Ramadan and Eid Festival Explained: Information for Carers

Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide and is regarded as a blessed month, which is observed on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. There are five basic rules in Islam which all Muslims must follow. These are known as The Five Pillars of Islam. Ramadan symbolises one of the Five Pillars and is referred to as ‘Sawm’, meaning the “Fasting during the month of Ramadan”.

At the beginning of the fasting month, Muslims will greet each other with ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ as a celebratory term. The fasting month lasts for 29-30 days each year however this is not set as fixed date, such as Christmas celebrated on the 25th of December yearly.  In order to observe Ramadan at the correct time, Muslims seek advice from their local Mosque who confirm the start and end date of the fasting period which is at dawn and sunset.

Who participates in fasting and why?

It is compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, as long as they are healthy.  Many children complete fasts to practice for later life.  There are some exemptions for fasting which may include;

  • Travelling long distances
  • Menstruation for women
  • Severe illness
  • Pregnancy and breast feeding

Advice can to taken from the local Mosque to discuss individual needs if you are unsure about your circumstances. A person who is fasting is expected to refrain from consuming all foods, liquids and abstain from smoking and sexual activity from dawn until sunset.

Ramadan is set aside as a time for reflection and increased worship. Many Muslims will visit their local Mosque more frequently, perform regular prayers, read The Quran (Holy Book) and give to charity and/or volunteer for a good cause. Ramadan is regarded as a blessed month. It helps Muslims to develop self-control, acknowledge God’s Blessings and encourages one to have greater compassion towards others, especially the deprived.

Fasting timetable

A typical routine for a person fasting includes awaking before Sunrise to eat a meal of their choice. This is known as ‘sahoor’ or ‘sehri’. The first prayer then commences after breakfast. Sunrise times differ depending on where you live in the UK and the month Ramadan falls on. This year Ramadan is in the month of May/June 2019, therefore Sunrise is at approximately 2am.  Muslims tend to return back to sleep once they have prayed and eaten before sunrise, so to preserve their energy before they continue their daily routine of work / school / college etc.

Towards the end of the day a meal is prepared prior to sunset.  Many friends and families arrange a gathering to break their fast together.  Traditionally, once the time of sunset has arrived which is known as ‘iftar’, the first food item eaten is a date. This is also the time for the fourth prayer of the day.  In total there are five prayers observed throughout the day. Many local Mosques can provide you with a timetable of sunset and sunrise times for the fasting period, which makes it easier for any person to follow.  Generally, men are expected to attend the Mosque to observe these prayers. It is optional for women to attend and not all Mosques cater for female worshipers.

Eid Festival

Once the month of fasting is complete, Eid is celebrated. Eid is a religious festival which is held on the first day following the end of Ramadan.  On this day, Muslims wear their best outfits, usually traditional clothing. Muslims visit their local Mosque to observe Eid prayer, after which they will greet each other with ‘Eid Mubarak’ meaning Happy Eid.  Once home the family get together to have traditional sweets and breakfast.  Throughout the day many will receive visitors of close friends and relatives, gifts and share food.

How to support a Muslim child/young person in foster care:

  • Support a child/young person in identifying their local Mosque. It is the young person’s choice if they wish to attend the Mosque.
  • Provide a Prayer Mat
  • Provide a Quran
  • Provide a Hijab (Head Scarf) for females and a Mosque Hat for males. A child/young person will choose if and when they want to wear this.
  • There are multiple Islamic channels available via TV networks such as Sky or Virgin which a young person may choose to watch to support their faith, especially during Ramadan and Eid. For instance, British Muslim TV sky 845.
  • Provide fresh dates for a child or young person to break their fast. This is a very symbolic.
  • Provide a Halal diet – Halal meat can be easily obtained from most supermarkets, however can also be purchased at specific Halal butchers. Standard dairy produce can be consumed such as milk, cheese and eggs.
  • Provide a meal of the child/young person’s choice once their fast is broken. This may consist of a cultural dish such bread, rice, chicken curry, kebab’s, samosas etc. This meal needs to be high in protein, carbs, fats and dairy so to ensure the young person is still receiving the recommended daily nutrients, to take them through the fasting period.
  • Eid is a very significant time in the Islamic faith and is one of the most celebrated festivities of the year. This occasion must be marked by having sweet treats such as baklava, kheer (rice pudding) and halwa (a semolina pudding). However western sweets are also enjoyed such as cookies, cakes and chocolate treats.

NFA Group Collaborate with Children and Foster Carers to Record Song Raising Awareness of Need for Additional 8,000 Carers

We’re excited to announce that NFA Group has collaborated with children and foster carers on the recording of an original new song which aims to raise awareness for fostering. We hope that the song will help to encourage people to start a career in foster care – with the UK currently in need of an additional 8,000* foster families.

More than 200 children and foster carers helped with the creation and production of the song, capturing the emotions felt by many foster children and the impact foster carers can have on the lives of vulnerable young people.

 

 

Named ‘The Light and The Calm’, the special song was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London by an ensemble of more than 40 children and foster carers, as part of our campaign to support The Fostering Network’s annual Foster Care Fortnight.

Find out how the song came to be and, more importantly, give it a listen, below.

Why We Wrote and Recorded ‘The Light and The Calm’

At NFA Group, we’re all about promoting the positive impact fostering has on the lives of children and young people in care. As part of our efforts to support this year’s Foster Care Fortnight event, which is themed around ‘Change a Future’, we wanted to do something that shouted about the importance of fostering – and help find the 8,000 foster families which are urgently needed.

Music is one of the best ways to convey emotions, ideas and important messages. It gives people a voice and allows them to express their feelings in a powerful and emotional way. It also helps people tell their story and make sense of experiences – something which we believe is hugely important for children in care.

 

 

David Leatherbarrow, CEO of NFA Group, commented: “Our song captures the important role and positive impact fostering has on many vulnerable children and how it can truly help transform young lives. Foster carers are trained and skilled experts in their field and provide an exceptional service to local communities, opening not only their home but also their heart to children in need and local to them.”

In the words of one of the foster carers who joined us at Abbey Road, the song is “a touching message about how fostering changes lives for the better”, adding that it was “a privilege to be involved”.

How ‘The Light and The Calm’ Came to Be

The story of ‘The Light and The Calm’ began back in November 2018, when NFA Group’s Emma Finch, Dan Rowles and other members of our marketing team landed on the idea of writing and recording a song to promote fostering for Foster Care Fortnight.

