foster! your fostering information pack

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1 you can foster! your fostering information pack We can produce this document in braille, in large print, on audio tape and in other languages. If you would like a copy in one of these formats, please call: For further information on fostering contact: ) * Model photography used throughout fostering pack

2 foster! Is fostering for you? Fostering is a way to make a real positive difference to a child s life providing children and young people with a stable and loving home and the support and encouragement they need to flourish and do well. We need foster carers for children of all ages and are particularly keen to hear from people who would consider fostering teenagers, groups of brothers and sisters and disabled children. Fostering is a challenging job, but many carers find it incredibly worthwhile and rewarding with the opportunity to undergo training and learn new skills. Who can foster? To meet the diverse needs of the children and young people who need foster homes in the county we are seeking to recruit fosters carers from all backgrounds and sections of the community. All that we ask is that you are over 21 years of age and have a spare room in your home. We also need people to come forward with space to foster sibling groups so that brothers and sisters can stay together and have their own room. And, we are not just looking for families, couples (who have been living together in a stable relationship for at least two years), single people and those with past experience of childcare can also enjoy the rewards and challenges that fostering brings. There are many different types of fostering, from short term placements and short break care for disabled children to providing a long-term permanent home. We can help you decide which is right for you. What support will I get? There is good support available for foster carers. You will be allocated a dedicated social worker who will help you through the process. You will also receive on-going support from the fostering support team including monthly visits, help from support workers and access to support groups in your local area. There is also the opportunity to attend on-going training and we offer a weekly allowance and skills payment to cover the costs of caring for a child. This can amount to over 300 a week if you foster a teenager. Please read the separate information sheet on support available. What do I do if I am interested? To decide whether fostering is right for you, it is important that you find out as much as you can. This pack aims to give you as much information as possible about fostering with us. The next step is to come along to one of our information evenings, which are designed to give you more information about the different types of fostering. This will also give you a chance to hear first-hand from a foster carer and have your questions answered by our fostering social workers. In the meantime if you have any questions feel free to contact us on: 2

3 the children We particularly need foster carers for; Older children and teenagers Groups of brothers and sisters Babies and parent & child placements Children needing permanent foster care Disabled children Children with learning difficulties Children from Black and Minority Ethnic communities The following profiles below are typical of the type of children needing foster homes in Gloucestershire: foster! Rosie & Callum Jack Sam Chriis & Anna A variety of children and families need help from foster carers. Some children needing a permanent foster home may have been neglected or abused and received very little love or affection. They have probably faced many problems in their short life, leading to a general distrust of adults. Other families who have disabled children or children with specific problems may simply need a short break. Rosie and Callum Teenagers, Rosie and Callum are siblings and of white English background. They are in short term foster care because their dad was unable to care for them at home. However, they ideally need a placement that offers them permanence through their teenage years. Both attend the same mainstream secondary school. Rosie is a bright girl but has not been doing well at school as she has not been keeping up with her work. Callum is a quiet boy who has always found school difficult. He has a Statement of Special Educational Needs which gives him extra support with school work. Callum spends his spare time on his skateboard and at weekends he visits the local skatepark with his friends. He also suffers from diabetes, which needs day to day monitoring. Both Rosie and Callum currently have regular on-going contact with their dad. They would benefit from an understanding and energetic foster family who can give them the time and stability they need to get through their teenage years and move successfully on to independence. Jack Kate s son Jack (aged 12) is physically disabled and requires full time care. Kate is his full time carer. She takes a two-week break every summer but her short break foster carer has just retired. A new carer is therefore needed to look after Jack while Kate is away. Jack is a wheelchair user and needs help with everyday activities, such as dressing and eating. He is a very friendly boy and would love to be in short break care with other children and if possible a house with pets. Sam Sam (aged 11) is of white English background and is waiting for a permanent foster home. He is currently in short term foster care as his parents are unable to cope with his behaviour. He has been attending mainstream school, but has recently been excluded following a fight with a fellow student. His behaviour is very disruptive and sometimes aggressive. Sam has experienced physical abuse from his step-father and most of his anger seems to be directed at him. He has shown some improvement during his time in foster care and with the right permanent home we think his behaviour will improve. Contact with his mother will be on-going. Chris and Anna Chris and Anna are half siblings looking for a short term foster home during their mother s rehabilitation following drug abuse. Chris (aged 9) is of white English background and Anna (aged 7) is of Eastern European background. They have a close bond with each other and need to find a foster home together. Chris is outgoing and enjoys playing football with his friends, whilst Anna is more reserved and likes drawing and playing with her dolls. Chris is very protective of Anna and has cared for her when their mother has not been able to. *Photos posed by models to illustrate the case studies. 4

