Fostering in Central Bedfordshire

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1 prospects Fostering in Central Bedfordshire Everything you need to know A great place to live and work. Find us online

2 Introduction Central Bedfordshire Council is responsible for arranging foster care for children living in its areas. This brochure is a guide to fostering and explains: The tasks involved; The expectations; The support that will be available to you; The process of becoming a foster carer; and Additional information you may find useful. As this is only a guide, if anything isn t clear please let us know and we will try to explain it for you. Fostering is be rewarding and can be enjoyable but we are not pretending it will always be easy. If, after reading this brochure, you wish to take your enquiry further, please let the fostering team know by calling the number below. We look forward to hearing from you. Central Bedfordshire Fostering Team If you need the information in this document in a special format, such as Braille, audio cassette, large print or sign language, please contact us and we will arrange this for you. Fostering Duty Team It is important you take time to think about whether fostering is for you. Talk to your family and friends and call us if there is anything you are not sure about. 2

3 Contents Introduction 2 What is fostering? 4 There are many different ways to foster 5 Could you foster? 7 The assessment process 8 Expectations 10 We all work together 12 FAQs 14 Help and further information 17 Everything you need to know about fostering in Central Bedfordshire 3

4 What is fostering? There are many reasons why we may need to arrange for children and young people to be looked after: A parent may be ill or going through a particularly challenging time in their lives when they find it difficult to care for their children. A parent may have a drug or alcohol problem which prevents them being able to care for their children. A parent might have had a difficult childhood themselves and be struggling to understand what their own children need. A child or young person might have suffered some form of abuse or neglect. A child or young person may be in trouble with the police. The parents of a child or young person with a disability or special needs may need support or a short break. Whatever the reasons for a child or young person being looked after by the Central Bedfordshire Council, they will need an individual or a family who can care for them and provide stability and security until they can either return to their own family or, if this isn t possible, move onto a permanent new family. 4

5 There are many different ways to foster Short Term Fostering Family Link Short term fostering is about looking after children and young people for a few days, weeks, months or sometimes even years. Permanent Fostering (sometimes known as long term fostering) Permanent fostering is about looking after a child or young person until they are at least 18 years old where adoption is not possible or desirable for a particular child. Emergency care This is about providing a placement for a child or young person in an emergency situation, out of office hours usually for up to 72 hours. This scheme offers short breaks to children with disabilities of all ages. This could be for a weekend, a day or a fortnight or even a few hours on a regular basis. It could also involve Shared Care. Family Link Fee Based Scheme Carers within this scheme are selfemployed and will have specialist experience of caring for children with additional needs. Respite Care This scheme offers respite to families. It is similar to the Family Link scheme but offers a service to non-disabled children and young people. The We believe that the best place for children and young people is with their own families and we will do everything we can to try and support families living together. However, when families are in crisis, this isn t always possible. Fostering is one way that we can support families during these times. Everything you need to know about fostering in Central Bedfordshire 5

6 purpose of the scheme is to support families and prevent children being in full time foster care. Remand Care This scheme provides a supportive placement for young people who are in serious trouble with the police, and provides an alternative to being remanded in custody. Family and Friends Care Youth Care This scheme provides specialist care to young people over the age of 10 years who exhibit behaviour which is challenging. For more information about all the schemes speak to our fostering team on Carers on this scheme are family or friends who offer a home to children or young people who are already known to them. 6

7 Could you foster? Foster carers are as varied as the work itself and come with different skills, personal qualities and life experiences. Fostering is open to a lot more people than you think and there are very few factors that prevent someone being considered as a foster carer. All applicants are assessed in accordance with National Minimun Standards for Fostering and Fostering Regulations, and are considered equally regardless or their ethnicity, sexuality, religion and beliefs. You may be single, married, in a civil partnership on a long term relationship. We are keen to recruit foster carers from all ethnic backgrounds, as children benefit from living with families who share their culture. You do not have to own your own home, what we want is people who can give the time and space to make a difference to a child or young person s life. There is no upper age limit to fostering, but you will need to demonstrate that you have the stamina, health and physical fitness to provide the level of care children and young people need. However, you do need to be over 21. The most important thing is that foster carers can meet the individual needs of children they will be looking after. I need someone to be there for me, to listen to me and be an advocate for me. 7

8 Assessment takes approximately 20 weeks* from receipt of your application. The assessment process You ve already made the first step by reading this information pack. But what happens next? You will be contacted very soon by our fostering team to find out whether you would like to take your interest further. A Social Worker from this team will arrange to meet with you (preferably in your own home) to discuss this and explore whether you have the right potential to meet the needs of a Looked After Child (also referred to as a Child in Care). If you then still wish to continue with your interest, we will ask you to complete an application form. As a Local Authority, we have a duty to ensure that all the placements we make for children are safe. Therefore, before you can become a foster carer, we will make important checks with the Health Authority, Disclosure and Barring Service, Local Authority, your GP, the Education Welfare Service, your Employer and Independent Referees. Where necessary we may make other checks as well, such as schools your own children attend. *This is a best practice timescale and not guaranteed in every case. 8