From the outset, we wanted the song to capture the real stories and emotions of those who have experienced fostering, and so reached out to our foster families for ideas on what the lyrics should be. We asked foster children, young people and foster carers ‘what does fostering mean to you?’, and our community responded in earnest – with over 150 people sending us their ideas about the song and what the key messages should be.

 

 

After compiling all the different lyrics and ideas which had come through from our foster families, Emma and Dan were tasked with sitting down and putting the song. When the song was finished, we took six young people to the Redwall Studios in Bolton to record the song for the first time, so that we could make changes and get the melody right before travelling to London to make the official recording.

From here, we spent a couple of weeks organising for the big day, which was scheduled for early April. We met with the ‘We Can Sing’ choir, who contributed to the backing vocals on the finished track, and ran a competition asking children to design a cover for the single – the winner of which will soon to be announced.

On 6 April 2019, we accompanied an ensemble of children and foster carers to London’s famous Abbey Road Studio, where the likes of The Beatles, Ed Sheeran, Adele and Oasis have all recorded. Recording our song in the same room as these famous bands and artists was a special and surreal experience for everyone involved, and we’re incredibly proud of the end result.

Since recording the song, we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve had from everyone involved in its creation. Here, Emma tells us about some of the feedback she’s had from our fostering community:

“The project has had results beyond anything we would have expected or hoped for. I have read so many emails and Facebook posts from our carers, saying how much this project has changed their life and the children’s lives. People have told us it was their dream to go to Abbey Road, and we made it come true. Others have said talking about music has helped their young person open up for the first time – which really sums up what an amazing experience it has been, and reinforces what the whole song is about.”

What Next for Our ‘The Light and The Calm’ Campaign

We’re proud of everyone who has been involved in the writing and recording of ‘The Light and The Calm’ and want our song to be shared far and wide to spread the message of fostering. With your help, we can help raise awareness of the importance of fostering and support The Fostering Network’s Foster Care Fortnight campaign, so please share the song with your friends and family on social media.

 

 

Foster Care Fortnight 2019 will take place from 13 to 26 May, and during the event, we plan to launch our ‘8,000 Seconds’ campaign, in which we try to collect 8,000 seconds of footage of people singing or dancing to ‘The Light and The Calm’ – the same number of seconds for every new foster carer that we need across the UK.

Vicky Dobson, NFA Group’s Head of Marketing, concludes: “We are committed to dreaming big, both for the children in our care, our foster families and our employees. Creating a unique song with such a significant message and objective is hugely satisfying, but being able to offer a unique opportunity such as recording the song at Abbey Road to our fostering families was exceptionally rewarding. We have equally big aspirations for the song later this year and are looking forward to sharing more details with you in the future.”

Remember – sharing our special foster care song will help raise the profile of fostering, helping us to recruit new carers while spreading the message of how it can transform young lives. For more information about our foster care services, visit the homepage or call us today on0808 284 9211.

*6,800 in England, 550 in Scotland, 550 in Wales, and 200 in Northern Ireland. Source:

https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/media-release/2018/urgent-need-over-8000- new-foster-families-across-uk-year

What Are Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Autism spectrum disorders affect around 700,000 people in the UK, meaning that over 2.8 million people have a family member on the autism spectrum. It’s a lifelong condition that affects how people interact with others, and it can be mild or serious depending on where the person sits on the spectrum.

For families with an autistic child, everyday life can be a real challenge. Autism affects how children see, hear and feel the world around them, and different people will need different support depending on how the condition affects them.

Because autism is a spectrum condition, every child experiences it differently – and this can make it challenging for those who care for them. Foster carers can sometimes find it difficult to offer the right kind of support to autistic children in their care due to their different needs.

But, small changes and a better understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can make a big difference for foster carers supporting children with autism. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on ASD – giving foster carers the help and information they need to provide the right kind of support to an autistic child in their care.

Quick Links:

What is Autism and How Is It Defined?

Autism spectrum disorder is defined as a developmental condition that affects how people view the world around them. It’s a lifelong condition that children have from birth, and, because it’s not an illness or disease, it can’t be cured.

Autism is very common, with 1 in 100 people on the autistic spectrum. Signs and symptoms of the condition vary from person to person, which is why an early diagnosis is so important for children with ASD.

For many autistic children, the condition causes the most difficulty when they’re interacting with other people. Everyday interactions can be overwhelming, and they can struggle to build a rapport with those around them – even their closest friends and family.

Diagnosing ASD early is important to ensure children get the developmental support they need from a young age. However, because it’s not a physical condition, autism can be very difficult to spot, and many people often mistake the signs for behaviours that a child will grow out of.

Diagnosing autism is very complicated, requiring many tests to define where the child sits on the spectrum. Depending on the outcome, autism specialists will suggest strategies to help the child live life to the fullest.

What Are the Most Common Signs of ASD in Children?

While children exhibit ASD in many different ways, most autistic people share common behavioural traits. As a foster carer, understanding these traits could help you identify autistic behaviours in your child.

Here, we look at the five behavioural traits which children with autism may exhibit.

Social Communication

Autistic children can find it difficult to interpret both verbal and non-verbal communication, such as tone of voice, hand gestures, facial expressions, humour and emotions. They may also struggle to communicate verbally or non-verbally. For this reason, autism specialists often suggest sign language or visual symbols as a way of communicating clearly with very young autistic children.

Social Interaction

Given the communication problems touched on above, many autistic children struggle to interact with others. They can easily misinterpret another person’s feelings, meaning or intentions, and can appear insensitive. They may seek time alone and become ‘overloaded’ by social situations, or may talk at length about their own interests, dismissing customary forms of conversation and interaction.

Repetitive Behaviour and Routines

Because autistic children can find new situations stressful and overwhelming, they sometimes enjoy a set daily routine. This helps them avoid unpredictable scenarios in which they can become confused and anxious. Even simple things like requesting the exact same breakfast every morning could indicate autistic traits.

Highly-Focused Interests

Many autistic children develop highly-focused interests from a young age – it could be music, drawing, animals, or a particular colour. Often, the interest may be unusual, and this can cause problems at school or make it difficult for them to make friends. As with repetitive behaviour, children often become fixated on a particular subject because that’s what makes them the happiest and most comfortable.

Over or Under Sensitive

Autistic children may experience sensory sensitivity, in which they grow over or under-sensitive to taste, touch, sounds, light, colour or pain. The most common type of over-sensitivity is sound, in which quiet background noises become overwhelming and difficult to block out. Whatever they become sensitive too, it’s important to avoid this where possible as continued exposure can cause anxiety or, in some cases, physical pain.

