Category Archives: News

Your Fostering Questions

When thinking about fostering, there are many common questions people ask. Speaking to people in Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire about fostering, we’ve heard some common questions. Here are our responses to frequent questions about fostering.

Am I too old to foster?

There is no upper age limit for foster carers. There is a lower age limit of 21. Generally, in order to foster you need to be in reasonably good health with good physical and emotional resilience. Many foster carers have health conditions which they manage alongside fostering so don’t let this put you off!

Can I foster if I don’t own my own home?

Yes, as long as a secure tenancy is in place there is no need for foster carers to own their own homes. It is a requirement that foster carers have a spare room available for fostering.

Can I show affection to a foster child, e.g. hugging?

The short answer is Yes! It is really important that foster carers are warm and nurturing towards the children they look after. Foster carers need to put fair and firm boundaries in place in the context of a loving home.

Shouldn’t more work be done to keep children with their birth families?

People often see fostering as part of a system that separates children and families and we therefore get asked this question a lot! A big part of the foster carer’s role is to facilitate and support contact with the birth family where that is appropriate. There are many reasons why children cannot live with their birth family but generally all options are explored by the Local Authority before a child comes into foster care.

All children in foster care will have experienced some form of loss and the foster carer must support the child in this, helping them to understand their circumstances and supporting as healthy a relationship as possible with the birth family.

Do I get paid for fostering?

Yes. Foster carers get a fostering allowance which covers all of the costs associated with fostering a child. The amount you are paid will vary depending on who you foster through. When weighing up which fostering provider to go with, we recommend that you look at what support will be offered alongside the financial element.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be answering all your questions. If you live in Cambridgeshire and want to ask us any questions, we’ll be at St Ives festival on 14th and 15th July. Please see our Facebook page for more information or call us on 01206 299775.

Proud to be Fostering

Our carers are proud to foster

The Fostering Network estimate that the UK needs another 8000 foster carers. Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire reflect the same national picture.

Our foster carers come from all walks of life. Some of them have had happy childhoods and others have been through tough times. Some of our foster carers are single while others are married with children.  In fact, our foster carers are diverse  – as they should be! Foster carers can be rich, poor, home-owners, tenants, gay, straight, male, female, of any faith or none.

So, whilst all our carers are different, they all have one thing in common. This Foster Care Fortnight they are all #ProudToFoster.

One of our foster carer’s Paul shares an excerpt of his story here:

 

I’m Paul. My wife and I are from Suffolk and have been fostering now for 3 years. Before fostering I worked in the Caring sector, caring for elderly people and young people with learning disabilities. I am now a retired grandfather. My wife continues to work part-time as a counsellor and whilst we share the care of our foster child, I suppose you could say that I am the main carer.

We began to foster our child pretty much as soon as we were approved and she has been with us ever since. Fostering has been a life-changing experience. We have come to love our child and have invested significantly in her emotionally. We have loved to watch her begin to overcome some of the difficulties she experienced in early life and to get a glimpse of the young woman she could become. We’ve seen her grow emotionally, academically and socially. But of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing……..

If you want to read about our carers just go to our Proud to Foster page https://easternfosteringservices.com/proudtofoster/

 

Foster Care Fortnight is here

What is Foster Care Fortnight?

Foster Care Fortnight starts today. Foster Care Fortnight is a national campaign run every year by the Fostering Network. It aims to increase awareness around fostering and promote its benefits in order to recruit more foster carers.

This year the campaign slogan is #ProudToFoster and focuses on how varied a group foster carers are and so showing that people from any walk of life can foster. They have even produced a short film featuring one of our carers.

Here at Eastern Fostering Services, we have asked our carers to produce their own short film and a blog. You can see these on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EasternFosteringServices

To celebrate Foster Care Fortnight we will be holding some events this May. The first is at Ipswich Market on Thursday 17th May so do come along and see us if you live in Suffolk. Our second is at Colchester Market on 18th May so if you are from Essex and interested in fostering, pop in!