9 If you have any criminal convictions or cautions it will not automatically exclude you from becoming a foster carer for Central Bedfordshire Council. But it is important to discuss this with your Social Worker at the beginning of your assessment and be honest with us. When we receive your application, one of our qualified Social Workers will carry out your fostering assessment. The time an assessment takes depends on your own circumstances and the size of your family. Normally, it will take approximately 20 weeks from receipt of your application. As part of the assessment you will be required to attend a four session Skills to Foster training programme. Your Social Worker will provide further details and dates. As part of the assessment, you will be able to ask us more about fostering, to ensure you have full information before you commit yourself to fostering. If you have children of your own it is important for you to talk to them about fostering as it is a way of life for the whole family, not just the adults. During the assessment, you and your family can discuss the type of fostering you wish to do and the ages of the children that you think you are most suited to with the Social Worker allocated to work with you through the fostering assessment. Once we complete the fostering assessment it will be presented to a Fostering Panel. The panel is made up of Children s Services representatives, foster carers, health and education professionals. They will make a recommendation to the Agency Decision-Maker who makes the final decisions about whether you are approved to be a foster carer. 9

10 What are the expectations? What foster carers can expect from Central Bedfordshire Fostering Team We will ensure you receive regular supervision and support from an allocated Social Worker We will keep you updated on all learning and development opportunities We will respect you as an important member of the team supporting the child We will make sure that all allowances and expenses are paid promptly and correctly We will provide you with as much information as we can about children placed with you We will involve you in policies and procedures and keep you fully informed of any changes We will offer you and your children regular support groups 10

11 What Central Bedfordshire Council Fostering Team expects from Foster Carers We expect you: to protect and care for a foster child as you would your own child; to encourage school-age children at school and support them with their homework; to encourage children to have friends and keep up hobbies and clubs; to listen to children and be an advocate for them; to attend meetings about children where your contribution will be valued; to work as part of a team in making plans for children s futures, including with birth parents where appropriate; to let us know as soon as possible if you are having any problems; to let us know if there are any changes in your household or circumstances, that may impact on your fostering role; to attend mandatory core training and any other relevant training to develop your skills and knowledge; to only administer punishment within our guidelines, not using corporal punishment; to keep to the agreements you make with us. Everything you need to know about fostering in Central Bedfordshire 11

12 We all work together... When you become an approved foster carer you become part of a vital team that helps ensure children s needs are met in the most appropriate way in order that the best outcome is achieved for the child or young person. Other people in this team include: Fostering Supervising Social Worker When you are approved you will be allocated a Supervising Social Worker. Your Supervising Social Worker will visit you regularly to offer support and supervision, making sure you have everything you need to care for the children placed with you. They will make sure you receive access to training opportunities available and will be your link to the rest of Children s Services. You can ring them to discuss problems or to request help. Child Care Social Worker Each child has their own Social Worker who will visit them regularly to discuss anything that needs sorting out and to check that the child is healthy and happy. It is also the Social Worker s responsibility to make plans for the next step in the child s life. Child s family Many children fostered short term will go home, so it is vital for them to keep up relationships with parents and other family members. Even in permanent fostering placements you will also help a child keep in touch with their family. 12

13 Foster carers who act as Mentors Mentors provide additional, formal and practical support and guidance to carers who are new and experiencing their first placement, or to existing carers experiencing challenging times. Other foster carers Meeting other foster carers individually, at support groups, or social events can help provide a valuable source of support. Emergency Duty Team (EDT) This is the out of hours support team you can call for advice or direct help during an emergency, for instance if a child runs away. Out of hours fostering support service As well the Emergency Duty Team there is a telephone support line that you can ring out of office hours. It is run by Social Workers within the fostering team who have direct experience of fostering issues who are there to offer advice and support when problems arise. Advice and mediation service As a foster carer you will have access to an advice and mediation worker who will provide independent and confidential support regarding any aspect of fostering that affects you or your family. There are many other people you may work with, such as teachers, medical advisors, therapists and solicitors. All these individuals will work with you to provide services to fostered children. Everything you need to know about fostering in Central Bedfordshire 13

14 Frequently asked questions Here are the most common FAQ s, but if we don t cover yours, call one of our friendly team who will be happy to speak to you. Q. What do foster carers do? Foster carers provide a stable, welcoming and safe environment. Most of the children and young people will have been through a very difficult and traumatic experience. Some will arrive at your home confused as to why they are not living at home with their parents. Some will be angry or upset. Some will be disorientated or confused. You will need to explain things to them such as your house rules. Above all, you will need to reassure them and make them feel safe. Q. Do I need a big house? No, but you need a spare room suitable for the type of fostering you are doing. Foster children should have their own bedroom, although siblings can sometimes share. Q. How will fostering affect my children? It is important that your children can share their feelings about fostering with you, and that you make it clear to them that their views are important. In Central Bedfordshire, we run groups for children who foster. As well as running enjoyable activities, we also provide a forum where children can discuss their views about fostering. Q. Do I get financial help? Yes. We pay an allowance for the care of the child and a fee. For more details about current allowances and the fee element, read the additional sheet provided with this booklet. Q. How will I know if I can cope? Everyone responds differently to situations. That s why the support of your family, friends and Supervising 14

