1 Fostering Service The Fostering Team is part of Neath Port Talbot Council s Social Services. We believe that every child has a right to a family life, and we aim to provide, arrange and maintain foster placements that enable looked after children to fully achieve their potential. We support foster carers every step of the way because we realise they make an essential contribution in helping the most vulnerable children in the county. Choosing to foster is a big decision, this information pack intends to let you know the different ways you can go about fostering, what it would entail and what support you will receive from us. We are determined to provide a good quality service that everyone can have confidence in, so if you are interested in taking the next step in the process to becoming a foster carer complete and return the form at the back of this pack. If you have any questions we will always be happy to hear from you. Phone: Website: SSHH0664/1
2 What is fostering Fostering offers the chance to make a real difference to children's lives. When foster care works well - which it does for thousands of children every day - it is a great way of providing families for children who, for a wide range of reasons, cannot live with their own parents. Foster carers are needed for a variety of reasons. Children and young people may need to be looked after for just a few nights, a few weeks or many years. You can choose to foster full time or part time, a few days, months or even permanently. Whatever type of fostering you choose to do, you can make a real difference to a child s life that they will always remember. What do foster carers do? The foster carer's role is to provide high quality care for the child. Foster carers look after children and young people on behalf of Neath Port Talbot Council and will be in regular consultation with Social Workers and often parents about both major and day-to-day decisions. Foster carers will also work with a variety of professionals such as teachers, doctors and therapists in carrying out the Care Plan each child will have.
3 Why would a child need foster care? There are many reasons why children and young people need foster carers. Social Workers work with families to help them sort out difficult problems and make the home a safe place for a child. These problems can range from a parents short-term illness, depression or drug/alcohol abuse, difficulties in family relationships or in some instances, a child s safety is threatened with some children being abused or neglected. While a foster carer looks after the child, Social Workers can help the family with their problems, with the aim of returning the child home safely. The children and young people that are involved in these difficulties can come from every economic background, religious, cultural and ethnic group that make up our community. Children from all ages, from babies to teenagers need foster care. So you can understand why we encourage everyone to consider fostering. The more foster carers we have, the more choices we can offer children and families so that better matches are made between carers and children. This can reduce the possibility of further movements and disruption. We always need carers of every kind, and at the moment we especially need carers who could look after: Older children and in particular teenagers Children with physical, mental or learning disabilities Brothers and sisters who need to be placed together What are the children like? Every child and young person is different but they do have one thing in common; that they are going through a state of upheaval and are trying to cope with lots of changes to their lives. Often they are in care because of a family crisis and so are likely to feel upset, bewildered, nervous and perhaps frightened. Some children may respond by being rowdy and over active, others may be very quiet and withdrawn. Every child brings their own set of circumstances and experiences and will react in their own individual way.
4 Who can be a foster carer? Our first consideration is what you can offer a child. You will need a genuine commitment to caring, plenty of energy, understanding and patience. Some people may rule themselves out of fostering thinking they don t have the right background or experience. The fact is there are far fewer barriers to becoming a foster carer than you probably think. Because the children who need foster homes come from many different backgrounds, we need carers from all walks of life, there is no such thing as a typical foster carer. We will consider people who are; 21 years and over single, married or living with a partner heterosexual or homosexual employed full time, part time or unemployed already have children and those without children have a disability from any ethnic, religious or cultural background homeowners and people who rent
5 FAQ S Is there anyone that can t foster? We need to know of all previous criminal convictions. To protect fostered children from harm there are some offences that bar someone from fostering. (These are offences under Section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 or Schedule 1 of the Children and Young People Act 1963). A Criminal Records Bureau check is part of the process of becoming an approved foster carer. If you have doubts about your suitability to foster, the best thing to do is complete the application form and we can take it from there. I have had lots of problems in my personal life - can I still foster? Yes. Your tough times may give you a much better understanding of the problems young people face. This will need to be discussed at you initial home visit. Can I foster if I smoke? We do not exclude people who smoke, but encourage people to look at the damaging effects of smoking on children, and also how smoking affects your health and therefore your ability to care. We can t place children with health or respiratory problems with you if you smoke, or children under the age of two. Will I be trained? Yes. Fostering is a skilled task and you will need to be well equipped to give a child who has been separated from their family the support and care they need. You will receive training before you become a carer and training if you are approved.
6 Will I be asked lots of personal questions by Social Workers? Yes, but this process will help us find a child that will be as comfortable with you as possible, and vice versa. A Social Worker will get to know you over time and you will form a trusting relationship with them, remember all the information you give will be held in strict confidence. Are foster carers paid? Yes, you will be paid to cover the costs of looking after a child and there are specific benefits you are entitled to.