For more information on our Foster Care Fortnight events, go to www.facebook.com/EasternFosteringServices/events

Becoming a foster carer

What does becoming a foster carer involve?

Do you live in Essex, Suffolk or Cambridgeshire? Do you want to become a foster carer? If so,  we at Eastern Fostering Services are really keen to talk to you. If you call us on 01206 299775 or email us at info@easternfosteringservices.com we will call you back and talk through your questions.

After we’ve visited you at home, we’ll leave you to complete a fostering application form. Once this has been accepted, we’ll assign you an assessor. This person will produce your assessment and take you through to panel.

The process of becoming a foster carer takes around 4 months. During this time, the assessor will produce a report that assesses your suitability to foster. We have assessors across Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. They will make several visits to your home (usually about 8 in total).

The fostering assessment or Form F is like the fabled, red “This is your life” book. We’ll ask you about your childhood, your adult life, your relationships. We will look at why you want to foster. We’ll highlight all of your strengths and talk to you about any vulnerabilities. In short, this report provides all the reasons that you will make a good foster carer.

Many people think that there is something in their past that will stop them becoming a foster carer. We believe that the challenges of life are the very things that give you many of the qualities we look for in a foster carer. We need foster carers who have weathered the ups and downs of life. There is very little that can stop you becoming a foster carer.

The fostering assessment is indepth. But it is not invasive.

We are not concerned with your marital status or sexuality. We need a variety of foster carers to care for the variety of children in need.

If you live in Essex, Suffolk or Cambridgeshire and you want to foster, get in touch. Becoming a foster carer might be easier than you think.

Becoming a foster carer – how do I apply?

Becoming a foster carer. How do I decide who with?

Once you’ve decided to foster, the next decision is which agency to foster through. We advise that you do your research and see which fostering agencies operate in your local area. If you live in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk or Norfolk, you need to make sure that your Fostering provider is easy to get to and will be able to support you effectively.

Eastern Fostering Services have a head office in Suffolk and are therefore able to support foster carers in Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.

You need to get a good feel for the fostering agency. For example, how foster carer focussed are they? What do their foster carers say about them? Have they spent time talking to you about fostering and getting to know your needs and circumstances? What support do they offer? Did they mention training and developing your fostering career?

When you become a foster carer you will need good support from your fostering provider, therefore it is critical that you are convinced you will get this from your earliest conversations with them.

Request a home visit.

The first stage in applying to become a foster carer is to request a home visit.

At Eastern Fostering Services, we are really happy to do this so we will send two of our team to your house. You can ask all your fostering questions and get a feel for us as a team.

If, after this home visit, you want to go ahead and apply to be a foster carer, we will go through the application form with you.

The fostering application form

We use the application form to gather information about you and your partner if you have one. It allows us to understand a bit about your background and your motivation and timing to foster and, as a result, get a good sense of who you are.

There are no right or wrong answers!

Once the form is complete, we will ask you if you want to go ahead and foster. We will confirm that your fostering application has been accepted. There are very few reasons why an application form would not be accepted. Indeed early conversations with your fostering agency would reveal any problems or concerns from either side.

And now the fun starts.

We will allocate you an assessor who will be responsible for producing an assessment of you. This is called a form F and will be the subject of our next blog.

If you live in Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire or Norfolk and would like to know more about becoming a foster carer, please call us on 01206 299775 or email us at info@easternfosteringservices.com

Becoming a foster carer – where do I start?

Take that first step..

Nationally, there is a real shortage of foster carers. The situation is no different in Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire where Eastern Fostering Services are looking for families to foster. If you’re reading this, you’ve already taken the first, important step. So what now?

Do your research

There are lots of independent fostering agencies and Local Authorities with whom you can foster; therefore check where the most local providers are, visit their websites, read their FAQS, look their Facebook pages.

The Fostering Network is a good source of information.

Get talking

Our Foster carers say that what they love about us is the quality and quantity of support they get. Talk to the fostering providers that you’ve identified and get a feel for how well they will support you.

Ask to speak to other foster carers  – any good fostering provider should encourage you to do this.