15 I want someone who will support me in the way my own family would, but accept there is a difference between parents and foster carers. Social Worker is paramount in making a success of fostering. Remember this is a team effort. Q. Do I get support? Yes. Every foster carer gets regular supervision and support from a Supervising Social Worker. In addition, we provide foster carers with access to an Independent Advice and Mediation Service. There are also local support groups of foster carers that meet regularly to discuss fostering issues and to enjoy social events. Foster carers also have access to telephone support out of hours, and can access the Bedfordshire Foster Care Association which is run by foster carers for foster carers. All new carers are also matched to a foster carer mentor who provides formal and practical guidance and support through your first placement and beyond. Q. Do foster carers get training? Yes, all foster carers will be provided with Skills to Foster training before they begin fostering. You must undergo this training as well as first aid training before you are approved. Once you are approved there is a structured induction programme where you will be required to complete the Training, Support and Development Standards workbook within your first year of fostering. We also offer a comprehensive training programme which offers a wide range of courses Everything you need to know about fostering in Central Bedfordshire 15

16 16 covering topics such as contact and working with birth families, attachment and brain development and more tailored courses that depend on foster carers individual needs and the needs of the child or young person placed with you. As part of the tiered payment scheme you are expected to complete what we call our core training within your first two years of fostering. We offer courses during the day, at weekends, in the evenings and some online to help you complete the core list All foster carers have a supervising social worker to support them and receive plenty of training throughout their fostering lives. of courses at a time that suits you. After that you will be required to complete four learning outcomes a year which will be discussed with your social worker to make sure it meets your needs. Q. Will I be able to let the child or young person go? Unless you are approved as a permanent carer, in short you will have to! You will be given training to help you deal with the loss, and your Supervising Social Worker will support you and your family throughout. But you must remember that most of these children and young people move on either back to their birth families or for permanent fostering or adoption. Q. Do I get the choice of who I foster? Yes. Part of the assessment process is finding out what children or young person you feel you can offer the most to. We will always give you as much information as we have available to us about any child we place with you. Children need stability and therefore it s important that we don t move them around often. As a result, qualified Social Workers carefully match the child s needs to the skills, experience and approval of a carer.

17 Help and further information Useful reading The Story of Tracey Beaker (great for kids) Jacqueline Wilson Fostering a Child (A guide for people interested in fostering) Henrietta Bond Fostering and Adoption by Sarah Levette (Talking About) Sarah Levette Fostering Adolescents Elaine Farmer Some of these books may be available through your library. Useful websites Useful useful sources of information British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) Saffron House 3rd Floor 6-10 Kirby Street London EC1N 8TS Telephone: Fax: Fostering Network 87 Blackfriars Road London SE1 8HA Telephone: Fax: Everything you need to know about fostering in Central Bedfordshire 17

18 18 Foster Care Charter The Fostering Network believes that all children and young people needing substitute care, whatever their physical or mental abilities, should have the opportunity to live in a family. Children and young people who are fostered deserve the highest standard of care, and it is the responsibility of all those involved to provide a high quality service. Foster care must be a partnership between the carers, Social Workers and the placing agency all working together in the best interests of the children and young people. Where possible, this partnership should extend to young people and their parents or interested relatives. The cultural, racial and religious identities of children and young people, their parents and foster carers must be respected in the development of the foster care service and in the making and support of individual placements. Children and young people have the right to continuity in their lives so that their identity can be maintained and developed, their physical and mental well being promoted and their full potential achieved. The true cost of caring for a foster child or young person must be met and foster carers given the opportunity to receive payment for their time, experience and skills. Foster carers and social workers have a right to preparation for their job and a responsibility to use training opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills. Carers, Social Workers, Looked After Children and their parents must be able to call upon the placing agency for support. The responsibility of the placing agency to the foster carers, the purpose and goals of each placement and responsibilities of all parties must be stated in writing. Formal decisions relating to the individual children and young people in foster care should be taken in full consultation with them, their parents and the foster carers. Foster carers, children and young people and their parents, should be able to challenge decisions and plans proposed by the fostering agency and be made aware of the procedures whereby they can exercise their right of challenge. Young people leaving care must be offered agency support which recognises that all young people continue to need support in adulthood.

19 Thank you for taking the time to read this booklet We hope this has been useful and helped you to make the decision to become a foster carer. If you would like to take the next step and make a difference to a child, please call the Fostering Team on We are there to help you and will not try to talk you into fostering if it is not right for you or your family, but we can answer any difficult questions you might have about personal matters in confidence. So, please pick up the phone and take the next step. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Central Bedfordshire Fostering Team Do something incredible today 19

20 prospects Central Bedfordshire in contact Find out more For more information about this publication, further copies, or a large print copy, get in touch. Please recycle me! When finished with, please put me in your recycling bin or bag CS247_14

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