Common Questions and Answers about Fostering

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1 Common Questions and Answers about Fostering Thank you for your enquiry about becoming a foster carer. In this pack you will find information about fostering in Somerset to help you decide whether it is right for you and your family. About 500 children and young people in Somerset need to be cared for. The majority of these are fostered. We always need more foster carers so we can give the children and young people we care for more choice, suited to their own individual needs. If you would like to apply to become a foster carer after reading this information pack you will need to fill in the Expression of Interest Form and return it to us. Once we ve received your form, we will arrange to come and visit you to find out more about your family and help you decide whether you want to take on this rewarding role. We hope you find this information pack helpful. If you have any queries, please contact us on We look forward to hearing from you. Also, there is much more information on our website including stories from foster carers and short films of foster carers talking about their experiences of looking after children in care. Join us on facebook and follow us on twitter.

2 general questions What is fostering? Foster carers look after children when they are unable to stay with their own family. This can be for a variety of reasons and can be a short or long term arrangement. There are many different types of fostering, designed to meet the needs of a diverse range of children and young people in Somerset. Fostering is a rewarding role and foster carers have the opportunity to make a real difference to a child or young person s life. Meeting the needs of children in Somerset is at the very heart of fostering. That is why Somerset County Council tries to find local foster carers for children and young people so that they can stay in their own community and at their own school at times when they are unable to live at home. A weekly fostering allowance is paid to carers for the child. Specialist forms of fostering are more demanding on the carer and additional payments are made to reflect this. Carers are supported by the Children s Social Care team throughout the time that the child or young person lives with them. More information can be found in this pack. Will I get paid? A fostering allowance is paid to foster carers to cover the needs of the child. Information on the current rates can be found on the Allowances and Fees sheet in this pack. Part of the allowance is a contribution towards extra utility bills that come from having an extra person living in your home, such as gas, water and electricity bills as well as phone calls. The rest of the allowance is for the young person s food, clothes, trips, pocket money etc. There is one extra week s money paid for the child s birthday towards a present and a celebration and there is one extra week s money paid at Christmas for a present etc. During the summer holiday, two weeks extra allowance is paid in instalments to help with extra expenditure and trips in the school holidays. Different rules apply for carers on the specialist schemes. The carers who provide specialist placements are paid a fee in addition to receiving the fostering allowance in recognition of their need to be home based or the demands of the child or young person they look after. Page 2

3 Will you offer me any training when I have been approved as a foster carer? Yes, all prospective foster carers are supported to complete the National Induction Standards for foster carers during their first year of fostering. These standards were developed by the Children s Workforce Development Council and are supported by the Department for Education and contribute towards achieving a Diploma in Child Care. In addition we have an ongoing training programme, which is set in advance and is available to all foster carers. We encourage all carers to attend training. Will I get help? You will have the support and guidance of your own supervising social worker. They will work with you and help you with any issues or difficulties that may arise. What are the different types of fostering? There are several different types of fostering to meet the different needs of children in care. Fostering placements can be on a long term or short term basis. Most types of fostering can be done alongside a day job, but some more specialist types of foster care will require a carer to be home based all of the time. Read through the different types of fostering below and think carefully about which type of fostering suits you - your skills, knowledge and circumstances. We will advise you and help you make a decision on which type of fostering is best for you. Short Term Fostering This is caring for children and young people for up to three months. This can also include short breaks for children, either from home or from other foster carers, for short periods of time such as overnight or for the weekend. If you are interested in looking after lots of different children and supporting them to move back to their birth families or on to alternative placements, this is a rewarding service with lots of variety. Page 3