Look out for Fostering Events in Essex, Suffolk or Cambridgeshire and make sure you get to ask all the questions you have. Our next event is at The Grafton Centre, Cambridge on 6th and 7th April.

Request a visit

Fostering agencies and providers will be happy to see you in your home. Arrange for a home visit from a couple of fostering providers. They may want to look round your house but they shouldn’t expect you to be pristine so please don’t worry about this! Whilst fostering agencies will be gathering information about you during this visit, don’t forget to get as much information from them too. You will work closely with fostering professionals so it is important that you like and trust them.

Make your choice

Decide on which fostering provider you’d like to foster with then call them and tell them you would like to apply. At this point the fostering agency or provider will be able to talk about how to apply to foster. We’ll also be covering this in our next blog!

If you live in Essex, Suffolk or Cambridgeshire and would like to foster, come to one of our Fostering Events, call us on 01206 299775 or email us at info@easternfosteringservices.com

 

 

Moon Landing – Part One

I’ve often thought that, for our foster son, coming to live with us must have been like being plucked from your bed and finding yourself firmly ensconced on the moon. This is not because we are particularly strange per se but because of all the foreignness we came wrapped in.
Think about it. One day you are with your family and the next you are on a journey through who-knows-where to who-knows-what. Up to this point you’ve only ever known home, you’ve only ever known a life manacled by war and violence; you’ve had to live your life in hiding. You’ve lost family members, friends, freedom. But you’ve also had the comfort of a loving family, the familiarities of home: the language, the traditions, the food, the festivals, the way things are done. And then one day it is all lost. Everything familiar, good and bad, wiped out. Leaving a smudged and confusing tableau like ink wiped hastily from a whiteboard. A new narrative begins to write itself full of unfamiliar words, unimaginable scenes, loneliness, loss, suspicion, a new violence in an alien setting. I wonder if you’d long for the familiar fear rather than this new one? But it’s too late. What’s done is done and you have no choice but to accept it and move on. It is beyond the remit of your control.
I was mindful of all of this when our lad arrived. How out of place he was. How difficult it would be to trust us. Did our foreign tongue sound harsh to his ears? Did our safety and comfort overwhelm or offend him? Judging by the look in his eyes, what he felt was a paralysing terror.
Grand design
What preoccupied me in those early days, in addition to attending to his immediate practical needs, was how we were going to help him rebuild his life from the ruins in which he found himself. It struck me that a new, healthy life had to be built on two foundations: a reconnection to the familiar, the loss of which left him floundering, rudderless. And a mapping out of the new so that it would not be so foreign and frightening for him. But how?
As a woman of faith one of the first affinities I felt for him was an understanding of how faith anchors you. I bought him a prayer mat and a Qur’an. I knew that he could not read or understand Arabic (the language that the Qur’an is written in) so I sourced a version that had both the Arabic and a translation in his own language. He later told me how much comfort he had drawn from this book during his long, dark, sleepless nights. It was obvious that he clung gratefully to the rituals of his religion, something he had been unable to do meaningfully on his journey. It was something familiar at last. We asked our Muslim friends to recommend a good mosque and we began taking him there on Fridays. He was still a fish out of water but he could dip his toe into a pool that held glimmers of the known.

Finding friends
Having worked with children who had had the same experiences as our foster son, I had existing relationships with some other lads from his home country. We introduced him to them and slowly our lad began to talk to them and form a bond with them. These friends have all lost brothers, cousins, parents and when our lad tells me that his friends are brothers to him, I understand that this is no simile. The bond they have is familial and tribal. It is vital to him.
But what is also vital is that as his foster carer, I need to be the safety net for him. I built my own relationships with his friends’ carers. We were able to keep an eye on them from a distance, keep track of where they were going and with whom, share concerns, put one another’s’ minds at rest. We were able to invite the boys into our houses and get to know them better. And when friendships developed outside of this group, I made sure I had addresses, phone numbers, Facebook profiles. Our lad’s social worker was able to go out and meet his friends and ensure he was safe. For it was always clear that his longing for home, for the familiar, for the shared history left our foster son vulnerable in ways he couldn’t really grasp.
These points of reference provided something of great value to him in the early days and continue to be his “go to” when things are tough. But it is no good giving someone a map of planet earth and asking them to use it to navigate the moon. We needed to work on familiarising him with the new.