Remember, children exhibit autistic traits in many different ways, so it’s important to make a note of any behaviour you find unconventional and seek a professional diagnosis if you are concerned.

Support Strategies for Foster Carers, Parents and Guardians

Caring for a child with autism can be challenging. There are, however, several recognised strategies that can help you provide the right help and support to your child – and we’ve touched on a couple of these below.

SPELL

SPELL is the National Autistic Society’s framework for responding positively to children on the autism spectrum. It stands for Structure, Positive approaches and expectations, Empathy, Low arousal, and Links. Basically, SPELL emphasises the need to change our approach to autism, so that we can provide the right support, help, communication and interaction to everyone on the autism spectrum – whether they have ADHD or Asperger syndrome.

TEACCH

Like SPELL, TEACCH is recognised by the National Autistic Society as one of the most positive strategies parents and carers can use when interacting with an autistic child. TEACCH stands for Teaching, Expanding, Appreciating, Collaborating, and Holistic, and it prioritises building understanding around the ‘culture of autism’ and the use of visual structures to aid development, learning and communication.

Social Stories

One of the newest coping strategies recommended by the National Autistic Society, Social Stories is a series of visual stories, created by Carol Gray, which aim to help autistic children understand social situations through visual learning. Since they were released in 1991, Social Stories have proved extremely helpful in developing greater social understanding for autistic people, and families are encouraged to create their own comic strips and storyboards to help children develop their social skills.

Helpful Resources

There are lots of resources available online offering advice on how to provide help and support to children with autism. Here, we list our recommended resources for foster families:

  • National Autistic Society – The UK’s primary autism charity, offering a broad range of information and advice, as well as a confidential helpline.
  • Resources for Autism – A registered charity which aims to provide practical services for children and young people with autism.
  • Child Autism UK – The UK’s largest dedicated charity for children with autism, offering a range of support guides and advice for children and their families.
  • NHS autism support groups hub – The NHS’s autism support hub, which can help families find support groups and services in their local area.

At Alpha Plus Fostering, we provide complete training and support to all our foster carers, so they can provide an effective and supportive home for children with autism.

For more information on how to foster with us, register your interest here or call us today on 0808 284 9211 .

Bridge to Foster — Working with Lancashire Council

Kids running up long stretch of road

In Lancashire, there are a number of young people desperate to be given a chance of family life who aren’t quite ready for standard foster placements. If we don’t meet their needs, with special types of foster carers, then residential care is their only available option.

To keep these young people out of children’s homes, we need carers with the skills and resilience to help them, backed up by enhanced, specialist support.

Imagine a child who has only ever been failed or rejected — when they act up or test boundaries, it’s to see if they’re going to be let down once more.

It’s important to understand their behavior is rooted in previous experience, not an inherent need to be difficult or challenging.

These young people are not beyond help or broken — but they need extra support, love and patience, in order to hopefully thrive.

Which children are affected?

There are three main cohorts of young people identified as potentially suitable for Step Down into Fostering:

  • Those who ideally shouldn’t have been placed in residential care in the first place — but were, due to unavoidable shortage of suitable placements
  • Those in residential as part of their intended care plan during support and assessment phases but who are now ready to transition to a foster family
  • Much less common but still valid — those not currently in residential care but expected to be imminently unless a suitable placement is secured

Overall, it’s currently about a 50:50 split between pre-teens (9-12) and older (13-15) — mainly boys but this may change in future.

And unfortunately, once any child is placed in residential care, it’s almost as though the clock is ticking.

While there are many exceptional children’s homes, they represent a higher risk of young people becoming institutionalised or led astray than a family environment.

Every effort is made to give those in residential care all they need — but if a child has a chance at a loving family home, we want to give them that.

Put simply, it’s our aim that any child who can be supported in a fostering placement will be.

Happy single mother laughing piggybacking little girl at home, smiling mom and daughter having fun playing looking at camera, cute sincere adopted kid embracing new mommy head shot portrait

How does Step Down into Fostering Work?

A successful foster family placement will always be the best outcome for the child, the social worker and the Local Authority.

But to make sure this happens in these more specialist instances, a proactive, enhanced approach is required.

Once a young person has been included in the Step Down into Foster programme and a suitable carer has been found, there’ll be a window of introduction.

This period of two to four weeks will involve introductions between foster parents and children as well as specific training on the child’s needs.

The enhanced support related to these placements includes clinical therapeutic provision for carers and tailored training to the needs of the placement.

There is also the potential for more frequent contact with supporting social workers, even on a daily basis if required.

Adjusted allowances may also reflect the extra challenges presented in certain circumstances.

From the Council’s point-of-view, we’re committed to prioritising these placements, receiving regular progress updates and addressing issues as they arise.

If there are any unforeseen problems, providers will have fast access to someone on the local authority team who can support.

How successful is Step Down into Fostering?

We’ve seen even better results with the programme than we expected since it was implemented.

Every single placement that has incorporated the proper preparation period has gone on to be a successful one.

Unfortunately, these successes are only based on smaller numbers so far and we need to show that Step Down into Fostering can be scaled up.

And for that, we need more carers who are strong, resilient and can give a young person a sense of peace and ultimately, belonging.

It’s not easy at first — maybe you’ll need to show love and understanding with zero expectation of getting it returned.

And maybe you won’t be their ‘forever family’ — but after several months, or a year — you could be the reason they ultimately find one.

A Step Down into Fostering role will never be simple — but considering how the children are starting to thrive — it’s an immensely rewarding one.

Foster Care Woman and Boy Child Talking inside a retro home

Who can be a step down foster parent?

Experienced carers who have successfully completed challenging placements before are obviously well placed to help these vulnerable young people.

And to make sure we give the children the best possible chance, we’ll always consider carers that aren’t immediately available, if they’ve got the skills needed.

But experience of fostering isn’t a prerequisite — evidence suggests that exceptional people from sectors such as education or therapy are suitable.

We’ll always aim to place a young person as close to home as their care plan allows but if there’s a viable placement further afield, we may well consider this.

To give these children a chance at family life instead of residential care is only possible with heroes like these carers — and we need more.


 

To learn more about Bridge to Foster placements contact us on 0808 284 9218 to discuss further.

Anette McNeill is the Policy, Information and Commissioning Manager at Lancashire County Council.

NFA Group is proud to be a selected tier one provider of the specialist types of foster carers required for Step Down into Fostering.

To learn more about Bridge to Foster placements contact us on 0808 284 9218 to discuss further.

Anette McNeill is the Policy, Information and Commissioning Manager at Lancashire County Council.