4 What are the different types of fostering? (continued) Intermediate Fostering This involves caring for children and young people for up to two years whilst plans are made for their future. Intermediate fostering would appeal to people who would like a child to settle with them and do not want the constant change of short term fostering. Intermediate foster carers are important in helping children and young people to return home to their birth family or move to adoption or long term foster placements successfully. Long Term Fostering This is about caring for children and young people for the rest of their childhood. Long term foster carers support children and young people and are an important part of their family as they mature into adulthood. Most of the children and young people who need long term fostering will be aged nine years and above. School Holiday and Weekend Fostering Some children and young people go to residential schools and do not have family members to care for them during the weekends and holidays. They need foster carers for these periods of time who will also remain in contact with them and support them during term time. This is a good choice if you have a job that allows you to have time off at weekends and in school holidays and really want to commit long term to one child, who will grow up with you. Carers receive the fostering allowance when the child stays and a retainer of per week for maintaining contact during term time. There is an additional payment to the carer of 500 per annum for every 12 month period of commitment to the child. Parent & Child These are foster carers who are able to care for both a parent and his/her young child. The role is one of support, advice and assessment in close liaison with the child s social worker and your own supervising social worker. There may be requests for placements for mother and child, father and child or both parents. This is a scheme that may be suitable for someone who is home based and can give practical and emotional support to young families to help them stay together where possible. A fee of 125 to 250 will be paid in addition to the fostering allowance for the child in recognition of the skills required and the need for one carer to be home based. Page 4

5 What are the different types of fostering? (continued) Home Based Care This is a specialist service for young people who are aged 10 and over. They need one carer to be home based as these young people can be challenging and may not be in school all of the time. Their circumstances are complex and you will need to be available at short notice to care for a young person. This scheme appeals to people who enjoy working with teenagers and have some experience and understanding of the challenges they face. You will need time and a great deal of patience but this service is very rewarding. There is a fee of 225 paid to home based carers in addition to the fostering allowance in recognition of the need for a carer to be at home. Short Break Care This is a specialist service for children with disabilities. They could have a learning disability, a physical or sensory disability, significant health care needs or a combination of these. Most of them are cared for on a respite basis for short periods of time, such as one weekend per month or one or two evenings per week. The aim of this service is to broaden the social lives and experience of these young people. This scheme appeals to people with some experience of disability who have limited time to give but who want to make a real difference to the life of a disabled child or young person. Long term relationships are often forged between short break carers, the child or young person and their birth family. A payment is made for each of the periods of time the child spends with their foster carer. This is at a higher rate than for mainstream fostering to take account of the extra needs of the child. More details are available on the Allowances and Fees page of this pack. Stepping Stones This scheme provides help, care and support to young people aged between years who are between leaving care and living alone. The aim is to help them to develop their social and independence skills. This is a good option for people who enjoy being with young adults and can help them move towards an independent life. A fee of is paid to the carer in addition to the weekly fostering allowance. Page 5

6 What are the different types of fostering? (continued) Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC) This scheme aims to support and nurture children aged seven to eleven, who are struggling to manage their behaviours and may have difficulties in the future as a result. The foster carers will work closely with a professional team, including psychologists, social workers and teaching professionals, to provide the right levels of support and nurturing that each child needs. The team around the child are committed to help shape behaviour change in children in the hope of preventing long term difficulties. Placements can typically last nine to twelve months. The carers will need to have some experience of child care and child development and a willingness to work with a professional team to provide therapeutic and structured support to turn a child s life around. One foster carer will need to be home based. We offer specialist training, 24/7 on call support from a worker in the team who knows the carer and the child, and a weekly fee of around 250 will be paid in addition to the weekly fostering allowance. Remand Fostering This scheme provides placements for young people who have been remanded to the care of Somerset County Council to await Criminal Court proceedings. Young people requiring remand placements could be aged between although they are more likely to be year olds. The length of remand placements could vary from one to two weeks to several months. Whilst on the scheme, the young people will be given support and encouragement to tackle their offending behaviour by working through issues with their youth offending team worker, carers, and family. Remand foster carers will have the skills and preferably experience to deal with more difficult young people. Ideally, remand carers will not have children of their own or other children placed as this will reduce their capacity in terms of offending behaviour they can manage. A weekly fee of 300 will be paid to carers in addition to the weekly fostering allowance. Page 6