4 your questions answered We receive many questions from prospective foster carers. These answers may help you... Am I too old to foster? There is no upper age limit to foster. However we do require a medical check and you will obviously need to have the time and energy to care for a child. I m a single parent and don t currently have a partner. Will this mean I can t foster? No. We actively encourage applications from single people. We recognise single parents have the skills and abilities that we need. I m currently living with my partner, but we re not married. Can we still foster a child? Yes. It makes no difference whether or not you are married but you need to have been living together for two years. We are looking for people who can care for a child in a loving, stable home. I m gay. Will this rule me out? No. Our aim is to provide children with the best possible life chances and that means offering the opportunity to foster to a wide range of people. There are many qualities that people bring to parenting and we are interested in your ability to provide a loving, stable home to a child. What do foster carers get paid? The amount paid to foster carers depends entirely on the skills you have to offer and the type of fostering you are doing. A separate information sheet on support available is included within this pack. How long would a child stay with me? Again this all depends on the type of fostering you decide to do. It can be anything from a few weeks/months as part of a short break placement to offering permanency to a child. Part of your assessment and training is aimed at helping you and your fostering social worker decide which type of fostering is right for you. I work full time. Does this mean I can t foster? No, although it depends again what type of fostering you wish to do. We would need a carer to be at home for pre-school age children, but for older children fostering can be combined with other employment, although a good support network is essential. There also needs to be cover for after school and holiday periods. I already have children of my own. Can I still foster? Yes, if they are over two years of age. Your experience of parenting will be an advantage and some children may benefit from being placed within a larger family. If you do have children the decision to foster will need to be a shared one by all members of the family and we will take into account the effect of fostering on the whole family. My husband smokes. Does this mean we can t foster a child? Being a smoker will not necessarily mean you can t foster, although, due to the effects of passive smoking we would not place a child under five years old with you. I m currently renting and don t own my own home. Can I still foster? Yes, as long as you have enough room and your home will provide a secure environment. However,you will need to get in touch with your landlord to check he is fine with this. Do I need to drive? We do advise that the main carer has access to a car as you will need to attend meetings and transport children to various places as required, especially if you are fostering a young child. Will the child have contact with their family? This depends on the reason why they are in foster care - the level of contact depends on the situation and every case is different. Foster carers normally work very closely with the family. In the case of younger children the contact may be daily. Your fostering social worker will discuss the level of contact before the child is placed with you. Have all children needing foster care been abused or neglected? No, not necessarily. However, most children will be experiencing a period of uncertainty or may be going through a family crisis. Moving into a strange house may be upsetting and worrying for some and each child will act differently. Foster carers need to be sensitive and understanding of the child s needs. I m disabled. What are the implications of this? We welcome applications from disabled people and you will not be ruled out just because of this. Part of the assessment process will be to look at your support network. We will also request an early medical to assess your disability to ensure that it does not prevent you from caring for a child. I ve been convicted of a crime. Will this affect my application? Just because you have a criminal record does not necessarily mean you won t be able to foster a child - it depends on the nature and seriousness of the crime and how long ago it was committed. However, people with convictions for violent or sexual offences against children cannot foster. I m white and my husband is African-Caribbean. Will this affect your decision on the child you place with us? All children need to be found a foster home without undue delay and we would not leave children waiting if we have carers available although they would need to be sensitive to their cultural, religious, physical and emotional needs. What support or training will I be given? All applicants have to complete a preparation course, which is designed to cover all areas of the fostering tasks and working with other professionals. Once you become an approved carer we offer an extensive support network and training programme. Please see the information sheet on the services we provide at the back of this pack. If you have more questions please contact:

5 types of foster care There are many reasons why children go into foster care and we therefore need people who are able to offer very different types of fostering. Part of your assessment process will be for you and your fostering social worker to discuss what type of fostering will suit your circumstances; foster! Permanency Our ultimate aim, wherever possible is to keep families together and return children to their home. However, this is sometimes not possible and permanency may be a better option for a child. This type of fostering can be extremely important to the child as it offers a stable, secure home environment to prepare them for independent living and adult life. We also encourage carers to think about Special Guardianship Orders and adoption if it is appropriate for the child. This is particularly relevant to grandparents, other kinship carers or foster carers who have or wish to have children live with them under a permanency arrangement. Unlike adoption, a Special Guardianship Order does not sever all legal ties with the birth family. Short Term fostering These placements can vary from a few days up to a couple of years and can happen with short notice. They are often the result of a sudden family emergency, which can be anything from abuse to family illness. Short term placements are considered where the ultimate aim is to return the child back to their family as soon as possible. On occasions where this is not possible, a move into permanent foster care or adoption is considered. Short Breaks These involve providing care for short amounts of time. This can mean placements of a week or two to relieve a stressful home situation, giving other carers or parents a break. Short break placements can also be regular short placements for the same child e.g. one weekend a month. Shared Care Some parents share care of their children with foster carers. Parents may care for the child at the weekend and foster carers during the week. In other situations children may be at residential school during the week and only require foster care at weekends and holidays. With these type of arrangements we encourage the family, foster carer and, if applicable, the school to work together as a team for the well-being of the child. Family Link This scheme links Family Link carers to families with disabled children, many of whom are caring full time for their child and are in real need of a short break. Couples or individuals are needed to offer regular short breaks (day or overnight) to one or possibly two disabled children. This gives the children new experiences and their carer time to to relax, spend time with other members of their family or just complete necessary tasks such as visiting the dentist. Specialist fostering schemes We require carers for various types of specialist fostering schemes. These include: Options Options is a specialist scheme aimed at providing short term care to children and young people. This includes sibling groups, 42 day placements, parent and child and remand placements. Carers may also be required for young people who live in the community and may just need a short break from their family whilst intensive work is being done so that they can live back at home. Supported Lodgings Supported Lodgings offers a period of stability, during which young people can be helped to acquire the necessary skills and develop their support networks to help them move on to independent living. It is expected that you would be willing to provide guidance and practical assistance to the young person in your home. Staying Put Arrangement This specialist scheme is specifically for young people 18 plus who are in education or training and want to remain with the carers they are living with. This Government initiative is part funded by Housing Benefit, Income Support and local authorities. There are also tax incentives for carers to keep a young person on post 18. Please call us for more information on these specialist schemes: 8

6 This step-by-step guide explains the typical route you will follow when fostering with us. Expression of further interest If you are interested in taking your application further please complete the your next step request form and return to us in the pre-paid envelope. However, if you have already contacted us and spoken to a fostering social worker, you do not need to send us this form and can move on to the next stage. Information evening You will be sent a choice of two dates to attend an information evening. This will be a chance for you to hear from foster carers and fostering social workers about the fostering process and the children who need foster care. You will also have the chance to ask any questions you may have to help you decide if you want to proceed further. Please note that the assessment process takes on average five months after the completion of your application form. This can be quicker depending on your skills and circumstances. The application form is either sent to you, or given to you at the end of the Information Evening. You need to complete the application form and return it to us as soon as possible. Once received we will contact you to arrange a visit to your home. At this point we will take up statutory checks eg. DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service),NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), Gloucestershire Children & Young People s Services, six personal references and medical, employment, education and health visitor checks. Checks are also carried out on ex-partners. Initial home visit This visit will be a chance to discuss the issues of fostering further and to have your questions answered. It will also be an opportunity for the fostering social worker to discuss issues relevant to your particular circumstances and some assessment will also happen at this stage to determine whether you can move on to the preparation courses. Preparation course Following the initial visit, if appropriate, you will be invited to attend one of our preparation courses. These currently cover around six sessions over a period of approximately two to three weeks. We also offer weekend sessions. Applicants are expected to attend all sessions. The course covers a wide range of topics and is aimed to give you more detailed information about fostering and the type of children who need foster homes. The course is run with the help of approved foster carers, and is a great opportunity to hear about their experiences. Assessment The assessment process consists of further home visits to assess your potential as a foster carer and what type of fostering/age of children you would be best suited to. The assessment is designed to gain as much information as possible about your skills, motivation, experience and knowledge. Following confirmation of all checks taken up, your report is then finalised. Fostering Panel Your full application and statutory checks are presented to the Gloucestershire Fostering Panel. Nearly all applicants who reach this stage are approved. The Panel consists of a variety of people including those with experience of fostering as well as social workers, medical and legal advisers, county councillors and representatives from education and health. You are invited to attend the Panel meeting when your application is being considered. The Panel makes a recommendation immediately after the meeting. The final approval is made by the Agency Decision Maker. Placement The time taken for a child to come to live with you will depend on the type of fostering you have been approved for and the process of matching a child with you. Your fostering social worker will keep you regularly updated. 9

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