Understanding the fostering placement matching process

Young girl talking to a counsellor at home

Placement social worker Melissa provides an introductory explanation of how foster placement matching works.

When you’re approved to become a foster parent, it’s an exciting time — you’re a step closer to changing not just your life but those of vulnerable children.

But to ensure your placement is as positive an experience as possible for you, your family — and each young person — the matching process is an important step.

What happens after my panel assessment?

After panel, an Agency Decision Maker (ADM) will use the minutes and recommendations from the panel meeting to make the final call on approval.

Once a positive decision has been made, we’ll check again their availability to start accepting placements.

For sibling groups particularly, the shortage of suitable homes means that ‘the sooner the better’ applies for new carers.

But the best placement is more important than the fastest one — and holidays, notice periods and other domestic changes can all delay a carer’s start date.

Once you’re ready to welcome a young person into your home, referrals from the local authority will be assessed for the most appropriate match.

You’ll also be introduced to your supervising social worker (SSW), who will complete a comprehensive and helpful induction with you.

Woman answer questions of outreach worker with paper in door

And you’ll typically be given a ‘buddy’ — a more experienced carer who can offer help and advice during your introduction to fostering.

How are foster placement matches decided?

Successful matching will always depend on good assessments, high levels of information sharing and careful decision making.

Ultimately, the strongest potential matches will be based on whether the skills and experience of the carer meet the assessed developmental needs of the child.

Huge importance is placed on understanding each young person’s situation before matching, so information gathering about them is vital.

We find out as much possible — both from a positive and potentially negative point-of-view — to help inform the matching process, such as:

  • Pre-care history
  • Age
  • Ethnicity and cultural needs
  • Language barriers
  • Details of previous placements (number, duration, reasons for ending)
  • Developmental needs (health, education, emotional and behavioural)
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Special needs due to disability (physical or learning)
  • Any behaviours displayed, triggers and potential risks

All of these aspects will be discussed with the foster parent prior to a placement starting, so they’re fully aware and better prepared.

Some carers will have been exposed to the realities and rewards of helping young people, through close friends and relatives who foster.

Family are having a water fight together with water pistols in the garden.

When the referrals team comes to assess a new foster parent, important factors considered during the fostering matching process will typically include:

  • Household dynamics (pets, other family members — particularly birth children or grandchildren)
  • Carer attributes and temperament
  • Transferrable skills
  • Capacity for empathy
  • Resilience
  • Potential for further development and training
  • Transport capabilities

Location and travel can play a big part in matching, as logistics are important — especially for school runs with younger children.

Often, it’s a requirement that a child continues at their current education provision and maintains any contact agreements they may have.

Although the team can specify a distance radius, carers can feed into this themselves, as their knowledge of local traffic and transport is more accurate.

Mother fastening child safety seat belt in the car

Any wishes and circumstances you express during the matching process will also be taken into account.

Provided you agree with the match once you’re satisfied you’ve been given the relevant information you need, your SSW will be informed of the decision.

An offer will be sent to the child’s local authority and their social worker will ultimately make the final decision over the matching process.

Do children have any say in placement matching?

Ideally, a young person will have the opportunity to visit their potential new home beforehand but some emergency placements mean this isn’t always achievable.

Most importantly, we’ll always conduct any fostering placement in line with the National Minimum Standards (NMS) for Fostering Services.

The ‘wishes and feelings’ section states that any fostered children must:

‘…know that their views, wishes and feelings are taken into account in all aspects of their care; are helped to understand why it may not be possible to act upon their wishes in all cases; and know how to obtain support and make a complaint.’

But regardless of NMS legislation, our priority is to ensure young people aren’t ignored or marginalised during fostering placement matching.

What happens next?

Throughout any placement, you’ll receive unrivalled support and your feedback will help shape the matching process for your next placement if required.

If your preferences as a foster parent change based on your experience and confidence gained, these will all be taken into account.

Hopefully this has made the fostering matching process clearer but if you’ve any questions, please contact our helpful team online or call 0808 284 9211.

Screen Time Guidelines

The Chief Medical Advisers to the government have studied independent research carried out by University College London, on ‘screen-based activities’, including watching videos online, social media use, gaming and similar activities, in connection to the mental health of children and young people.

What does the guidance recommend parents do?

There are several clear steps for parents, which the chief medical officers say will help keep children safe and healthy.

These include:

  • not using phones and mobile devices at the dinner table – talking as a family is very important for development
  • keeping screens out of the bedroom at bedtime
  • talking as a family about keeping safe online and about cyber-bulling and what children should do if they are worried
  • not using phones when crossing a road or doing any other activity that requires a person’s full attention
  • making sure children take a break from screens every two hours by getting up and being active
  • policing their own use too – parents should give their children proper attention and quality family time and never assume they are happy for pictures to be shared

 

UK Medical Advice

 

They also added that industry must do more to keep children safe. The evidence does not prove a clear link between screen-based activities and mental health conditions. But children are being exposed to inappropriate content, sadly highlighted by the link between Instagram and the suicide of Molly Russell.

Digital technologies can be a force for good, aiding online learning, socialising and helping people manage health conditions.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical adviser wants to see technology companies invest in systems that properly vet the ages of users – a number of platforms require users to be 13 but these were not properly policed, she said.

The guidance is also critical of what it calls “persuasive design”. This refers to techniques used to encourage addictive behaviour, including collecting likes and rewards for performing actions such as sharing pictures.

She would like social media companies to develop better algorithms to push positive content to users. For example, when people search for “Self-harm” or “suicide”, should generate content that promotes help-lines and where to go for support.

Facebook has welcomed the guidance and said it wants people to be safe online. Twitter has introduced 70 changes in 2018 to provide healthier and safer content.

The ThinkUKnow website is the online education programme from the National Crime Agency with age appropriate content for Children and adults: https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk

There’s also helpful tips for children, young people and adults at https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/

So glad we kept sisters together | Fostering siblings

Kids petting horse behind gate

To mark Fostering February, we asked Michael to tell his story of 12 months since fostering siblings.

It’s just over a year since we welcomed sisters M__ and E__ into our home — in the early hours of one winter morning.

Coming from an inner city environment, the girls were understandably unsure at first about our countryside location.

Today, they’re perfectly happy outdoors or playing with our ‘pack’ of four pugs — and are now living with us as a permanent placement.

Pugs running in snow

But we didn’t get to this point as a family overnight — once me and my wife Louise decided we wanted to foster, we had a lot of research to do.

Starting our fostering siblings journey

One of our oldest friends has been a foster parent for years, so we knew what a difference it could make to vulnerable children.