7 What are the different types of fostering? (continued) Emergency Fostering This scheme aims to provide emergency placements for children and young people in the evenings and at weekends for a maximum of six days. Being an emergency situation the purpose of the placement will be to ensure safety until a more appropriate placement is identified or a return to family. Carers would need to be contactable and available from 5.00pm 8.00am on weeknights and all weekend on their on call week, and have flexibility to be available on the morning after a placement is made. We pay carers a retainer for holding an emergency bed of per week per bed when they are on call. When a placement is made we will pay an additional payment of and the fostering allowance for the child, plus an extra 20 per cent of the allowance to acknowledge that children arriving in an emergency may not have clothes, toiletries etc. Will the children and young people go to school if they are of school age? Yes, they should be at school. However, they may need to be at home with their foster carer when unwell. There may be cases when children are suspended or excluded from school and an alternative needs to be found but this can take time to organise. Page 7

8 Do the children and young people in foster care have contact with their birth family? Yes, the majority have ongoing contact with family and friends. This may be supervised or unsupervised depending on the circumstances. Occasionally contact is limited or stopped if it is not seen to be in the best interests of the child or young person. Parents have a right to know where their children are living. It is likely that you will meet birth parents through the fostering process. There are exceptions to this and it will depend on the individual case. Can I give a foster child affection? Yes, all children need a hug or cuddle at times. However, foster children will have had different family experiences from your own and some may not be used to physical affection. There will be lots of opportunities to talk to a social worker in more detail about this on the training and during your assessment. Page 8

9 about you Do I have to be a certain age to become a foster carer? There is no upper limit on fostering. We do expect people to be mature enough to be able to work with the complex problems that children and young people who need fostering are likely to have and to be fit enough to do this task. What age can children and young people already living in my family home be? There are no definite guidelines about this although fostering works best when the foster child is the youngest in the family. The assessment would need to think carefully about the match between your children and the children and young people that you hope to foster. This match needs to consider issues such as age and gender as well as the specific needs and behaviour of an individual child and how that might impact on the children and young people in your family. Can I work? Yes, if you are interested in fostering you can work. However, if you are interested in fostering children under school age you need to think carefully about whether you would be able to meet a young child s needs if you work. Children and young people who are fostered have often experienced loss, separation and trauma. They need a stable carer to meet their needs and therefore we would be concerned if a young child was going to need a lot of child care as they would really need to make an attachment to a main carer and not a multitude of carers. For children and young people of school age this is easier to manage, but similar to the birth or adopted children and young people in your family you will need to think about school holidays and when children and young people are poorly etc. The Home Based Care and Parent and Child are the only schemes that require one foster carer not to work and to be home based. There is a fee paid to the carer for this service. What if I am on benefits? As the money paid to foster carers is an allowance to cover a child s needs, it will not affect your benefits if you are unable to work. However if you are considering Home Based Care, Parent and Child fostering, MTFC, Stepping Stones, Emergency or Remand fostering, as a fee is paid to you it would be worth checking with your benefits provider and tax office. Page 9

10 Do I have to be able to drive? No, you do not have to be able to drive. However, links with public transport would be useful certainly for a young person in placement who was able to have a degree of independence. If you do drive and need to use your car in relation to a fostered young person there is a fuel allowance paid to carers for the mileage they do for trips over and above those needed for everyday family life. The mileage payment would need to be agreed by the child s social worker. Can I foster if I have a criminal record? This will depend on the nature of the offence. If it involves harm to a child or young person then it is likely you would be unable to proceed. If you have a criminal record then we would want a Disclosure and Barring Service check to be done before you apply to become a foster carer. A senior manager would then decide if you could proceed once all the relevant information was available. It is important to be honest with us from the start about any offences you may have committed. Do I need a spare bedroom? You do need a spare room for a child or young person. Fostered children and young people need their own space and privacy, and a place to do their homework. I don t own my own home, can I still foster? Yes, if you are in a long-term renting agreement but you will need to check with the landlord that they are happy for you to foster. You would also need to check the tenancy agreement to ensure that there are no stipulations in relation to children and young people and fostering. Page 10