7 Are there different types of fostering? Being a foster carer doesn t have to mean looking after a child seven days a week. There are lots of different ways of fostering because the children and young people have varying needs. Take a moment to consider which type of fostering could be right for you at this time; Emergency fostering This is needed when families are experiencing acute crises or when it is essential for the safety of the child e.g. when a lone parent has been rushed into hospital and no relatives can be found when a child has been left at home alone when there are suspicions of abuse Emergency carers are usually experienced people, you will need to be prepared to take a child at short notice and at any time, and care for them for a short time while a longer term foster placement is found. Short break fostering (or respite) This is needed when a family, or even a full-time foster carer would benefit from a regular break from caring for a child e.g. caring for a child a day a week so that parents have space to repair problems in their relationship with their child (to prevent family breakdown) caring for a child with a learning or physical disability a few hours a week caring for a child for one night every so often, when a parent needs medical attention Because you will be matched up with a particular child, you will have an opportunity to build up a relationship, not only with the child, but with the child s parents. Parents will know they are leaving their child with someone they know and trust, and whom the child will look forward to seeing again.
8 Short term fostering Short term fostering is when a child or young person needs to be looked after by a foster carer until their future plan is decided. That is until they can return home to their own family, move to a long tern foster placement or be adopted. Short term can range from a few days, a few months or longer. Fostering brothers and sisters Keeping sibling groups together is very important, especially when they will have to cope with changes in their lives. However once in care, siblings are likely to be separated because there are fewer foster homes able to take large groups of children. If you have the space to offer, you could care for groups of brothers and sisters to help keep a family together for as long as possible. If you think you would enjoy this type of fostering you may find you have a full house very quickly, but don t worry we will support you. Long term fostering This is needed when children and young people cannot return to their families for very serious reasons, and where it is not appropriate for them to be adopted. As a long term carer you will need to offer a stable and supportive home until a child or young person reaches independence. (this could be 16, 18 or even 21 years if in Higher Education, and allow the child to keep in touch with their family from the safe base you provide. Remand fostering Remand foster carers work with young people who are involved in the youth justice system, and who are remanded to the care of the Local Authority, and to foster carers by the Court.
9 Allowances What financial support will I get? All foster carers receive allowances to cover the cost of caring for a child or young person in their home, these are set according to the age of each child and will increase as the child gets older. You will receive; A Weekly allowance for each child or young person clothing money and pocket money (varying depending on the age of the child) Christmas, birthday and holiday grants. Fees Approved foster carers receive a weekly carer allowance for each child or young person they look after. Tax relief The introduction of tax relief in 2003 means that foster carers in the UK do not pay tax on their income from fostering, up to a maximum of 10,000 plus allowances. National Insurance contributions Since April 2003, foster carers have also been entitled to Home Responsibility Protection - a way to make sure that you do not get less Basic Retirement Pension just because you have stayed at home to look after a child.
10 Advice & Support Once you decide to become a foster carer, we will give you all the guidance you need to do your job properly. We realise that fostering can be an emotionally and physically demanding job, but the good news is it can be an equally rewarding experience. Once you become a foster carer you won t be alone. Our team of highly experienced Social Workers will always be available to guide you through the tough times so that you can enjoy the rewards of fostering. We are committed to provide on going support, supervision, advice and assistance to foster carers and their families. You will have your own Community Placement Officer, and you will have access to support during the day and out of hours in the evening and at weekends. ecare Project The ecare Project is designed to improve communications with foster carers and young people and enable children/young people to improve their prospects in the future. ecare is about foster carers and young people accessing all the benefits the Internet can provide. Each of our approved foster carer s is given a computer and the necessary equipment such as a printer, desk and chair. Internet access will be available together with suitable software and training. Training Before you begin the application process, potential foster carers must attend an Initial Training Programme Skills to Foster. This is designed to give you a realistic idea of what will be involved and the skills that are needed.
11 Once you become an approved foster carer, you will have the opportunity to develop your skills through the training courses that we will offer you. These will help you understand your new role, and develop your knowledge and understanding of children and young people. The courses will be run in different venues around the borough, and there is the expectation you will try to attend the majority of training that we offer. These training courses will not only allow you to gain knowledge from professional advisors, they are also an opportunity to get together with other carers and discuss issues and emotions you may have in common. You also have the opportunity to have your developing skills recognised by a National Vocation Qualification (NVQ), which you can use to gain further qualifications in foster care. Equipment You will be provided with equipment for the children and young people you will foster. Caring for vulnerable children and young people is an important and demanding job. We need to be sure you understand what s involved and what skills you need to provide a safe, caring environment for other people s children.