When we started looking into it, we spoke to a number of IFA’s — but it wasn’t until we got in touch with our current agency that it felt ‘right’.

They gave the impression of a ‘family’ environment — friendly contact, helpful information and a lovely initial visit.

It’s been a learning curve — we were apprehensive about our final panel meeting but needn’t have been.

Same with the first LAC meeting we went to — lots of new people, plenty to take in — but not scary at all once you’re there.

And we quickly revised our initial aim not to foster anyone older than our sons, R__ and M__, instead deciding to assess placements on their own merits.

We’re glad we did, as the girls are benefitting from having brothers — and vice versa — plus the age gaps aren’t that big anyway.

Kids being pushed in a swing

Although neither of the girls were in education when they came to us, we got to work enrolling them in local schools.

While waiting for their places to be confirmed, I was able to spend time with them — I’m self employed and mainly work from home.

And although time with the dogs and enjoying various craft activities was great, it was a relief when the girls were able to join their new schools.

Both sisters have flourished — especially considering how much school they’ve missed out on — and E__ is predicted top grades in every subject.

Making new memories – keeping siblings together

It’s not all work though, we’re a very ‘doing’ family — all of the kids have had a go at steering our canal boat during trips away.

Kids playing in the snow

And you’ll often find me up above the treetops — I’ve got a microlight aircraft and also fly powered parachutes.

Louise and I both qualified as pilots years ago in the US and we love getting up high and enjoying the views of Rutland Water and the surrounding countryside.

E__ has already been up for a flight — and we’re even working on persuading our social worker to strap in when she visits during warmer weather!

And now we’ve sorted out the girls’ passports, we can’t wait for our first family holiday abroad — Sri Lanka this Easter.

Giving more children a chance

This last year has been fantastic — the girls are as good as gold and we love them to bits — I would recommend fostering to anyone.

The training has been excellent, we’ve been given all the support we’ve needed and everyone we’ve met has been a huge help.

And our social worker Paula is great — nothing is ever too much trouble for her — but she’s also the one who told us the most heartbreaking thing.

Kids walking in snow

At the ‘Skills to Foster’ course we attended, we found out not only how many kids need help — but also how many a month unfortunately can’t be placed.

Louise and I were lucky to have the childhoods we did — and we’ve done what we can to make sure the girls have the best we can give them.

But it’s important to share our experience — so other people will see how much the girls have enriched our family by coming to live with us.

And hopefully someone will be inspired to change a vulnerable young person’s life — and change their own at the same time.

There’s no better time than now, during Fostering February.

If you’d like to know more about how you could help brothers and sisters who need each other stay together, please contact us online or ring 0808 284 9211

7 lessons I’ve learnt from introverted children

Caring for introvert children

If you care for a quiet, shy or ‘less sociable’ young person, this knowledge gained working with foster parents who care for introverted children may help you support them.

Courtesy of NFA North West training manager Kath Hamblett.

 

1. Introverts aren’t aloof

Some children may exclude themselves simply because they’re frightened of forming an attachment.

If you’ve often been let down by adults, the relative sanctuary of your bedroom may feel more solid than promises made by ‘new’ people.

Carers can refer to their training — particularly the importance of sensitivity as detailed in the ‘Secure Base Model‘ to help children manage these feelings.

By tuning into what young people might be feeling, a foster parent can start to understand introvert behaviour and offer the right support.

2. Introverts aren’t boring

A young person might be reluctant to join in or try something new — that doesn’t mean they’re no fun.

They may have been punished or abused for ‘failures’ at tasks and activities in their past — so sticking to the familiar makes sense.

The empathy to see that a lack of participation doesn’t always mean a lack of ambition or ability is an important carer attribute.

And by being patient and encouraging, they can give a young person the best chance to explore how much they want to ‘join in’.

3. Introverts can reach out

Take opportunities to establish (and build on) trust whenever these are presented if possible.

If a child wants to play lego with you rather than go to bed, maybe some shared bonding over bricks would be more beneficial than a strict routine at that time.

By allowing such interaction, you can provide a safe space for a young person to play, explore and share with you.

And as the relationship develops and trust grows, it should become easier to introduce clearer defined routines.

4. Introverts aren’t robots

A perceived lack of emotion may not tell the whole story — some children simply haven’t known a nurturing environment to help them understand their feelings.

If a young person hasn’t learnt what an emotion means, they may not even know if they’re mad/sad/glad/scared — let alone how to express this.

Be there for them and leave no doubt that they’re a member of your family, to develop a sense of belonging.

As the young person becomes more comfortable with their environment, they may learn how to recognise and express emotions by seeing others do so.

5. Introverts aren’t broken

You don’t need to ‘fix’ an introverted young person by keeping them permanently occupied or frequently placing them in social situations.

Sometimes, quiet or alone time is hugely valuable — especially for children who need time to process a lot of unfamiliar information.

A new home, new family, new school — even new feelings — can be a lot to deal with — so be available but recognise the value of space.

If you can give this support, a young person can start to associate that solitude with reflection, rather than exclusion or punishment.

6. Introverts may have history

When involving an introvert in a group or family event, consider that you may need to manage expectations.

Just because a party or barbecue means a good time for most, such occasions could have different associations for a looked-after child.

Violenceneglect, abuse — be aware that something most people look forward to may be linked to a previous bad experience for a young person.

So they may appear more anxious than excited at the prospect of a get-together, particularly one with lots of people, alcohol or an unfamiliar location.

Address concerns by explaining what goes on at such occasions in your family — and maybe even dig out a photo from a previous similar event.

7. Introverts may need ‘guesswork’

An introverted child’s lack of visible confidence may go hand-in-hand with not understanding consequences.

When kids are told ‘don’t run with scissors’, ‘hold hands to cross the road’ and ‘take off coats indoors’ — they learn about cause and effect.

But without this understanding of reasons for actions, a young person may not understand why they’re being asked to do (or not do) something.

Using ‘guesses’ to prompt them to question themselves can encourage them to understand the causes and outcomes of certain behaviour.

Try phrases like: ‘I guess you wanted to stay in your room rather than eat with us because you’re feeling upset about XXXX’, to start the process.

So… one step at a time

So a child who isn’t the ‘life and soul’ doesn’t need to be forced to change, they need acceptance and availability.

Remember — ‘quiet’ is a subjective term and someone who seems withdrawn at first in your home may be dealing with much more than they’re used to.

Maybe a one-to-one game of cards will be all they can deal with initially — but give them opportunities to learn the value and fun of spending time with others.

With time and luck, the young person will become an important part of your family who can also spend time apart without being seen as rude or sullen.

