Fostering information event aims to bust myths!

Fostering a child can be one of the most amazing, rewarding and wonderful things you will ever do. However, some people rule themselves out because of common myths about what makes someone eligible to be a foster carer.

Alpha Plus Fostering, an independent fostering agency, currently has a ‘huge need’ to recruit more carers in Lancashire.

To help dispel some of the common misconceptions, they are holding an information event in Bamber Bridge on Saturday, September 15.

There will be a presentation with general information before visitors will have the chance to speak to experienced foster carers, social workers and support workers. Information booths will provide details on specific areas, including fostering siblings and financial support.

Alpha Plus - Our Foster Carers Graham and Anne-Marie

Graham and Anne-Marie Whittle have been fostering with Alpha Plus for six years but initially worried they wouldn’t be accepted.

“We felt that as we had not had children of our own we would not be suitable as foster parents,” said the couple, who are now 61 and 53 years old.

“But due to our other life skills and professional experience Alpha Plus were happy we had the right skills.

“If we had known how rewarding the experience was we would have become foster carers a lot earlier in life.”

 

So, what are some of the common myths surrounding fostering?

Myth 1 – ‘I’m too old to foster’

You do need to be over 21 to be a carer but there is no upper age limit.

Myth 2 – ‘I can’t afford to foster’

You do not need lots of money to foster. Foster children don’t need financially rich carers. You also receive an allowance if you choose to foster full time.

Myth 3 – ‘Renting rules me out’

Not owning your own home doesn’t mean you can’t foster but your landlord will need to provide the agency with permission. You must also have a spare bedroom.

Myth 4 – ‘Being single means I can’t be a foster carer’

Foster carers don’t need to be in relationships. In fact, agencies welcome applications from single people.

Myth 5 – ‘I don’t have the right qualifications’

No qualifications are required to become a foster carer, just some experience with and understanding of children.

Myth 6 – ‘I’m ruled out because English is my second language’

You must speak fluent English but it doesn’t have to be your first language. You also need to be a British citizen or have permanent leave to stay in the UK.

Children's Rainbow

Lancashire County Council is currently Alpha Plus’ biggest referring local authority. In the first half of 2018 it referred an average of 71 children per month to the agency. That is 71 vulnerable children looking for a safe place in Lancashire where they can live a normal, stable family life.

Alpha Plus Fostering’s information event is being held from 11am to 2pm on Saturday, September 15, at Valley Church Coffee Shop, Fourfields, Bamber Bridge.

To book your place visit alphaplusfostering.co.uk/fostering-information-event

Anyone who is interested in fostering but is unable to make the event can visit alphaplusfostering.co.uk/contact-us  and ask carer engagement officer Nicky to send an information pack or arrange an informal call.

Fostering children with additional needs

More than 65,000 children live with foster families in the UK each day. Each of those families provides a fostered child or group of children with a loving stable home which will help them to learn and grow and increase their chances of successfully transitioning into adulthood.

Across the UK, every 20 minutes a child or young person comes into care needing a foster family. Many of them have had a very difficult start in life and for some this is compounded by having special educational needs. One of the greatest challenges facing this particular group with additional needs is recruiting more foster carers with the skills and experience to help positively transform their lives.

At Alpha Plus Fostering we work with families who care for children with special educational needs, offering training and support to help them provide the best environment for young people. We want to be able to give these children the very best possible home environment to help them to thrive and be happy.

One of our carers Theresa specialises in helping children with additional needs and specifically autistic children who need specialist care at every stage of their development.

 

Here is Theresa’s story

Having fostered for eight years, Theresa Owen has provided a safe home for several young people. Theresa currently looks after two autistic children, a brother and sister aged seven and five, and they have made remarkable progress in her care.

After caring for her niece, who has special needs, from a young age, Theresa requested that she be considered as a carer for children with learning disabilities by Alpha Plus. The two siblings were the first autistic children Theresa has cared for and acquiring the skills to take care of them has been challenging and rewarding experience.

“It is so fulfilling to see them overcome challenges. Their smiles and delight when they do something new is amazing – if gets me emotional”, Theresa says, adding “Alpha Plus have been amazing; you can contact them at any time on their 24 hour hotline and their team will do anything to help. I requested specialist training when I put myself forward as a carer for autistic children and they were happy to provide it.”

 

Theresa is doing an incredible job with the children in her care; they continue to make huge amounts of progress, they are settled in school, are communicating at a higher level that was ever believed possible and their laughter fills whichever room they are in. Theresa was recently awarded one of our Every Day Heroes award for the incredible commitment she has shown to these two children. She is a credit to Alpha Plus!

 

If you want to find out more about fostering children with additional needs then call Nicky for an informal chat on Freephone 08082849211

The Role of a Foster Carer

What does the day to day role of a foster carer include?

As a foster carer with Alpha Plus, you are working with a team of people to improve the well-being of children living with you. These people include social workers, health professionals, school staff, therapists, birth families and other foster carers.

Your day to day responsibilities include:

  • Providing a safe, comfortable home
  • Giving the child or young person time and attention
  • Including them in family activities such as days out and holidays
  • Encouraging hobbies, interests and social interactions
  • Providing a healthy lifestyle and nutritional meals
  • Encouraging their learning and achievement in schools
  • Following the child’s care plan
  • Participating in regular training
  • Being available for planned and unforeseen meetings and events
  • Working with the child’s birth family
  • Recording information on the child or young person’s progress
  • Keeping information confidential

It is important when considering fostering to remember the impact this will have on the wider family network, especially any birth children, who will now need to share the love and attention of their parents with another child.

Looking after someone else’s child is not the same as looking after a birth child. In all likeliness the environment which these children have come from will be vastly different to the one you will be providing. Children in care will often exhibit behaviours – which many foster carers may not have encountered before – as a way of coping with the changes they face. As such it is important for the protection of the child, the carer and their family, that a daily log is kept which details the events occurring throughout the day. This is then regularly reviewed by the Supervising Social Worker and any issues are discussed.

There will be several meetings about the welfare of the child which will require your attendance. It will be your responsibility alongside our Educational Support Officer to ensure the child attends school on a regular basis and you will have to attend school meetings to discuss the child’s progress. You will also be responsible for the overall health and wellbeing of the child.

In many instances it will be the right thing for the foster child to have contact with their own family. If this is the case we will need you to help maintain this contact for as long as it is deemed suitable. You may find that feelings arise about the child’s family but these should be put to one side in the interest of the child.

 

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.