supported her in this, becoming a big sister figure to the teenagers her mum was caring for. Her mum was caring for three teenage girls and Janet spent considerable time with them, not realising the impact she was having on their lives as they became a big part of the family. She was the supportive figure these girls had longed for, proving a positive role model for them by listening to them and talking through any problems they might have. They would stay with her for weekends, indulge in pizza and film nights or go shopping and enjoy treats together. Janet had been her mum’s supporting carer for many years, without ever considering it as work, this was her family.

Later down the line, at 32 years old, Janet was married and working in marketing. She knew that she would eventually want to start a family and would want more flexibility at work to fit around this. Janet had considered her options when her husband, who was volunteering at a local youth club, was approached by someone who fostered with Alpha Plus. He was informed about what the role of a foster carer entailed, and that they should enquire. After much discussion, they decided they should find out more. Janet discovered that her family friend fostered with Alpha Plus, through a discussion with her mum. It felt like it was meant to be.

Quickly booking herself on to the next available information session, Janet came to meet Alpha Plus and found out all about the support we provide. Janet remembers that initial meeting, recalling that she felt unsure and was not convinced that fostering was the right role for her. She attended a second information session and having taken plenty of time to consider her abilities and willingness to perform the role, Janet decided to make an application. From her experience, she already knew that she wanted to care for teenagers and has been doing so ever since.

Since 2002, Janet and Graham have cared for 23 children. Some of these children have returned home to be looked after by family members, others have gone to live independently and some have moved to other carers.

 

Fostering with Young Birth Children

Becoming a foster carer inevitably involves substantial changes to the lives of the carers involved. But what of the impact of fostering on the carer’s own family, particularly the children who are expected to share their homes – and their toys – with strangers?

For Hannah Griffiths*, who has been fostering for the past 14 years at her home in Stockport, fostering has become very much a family affair. She started fostering in 2003, before her children were born. Now she has two daughters aged 7 and 10. I spoke with her to learn about her fostering journey and the impact it has had on her young birth children…

So far, Hannah’s family have provided a stable and caring home for over 10 children. Some have stayed longer than others but it’s apparent that they have all left their mark on this family. She tells me stories of the different children who have shared her home, and she is clearly very proud of her family’s commitment to helping these young people make positive developments in their lives.

Hannah explains that for most of the time her daughters have enjoyed the experience of fostering and have really enjoyed having other children in the house. In fact, in recent months the family has taken a short break from fostering and their eldest daughter has recently expressed a wish to get another placement as soon as possible. It seems she has caught their Mother’s passion for helping others!

She describes how capable the girls are in copying with the losses that fostering can bring and accredits this to their understanding that sometimes children must move – be it whether they are returning home, moving on to live independently or going to live with another foster family – but that their family helped when they needed it most. To this day, the girls enjoy it when the children who joined their family for a short time come to visit.

Hannah explains that living in a foster family has helped her daughters develop into caring, empathetic and resilient individuals who have a great sense of humour. She is regularly amazed by her eldest daughter’s ability to empathise with others and when in public she will regularly comment that someone might need help or isn’t quite happy. The fact that she is so quick to consider how another human being may be feeling and has capacity to empathise at such a young age is truly remarkable. Hannah goes on to explain that her youngest is quick witted and shows fantastic humour – always keeping the family laughing!

All any mother wants for her children is for them to be happy and healthy. In addition to being these things, Hannah has seen first-hand how being part of a foster family has developed her children’s skills for caring for others in an increasingly difficult world. She is confident that fostering is helping her daughters develop into strong, thoughtful and kind individuals.

*Pseudonym used for carer confidentiality.

Foster Care Fortnight

Foster Care Fortnight 2017 is taking place from Monday 8 to Sunday 21 May.

What is Foster Care Fortnight?

Foster Care Fortnight is the UK’s biggest foster care awareness raising campaign, delivered by leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network. The campaign showcases the commitment, passion and dedication of foster carers – Alpha Plus Fostering are fully supporting this campaign.

There is a need to raise the awareness of at least 7,180 new foster care families required throughout the UK in the next 12 months. Carers are required to care for a range of children, with the greatest need being for foster carers for older children, sibling groups, disabled children and unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

Foster care transforms lives

The overarching theme of Foster Care Fortnight is ‘foster care transforms lives’. Like the Fostering Network, we are passionate about the difference that foster care makes to the lives of fostered children and young people, and Foster Care Fortnight is an excellent opportunity to showcase that difference. But foster care doesn’t just transform the lives of the young people who are fostered, it also has the power to change the lives of foster carers, their families and all those who are involved in fostering. Foster Care Fortnight shares the stories of people who have had their lives transformed by foster care, and by doing so to raise the profile of fostering and the need for more foster carers.

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Find out more about becoming a foster carer here.

Spread the word

One of the aims of Foster Care Fortnight is to raise the profile of fostering and the transformational power of foster care. We often find that existing foster carers are the best advert for fostering, so if you are a foster carer or are part of a fostering family please help spread the word.

Tell others your fostering story. Encourage them to find out more by visiting our website.

If you’re not a foster carer already, perhaps now is the time for you to consider becoming one.

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The hashtags used during Foster Care Fortnight 2017 are #FCF17, #ProudToFoster, #ProudToSupportFostering.

We encourage everyone to download and print off a placard, take a photo of you and/or your family and share them online using the hashtags.

Could you foster?

One of the main aims of Foster Care Fortnight is to encourage more people to consider becoming a foster carer.

Do you have the skills and qualities to be one of the thousands of people we need to come forward to foster?

Do you have the skills and qualities fostering services are looking for?

Will you be attending any local events for Foster Care Fortnight?

If Foster Care Fortnight has made you think more about how you could improve children’s lives by becoming a foster carer, register your initial enquiry here:

Who can foster?

The answer to this question is pretty much anyone!

Foster carers are very normal people, the people you see in the street every day and yet they do an incredible job. To the children they care for they are everything, quite often the first adult they have been able to rely upon.

It is carers like our foster family, the Barbers who make such a difference in the lives of young people every day. They have been fostering for over ten years now and have cared for children of all ages in this time.

Meet some of our carers

 

To foster you will need a spare bedroom and the ability to transport a child to school.

You might be single or living with your partner, male or female, part of the LGBT community and from any ethnic background. You may be 25 or 65. You could be living in rented accommodation or buying your own home.

Normal people foster everyday and make a huge difference. Could you give a child a home? Contact Alpha Plus Fostering today.