 

Find out more about the Secure Base programme and other specialist training available for carers by calling 0808 284 9211 or if you prefer, contact us online.

To see when you can talk to some of our friendly staff in person about training and support, see our latest events near you.

Introduction to attachment and foster care | Joe Nee

Expert in attachment theory Joe Nee highlights some of the impact a child’s attachment experience can have on them and their foster families.

As children develop, from conception to adulthood, they need support from those responsible for protecting them during this journey.

When going through the various stages in this developmental process their experience of attachment plays a crucial role.

This continues throughout the young person’s development, from absolute dependence, to independence and autonomy as an adult.

And the different needs of children at each stage demand differing responses from those charged with their care.

Each develops at their own pace — from being unable to let their main carer out of their sight to the ‘terrible twos’, ‘sibling rivalry’ the ‘lazy teenager’ and so on.

Studying how a child attaches to their parents/carers helps us understand how this process is affected by the nature and quality of our early experiences.

This is particularly true of children who have experienced early trauma and/or neglect.

All children need to develop a secure emotional attachment to their parents or their primary/main carer at an early stage.

Stressed young mother sitting on her sofa whilst feeding her baby son. She has her head in her hand and is surrounded by mess

Young people may seem ‘unable’ to learn, or understand consequences, behaving in ways that seem to guarantee they won’t get what they want.

They may even feel responsible for their problems and those of their parents, believing themselves to be ‘bad’ or deserving of punishment.

The quality of the attachment relationship a child develops with their key caregiver is a good indicator of their ability to cope and adapt.

And as the child grows, this relationship means they continue to view this caregiver as a potential source of comfort in any stressful situations.

Unfortunately, this can continue to be the case even if the caregiver proves to be abusive, neglectful, fails to protect them, or their life seems to be in chaos.

For foster parents, this can clearly prove a challenge, as the child seeks comfort and approval from whichever caregiver to whom they have been attached.

The effects of attachment on foster parents

Attachment relationships are a biological inevitability, designed to ensure a child’s protection and survival.

But a child or young person’s ability to attach and form a bond with a caregiver often depends on the type of care they received from others earlier in their life.

It’s important that foster parents get appropriate support to promote healthy attachments for the children and young they care for in their family.

And where young people are removed from birth parents permanently, it’s vital that the appropriate matching and training takes place.

Foster parents looking after children who have disorganised or extremely anxious attachments can experience similar emotional upheaval.

Of course, fostering can be challenging at any time — but the stress involved in caring for some children can have a serious impact on the placement success.

In such situations, support from social and/or professional networks is typically a major factor in alleviating carer stress.

Particularly important is access to timely and effective support from social workers and other professionals.

Research has shown that the absence of this can exacerbate the strain on carers and their families.

Meeting a young person’s needs

Some younger children with a history of maltreatment can respond quickly to changes in their emotional environments, forming secure attachments to carers.

But research and experience tells us that this will not always be the case with certain children.

Some appear to resist support, continue to distrust adults and seem unable to seek care or comfort when distressed.

In these cases, if foster parents wait for a ‘signal’ or sign from a child to provide care, the young person’s needs may remain completely unmet.

We know that looked after children benefit greatly if they can develop secure attachments with their caregivers.

To enable this for those with attachment or trauma issues, foster parents can aim to engage with them at their emotional age (rather than chronological).

In order to ensure that young people with attachment issues are cared for most effectively during foster placements, several measures can help:

  • Capacity of prospective carers to recognise/tolerate difficult behaviour and remain sensitive/responsive to a child’s needs should be evaluated
  • Regular training and support to ensure carers can reflect on a child’s behaviour with reference to their needs rather than react immediately to their behaviour
  • Carer access to reflective space and non-judgmental listening to promote sensitive, responsive care and alleviate the strain on all concerned

Mother and teenage daughter having an argument

Any professionals, including foster parents, who are asked to care for or work with looked after children should have basic but specific training.

This should concern the impact of early attachment issues and trauma on those children.

And the support available should be proactive — not crisis driven or occurring only when stress levels are unacceptable.

Attachment and teenagers

A young person may appear to be settled, happy and thriving in a foster family environment.

But one of the triggers that can disrupt the situation for all concerned can be the onset of puberty.

The stresses and confusion for a young person during this time and their teenage years, can pose problems in terms of changing behaviour.

Another potential influential factor is young people’s vulnerability to harmful external influences.

A teen’s early experiences of mistrust, inappropriate attachment and confusion about relationships can make them an obvious target.

The potential threat of controlling relationships, sexual exploitation or gang associations increase for those with an inability to manage social relationships.

Learn more about attachment

Understanding the impact of attachment and how it can affect the fostering experience for young people and carers is important.

Find out more about the available training and support available by using the bibliography below, contacting Alpha Plus or see further resources on attachment from the Fostering Network.

About the author

Joe Nee is an independent psychology professional with extensive experience in the education and child protection sectors.

He has worked with local authorities, government departments, the police, prisons and voluntary organisations throughout the UK.

As a renowned authority on child protection, families, fostering and adoption, his expertise as a consultant is both insightful and invaluable.

Bibliography

  • Dozier M, Albus K and Bates B (2001) Attachment for infants in foster care: the role of caregiver state of mind, Child Development, 72, 1467-1477
  • Dozier M, Peloso E, Lewis E, Laurenceau J P and Levine S (2008) Effects of an attachment-based intervention on the cortisol production of infants and toddlers in foster care, Dev Psychopathology, 20, 845-859
  • Fonagy,P. and Target, M. (2002) Early Intervention and the Development of Self Regulation. Psychoanalytic Inquiry. V 22,Issue 3
  • Furnival, J. Practice with looked after children and young people IRISS Insights no.10. May 2010
  • Hughes, Dan (2006) Building the Bonds of Attachment
  • Holmes, J (2001) The Search for the Secure Base: Attachment Theory and Psychotherapy. Routledge
  • Hosking G and Walsh I (2005) Wave Report 2005: Violence and what to do about it, Croydon Wave Trust
  • Kochanska G, Barry RA, Stellern SA and O’Bleness JJ (2009) Early Attachment Organization Moderates the Parent Child Mutually Coercive Pathway to Children’s Antisocial Conduct, Child Development, 80, 1288-1300
  • Millward R, Kennedy E, Towlson K and Minnis H (2006) Reactive attachment disorder in looked-after children Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties, 11(4)
  • Steele M (2006) The ‘added value’ of attachment theory and research for clinical work in adoption and foster care, in J Kenrick (ed) Creating New Families Therapeutic approaches to fostering adoption and kinship care, London: Karnac Books
  • WilPerry B and Hambrick E (2008) The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, Reclaiming children and youth,17(3)
  • son K (2006) Can foster carers help children resolve their emotional and behavioural difficulties? Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 11(4), 495-511
  • Zeanah C (2001) Evaluation of a preventive intervention for maltreated infants and toddlers in foster care, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(2), 214-221

The Finances of Fostering

At Alpha Plus we understand that fostering is a huge commitment to make for your family and it may mean you leaving full time employment to enable you to give the time needed to support the child placed with you. This is why we pay generous weekly allowances, to help you with the usual expenses of caring for a child and also in the way of an income to compensate for your hard work and dedication in providing a child with a stable family environment.