12 Stage 1 1. Telephone us if you require any further information about becoming a foster carer. We can explain anything in further detail and could even put you in contact with one of our existing foster carers. 2. Complete Application Form. If you are interested, then the next step is to fill out the application form at the back of this information pack. Alternatively, you can fill out the application form online at 3. Your first home visit Once your application form has been processed, a Community Placement Officer will visit you at home to find out why you want to foster and to answer any questions you may have. Stage 2 5. CRB (criminal records bureau) and medical checks The medical report will be provided by your own GP. All applicants will also have to have a criminal records bureau check. 6. Initial Training Programme All applicants must attend training before becoming foster carers. Where there are 2 applicants in a household, both must attend. We will meet with you to talk about what you thought of the training and what you learnt. We will answer any questions you may have. 7. Home Study and Assessment (Form F assessment) You will be allocated a Community Placement Officer (a qualified social worker who specialises in fostering). You will carry out a personal assessment with your Community Placement Officer to build up a picture of your background, home life, your abilities and strengths, and the amount of time and commitment you could give a child.
13 8. Assessment Report Your Community Placement Officer will pull together all this information into a full report. This outlines your potential as a foster carer. You will be able to read the report and add your own comments. 9. The Fostering Panel The report is presented to a panel of experienced health, social care and education professionals. They will recommend whether to approve you as a foster carer. 10. Decision The panel s recommendation will be sent to the Head of children and Young People s Services who will send you their final decision in writing within 2 weeks. 11. Information and Training If you are approved, you will be given more information and training to equip you with the skills you need to foster. We will also allocate you a Support Worker.
14 Foster Plus' Scheme Foster Plus' foster carers will provide placements to children and young people who are experiencing difficulties within their family and/or community and who may display high levels of challenging behaviour. You will be committed to sticking with the young person through times of difficulty, and have the flexibility to meet the young person's needs, (for example if they are excluded from school) They will need to have some experience of working with or caring for young people with challenging behaviour. They also need to have, resilience, tolerance, energy and understanding. Foster Plus carers will: Offer foster placements for children/young people with a variety of complex needs Work with children/young people who may exhibit difficult and challenging behaviour Provide a stable, structured and nurturing environment Develop and maintain positive and supportive relationships with the young people and where necessary persevere with difficult placements Working as part of a multi agency team to address problematic behaviour to achieve positive outcomes for young people. Assist children/young people integrate and develop positive links within their local community. SSHH0664/2
15 Eligibility Criteria - Foster Plus Carers must meet the following criteria. Be approved as a Neath Port Talbot foster carer. Agree to look after a maximum of two children and young people of age years who have complex needs and display challenging behaviour, This may include placements at short notice or emergency basis. Have the skills or experience to work effectively in partnership with the department, relevant agencies and the child's family to meet the outcomes in the child's care plan. Be available 7 days a week (other than agreed holiday and respite periods) and have no full time work commitments. (In a two carer household, this criterion will apply to one carer.) Carers must be able to provide a bedroom for the sole use of the child (all required furniture etc. is provided if necessary). The carer/s must have access to transport to allow them to fully participate in the caring task e.g. to and from school, health and counselling appointments, leisure activities. There should be no other vulnerable children living at home. Possess or be prepared to undertake NVQ level 3 Caring for Children and Young People (if two carer household, criteria will apply to one). Attend a minimum of 3 training sessions per year Work closely with the support services and undertake tasks related to the scheme. SSHH0664/3
16 Holiday It is recognised that caring for this group of children and young people is a demanding task. Respite arrangements, consistent with children's needs, will be made to provide carers with the opportunity to take a short break or holiday of up to two weeks per year during which period the retainer may be paid. SSHH0664/6
17 POSITION STATEMENT FROM BAAF WELSH MEDICAL GROUP "Reducing the risks of environmental tobacco smoke for looked after children and their carers" The BAAF Welsh Medical Group fully endorse the recommendations in BAAF Practice Note 51 "Reducing the risks of environmental tobacco smoke for looked after children and their carers", and would like to support all Local Authority and Independent Adoption & Fostering Agencies within Wales in amending their policies with regard to smoking. The BAAF Welsh Medical Group would wish to aim for a future position where all Adopters and Foster Carers; are non smokers. Unfortunately, therefore we are unable to place children under the age of five years with carers who smoke. This is because of the particularly high health risks for very young children and toddlers who spend most of their day physically close to their carers. In addition we require applicants to have given up smoking for at least 1 year before caring for children under the age of 5. If you require any further information, please contact the Fostering Team. SSHH0664/7