11 What if I am planning to move or carry out renovations in my home? When we undertake your assessment your home will need to undergo a health and safety check. It is important that your home is ready for fostering and there are no concerns in the health and safety report. Undertaking major works in your home may therefore delay your assessment as will moving as you need to be residing in the home where you hope to foster. Can single people foster? Yes, you can be single, gay, lesbian, married or in a co-habiting relationship. If you are single and then become involved in a relationship with a partner who may be visiting your home they may need to be included in the assessment. They will need to have a DBS check if they are going to be part of your support network and fostering family whether they live with you or not. Do I need experience of spending time with other people s children or young people? You will need to have recent and ongoing contact with children and this will be talked about more at your initial home visit. This can be in a variety of ways, such as through your employment, voluntary work with clubs or organisations, or caring for children of friends and family. What will happen if I have had previous contact with Children s Social Care or Adult Social Care (social services)? Please tell us about the involvement. We will need to read the files relevant to the contact that you made at the time. We will be open with you about our findings and whether they will impact on your interest in becoming a foster carer. Page 11

12 What happens if I ve fostered before? Please tell us and we will contact the agency or County Council for whom you fostered before. We will need to know about the service that you offered and about your experience of fostering for that agency. You will need to give us permission to contact the agency in question. What if I have a medical condition? Please raise this question early on in the process, as you may need to have a medical check to assess your health and how this may impact on your role as a foster carer. All applicants will need to have a medical check but it might be wise for you to do this earlier if the condition is of concern to you or the social worker. Can I foster if I smoke? This is a complicated area and one that we would suggest you discuss during an information home visit in more detail. If you are hoping to care for a child under the age of five years old or a child or young person with special needs or respiratory difficulties then you will not be able to foster. We will encourage you to give up smoking and do provide help and advice if you are planning to stop. Can I childmind and foster? Yes, this is fine but you would need to take the fostered young person into account when thinking about your adult child ratios for childminding. Page 12

13 The Application Process I have lived in or visited another country for more than 90 days. Is this OK? Yes, this is fine but we will need a Certificate of Good Conduct from the country you resided in for more than 90 days. This will involve contacting that country s embassy in this country for advice. A fee may possibly be incurred. I am interested in becoming a foster carer, what happens next? a) A fostering support worker will ring you for a brief chat. b) After you have read the enclosed information and are ready to proceed please return your Expression of Interest Form to us. c) You will then have an initial home visit from a trained social worker. d) You will be given training on initial skills to foster. The training takes place over either two Saturdays or six evenings (one per week). The training takes place around the county so as to make it accessible. e) You will be invited to formally apply to be a foster carer. f) From the date we receive your application we need to undertake a fostering assessment with you, to be completed during the next six months. g) Your assessment is then presented to fostering panel and you are invited to attend along with your assessing social worker. h) A senior manager then confirms the decision of the panel within the next seven days and you are informed in writing. Sometimes a decision is deferred for further information. i) Ongoing training and learning is expected, and you are supported in this process by your resource social worker. j) The time it takes from submitting your Expression of Interest Form to being approved as a foster carer takes an average of six to eight months, depending on your circumstances. Page 13

14 What checks will there be as part of my assessment? a) Disclosure and Barring Service (Police check) on all people aged 16 years or over living in your home. b) A medical report on applicants. c) A SSAFA check (Soldier, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) if you have served in the Armed Forces. d) A certificate of good conduct from a country where you have resided for more then 90 days since reaching the age of 18 years. There will be a charge for this. e) A household risk assessment (health and safety check) on your home and garden, which will include information on your pets. f) Employment checks for most recent employer as well as any work you have undertaken with children and young people, or vulnerable adults. g) An OFSTED check if you are or have been a registered childminder. Page 14

15 Working together for equalities Somerset County Council positively values diversity, and celebrates cultural and social differences. Our equal opportunities promise is that we will provide all services of equal quality which meet your needs and fulfil your rights. You can expect: The same good quality of service as everyone else, in the same amount of time, with the same amount of care and consideration. To be treated fairly, with respect, dignity and understanding whoever you are and whatever your background. Any unfairness or unfair discrimination to be investigated and put right wherever possible. To request this document in an alternative format please call Page 15

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