 

How much is the fostering allowance and what is it for?

We pay a generous weekly allowance to reflect how much we value our carers and the children they care for. We believe it is important for the children to have a good quality of life and wherever possible the same opportunities and experiences as other children in your family.

As well as including a professional fee for you, the allowance is intended to cover all the needs of the children in your care including food, clothing, travel, hobbies and sports, family activities, savings and more. We will provide guidance on how you can best spend the money so that a child has a healthy, happy and balanced life but we also want you to have the freedom to use the money to support that child in joining in with your normal family life. We therefore won’t dictate to you about what you spend for birthdays, Christmas and holidays as we know that your family will have their own priorities. We want you to be able to treat a looked after child the same as you would your own children.

 

The minimum weekly fees payable are:

Single placement                                            £400.78 per week

Sibling placement                                            £365.73 per week/per child

Mother and baby                                             £597.62 per week

These fees are reviewed annually. The fees may differ for an experienced transferring carer.

It is important to note, this amount is only paid when you have a child in your care, not when you are between placements. We are unable to guarantee a placement at all times so there may be gaps when you do not have a child living with your and therefore times when no allowance is payable.

 

Self Employment and other benefits

As a foster carer you are classed as self-employed for tax and national insurance purposes, so you need to register with HMRC. You may also be able to claim a range of benefits.

Once you are approved you will be given a starter pack with advice on how to go about registering as self employed. You can also gain further support and advice from The Fostering Network. As an approved carer with Alpha Plus you will be entitled to free membership with them and you can visit their website at www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk

As a Foster carer you will be approved rather than employed by us, and this status has a particular effect on means-tested benefits. In the main fostering allowances, when a child is placed with a foster carer, are disregarded when calculating welfare benefits.  Alternatively, foster carers may be able to claim Working Tax Credit because fostering is regarded as ‘work’ by HMRC when they have a child in placement. You will need to contact your local benefits office and relevant agencies to discuss your individual circumstances.

 

Will I be taxed on the allowance?

In general foster carers are exempt from paying tax on the fostering allowance. The exception to this rule would be if you have a number of children living in your care or additional paid employment that would then give you a financial income above the current government guidelines.

To find out more about fostering finances you can visit www.gov.uk or call the newly self employed helpline on 0300 200 3500

 

A fostering allowance example

If you have one child in placement for 52 weeks of the year you will receive a minimum of £20,840 total per year

If you have 2 siblings in placement for 52 weeks of the year, as an example you will receive a minimum £38,035 Total per year

It is also worth noting that higher allowances may be payable to ensure the cost of any additional needs a child might have will be accounted for. For example, autism, disability or specialist behaviours.

 

Dr. Kershaw’s Hospice Colour Blast Run!!

Alpha Plus Colour Blast

On Sunday 23rd September Alpha Plus Fostering took part in one of the most colourful events of the year – Dr Kershaw’s Hospice Colour Blast Run!! The team of ten ran (or walked) around Alexandra Park on Sunday, while being blasted with colourful powdered paint.

Dr Kershaw’s Hospice provides specialist palliative care for adults with non-curable, life-limiting illnesses in a peaceful and homely environment. Palliative care is an area of healthcare that focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients. It’s appropriate for patients at all stages of illness and the hospice serves a population of around 220,000 people drawn from Oldham and surrounding districts.

Upon arrival, music was booming with performers and the crowd singing ‘This Is Me’ at the top of their lungs, bouncy castles and a giant slide drew attention, and the crowds of people were enjoying the entertainment from the stage.

With excitement building in the air, the paint packs had been cracked open and thrown around – people wore wigs, fairy wings and the common favourite; tutus, whilst throwing colourful powder over the heads of those they knew and even those they didn’t! It was particularly fun to turn our Registered Manager, Gill into a blue smurf!

Gill - Colourblast

Before the running shoes were put to work, a group warm-up took place by the stage, where everyone danced to the incredibly well-known, social media frenzy song, ‘Baby Shark’. We might not be the best dancers but we certainly gave it our all.

Then, finally, it was time to get sweaty and covered in paint!! The course consisted of two laps around a quarter of the park, with colour stations distributed evenly around. Thankfully the weather turned out for us and the sky was clear, so it was an enjoyable experience throughout! What a brilliant day we had and for a fantastic cause!

Paint Throwing - Colourblast

For more information and to see how you can get involved with this charity, visit www.drkershawshospice.org.uk

What an INCREDIBLE summer we had!!

This summer we have been blessed with fantastic weather which has allowed us to have a lot of fun with our fostering families and most importantly the children.

Our support worker Linda was extremely busy planning events for everyone to join in and our foster carers came along with their foster children and birth children to get to know other fostering families, to support each other and to most importantly have lots of fun!

Alpha Plus Crocky Trail

We kicked off our summer events at Crocky Trail (http://www.crockytrail.co.uk/), outdoor adventure playground in Cheshire.  The fun started the moment we arrived, with all the rides, the trail and the challenges! As you can see from the photos even our fantastic social workers joined in on the huge slides and we all enjoyed the mile-long walk as you run along the famous trail scrambling through trees, climbing over crooked bridges and swinging a stream!

Alpha Plus Crocky Trail 2

The following week we ventured to the beach at St Anne’s Beach, Lytham. The weather was not as sunny as we would have really liked but we had a great day anyway! We had a picnic on the beach, played rounders and even buried a few children in the sand!

Alpha Plus Beach Day

This was a great day for the children to run free in the fresh air, being creative and having fun while the adults sat chatting and some even joined in with building sandcastles.

Alpha Plus Beach Day 2

Our next adventure took us to Scotsmans Flash

Scotsman Flash 1(http://www.inspiringhealthylifestyles.org/wigan/scotmans.htm) in Wigan where we took the children kayaking!  We all got very wet and so much fun was had by all. Our Social workers, Helen and Cat headed up two teams in two boats and they played games in the water against each other. We had a brilliant instructor who helped the children to have lots of fun. We also went swimming in the lake afterwards.  Later in the day we moved on to Haigh Woodland Park (http://www.haighwoodlandpark.co.uk/) for a game of adventure golf and more fun on dry land! A fantastic day was had by all.

Scotsmans Flash 2

Such a fun packed summer and we are sorry it is over but we know the children have made incredible memories and have had the opportunity to have adventures and learn new skills. Our carers got to spend quality time with each other as a team and the staff even let there hair down and joined in. We can’t wait to see what Linda has in store for the next school holidays!

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.</>

Helping a Young Mother with Motherhood

My Experience of a Mother & Baby Foster Placement

Parent and child placements enable young, vulnerable parents (usually a mother and baby) to stay together at a time when they need extra support. Parent and child foster carers can provide extra parental support for the young parent, whilst sharing and teaching them a range of skills associated with parenting.

Our carer, Alison*, shares her experience of being a mother and baby foster carer:

Today, I said goodbye to the young person that I’ve been caring for over the last three months, who stood and cried as I drove away (and she never cries!). Although full of challenges, it was undoubtedly one of the most rewarding placements I’ve ever experienced.

I wasn’t asked to do an assessment which would be more usual of such a placement, but rather, to offer support and guidance to S*, aged 17 and her daughter B*, just eight months old.

On their last day with us, we sat down to enjoy pancakes and presented each other with gifts whilst saying our goodbyes. S gave me a card, thanking me for caring for both her and her daughter, for showing her that she can be a good mum to her baby, and for giving her experiences that she ‘would never have had’ if it wasn’t for us.

S told me that she wouldn’t have ever taken her baby swimming if it wasn’t for my encouragement. We taught her to cook, budget her money and helped her to plan ready for her move. Whilst with us, we were able to take her on two holidays, one of which was a camping trip. She tried the high ropes for the first time in her life, went roller skating, rock climbing and we climbed a small mountain together, with S wearing a baby rucksack. Once we reached the top, we enjoyed the amazing views of the Lake District. During her time with us, S completed a two day first aid course. This was the first time she had received any education since having her baby.

Although only a short period of time, we packed as much into those three months as we possibly could, and I know that S will look at life differently because of it.

Today is a reminder of all of the reasons why I foster.
What a purpose to have in life, to be given the opportunity to show a young person another way and to help them live their lives to the full.

Good Luck, S.
X

*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Parent and Child placements are becoming more popular and we therefore need to recruit new foster carers who are able to offer their support and experience to help and new Mum or Dad during their first weeks of parenthood. If you think you would be able to offer this essential support call Nicky today on 0808 284 9211 for an informal chat about what is involved.

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.

3 Common Fostering Challenges and How To Overcome Them

  1. Managing challenging behaviour

Foster children are complex individuals with complex needs and backgrounds. Sometimes, to come to terms with what they’ve been through, children manifest these needs in the form of seemingly antisocial or self-destructive behaviours. Such as violence and tantrums, self-harm and running away from home.

To help them deal with what they’re going through, and to overcome or manage these behaviours, it’s important to bear in mind the possible reasons behind them: physical or mental health issues, abusive relationships during early development, or trouble adjusting to a new way of life.

How should you react to these behaviours? Although every child and their behaviours are unique and should be treated as such, you always need patience and preparation. During your training with us you’ll be given critical thinking and behaviour management tips to help you approach the task in general. And you’ll always have a Supporting Social Worker and peer groups to learn from when dealing with specific behaviours. It could take years to help them, but you’re never on your own.

 

  1. Interacting with biological families

One of the primary aims of a foster placement is often to reunite parent and child when it’s safe and beneficial to do so. This means continued contact is vital, although it’s not always easy. Sometimes biological families are well aware that they need help from a foster carer while they work through their issues, but other times they can be more resistant.

Anger and resentment might be aimed at you, with parents refusing to see you as someone who’s trying to help. But stick at it and give them a chance. Maintaining these relationships can have long-term benefits for the child’s wellbeing, so it’s important to see past previous parental challenges and focus on the future.

How can you manage these relationships? Most importantly, make sure you always liaise with your Supervising Social Worker before making contact. They’ll be able to give you background information and help make sure you don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with. Keep to any appointments you make, remain positive and be honest. Over time you may break through and begin to work together as a team.

 

  1. Experiencing exhaustion in your own life

Burnout can be a real problem for foster carers, especially when caring for multiple children. You put so much effort into helping others that you could become overwhelmed when also balancing your social life, relationships and responsibilities.

If you begin to feel run down, unmotivated or depressed, it’s time to call your Supervising Social Worker to find a solution together and make some changes as soon as possible. After all, if you’re too exhausted to care for yourself, you’ll have a difficult time giving a foster child the love and support they need.

How can you keep on top of exhaustion? If possible, make time for yourself each week when a partner, backup carer or someone else in your support network can take on your responsibilities. (Your Supervising Social Worker can help you set this up – you never need to face things alone.) In addition, keep yourself fit and healthy, eat well and get plenty of rest. Combined, these simple activities are incredibly good for you. And what’s good for you is usually good for your fostering household too.

Working & Driving: Can I Still Foster

“Can I still work if I am the primary carer?”

The answer to this is yes. However, we assess individuals on how flexible their working hours are.

Being a foster carer comes with a number of responsibilities – such as attending meetings with local authority services, training sessions, contact meetings as well as facilitating the school run. Having flexible work hours is a necessity when becoming a foster carer in order to be able to meet the demands of fostering.

We are aware that, unfortunately, very few jobs offer this kind of flexibility. However, we do consider people who have flexible roles such as supply teacher or bank staff as well as self-employed people who are able to prioritise fostering and attend all meetings and training.

If you are a couple, it is worth considering whether you would be able to balance the committment to fostering and your employment responsibilities between you.

“Do I have to be able to drive to foster?”

Being able to drive can make a foster carer’s life much easier in terms of being able to meet the demands of fostering, and we do have a preference since it eliminates potential problems of attending meetings and training sessions, for example.

However, we do not immediately rule out a potential carer simply because they cannot drive, and we take into account a number of different factors when assessing whether an individual is capable of fulfilling the fostering task without a driving license.

One of the main factors we look into is the quality of the public transport network in the carer’s surrounding location, and how accessible this is for them. We also take into consideration whether there is a secondary foster carer and if this person is able to drive the primary carer to all training and meeting sessions.

If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer and would like to discuss your working and/or driving circumstances, click here.