A Journey into Foster Caring – Eastern Fostering Services

 

The view of Narnia

 

This is the first post from Lucy Stevens who, along with her family, is embarking on the process of becoming a foster carer. She will be chronicling the story of her journey via this regular blog.

 

I’m on a journey into foster caring. This journey of mine is a little different from the norm. For me, it’s a bit like the C.S.Lewis book, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.’ For those who are unfamiliar with the story, the main character, Lucy stumbles upon a whole new world on the other side of a wardrobe she is hiding in. The world she ends up in, Narnia, is full of new, life-changing things to discover. The way is littered with potential pitfalls and dangers. Lucy enters Narnia for the first time on her own before eventually taking her family with her, in the form of her brothers and sister. Together they are shaped by the events of the story and eventually they thrive.

 

As I write this very first blog, I’m probably in that place that Lucy found herself in near the beginning of the book- I’m in the wardrobe, with one hand parting the row of coats, aware that the air on the other side is different: fresher, bracing, compelling. My fingers have brushed that first fir frond that tells me there is a new world to discover on the other side. You see, I’ve been working at Eastern Fostering Services (EFS), an independent fostering agency, for about two years now. During this time, I have very much been on this side of said wardrobe, but it’s been a wardrobe with a view. 

 

A bit about me

 

I’m Lucy and I have two boys and a husband. In the days before this rather messy, rather boy-heavy, at times rather smelly but equally rather wonderful existence, I worked for various small businesses, helping them to grow.

 

Where are you going? Come back. There’s a point and I’m getting to it, I promise.

 

When we had the boys, my husband and I decided that I would stay at home while he worked in London. I loved every minute of this but as someone who likes to be busy, I knew that I had to use that time wisely. I started to write. Then I did a writing degree. Then I wrote some more. Once both boys went off to school, I started to run creative writing and storytelling classes for the children at their school. Soon I knew that I wanted to do this for children who didn’t necessarily have all the opportunities that these kids did. Around the same time I was asked by someone I knew (who runs EFS) if I would consider being on their Panel. I was made up. After I’d been doing this for a while, I asked if I might run some story making sessions with the agency’s looked after children. EFS is a highly creative, child-centred agency and they were delighted to have another form of direct children’s work. So effectively I had two hats: panel and direct children’s worker. After about a year, my husband decided he really didn’t want to work in London any more (who can blame him?) and opted for a PhD in plant science instead (as you do). This life-changing decision coincided with EFS asking me if I would be willing to put on one more ‘hat’. They employed me to help them recruit foster carers.

 

Now, EFS is a small agency and as Sister Sledge once declared: we are family. We all muck in and we all share in the ups and downs. Throughout my time at EFS, I’ve built relationships with the children, the carers and the EFS staff. I’ve felt both the elation and the heartache of these three groups. I’ve seen fostering families flourish. I’ve seen children happy and settled. I’ve listened as carers have bared their deepest fears for the children in their care. I’ve laughed with our social workers and cried with them too. I’ve seen frightened children. I’ve seen exhausted carers. I’ve seen how tough it is for everyone concerned. I’ve been furious. I’ve been sad. I’ve whooped for joy. I’ve had my face covered in shaving foam and Cheerios – don’t ask. At times I’ve been unable to think of anything else but the children we exist for. In short, I’ve fallen in love with this bold, new world.

 

Stepping through the wardrobe

 

And so I’m heading through the wardrobe into Narnia. The Stevens’ have decided to foster. Lucy made her first foray into Narnia on her own. After two years of gazing, open-mouthed between the coats, this Lucy is going with her family at her side. And you’re invited too. Every step of the way, from application to awaiting the arrival of a child (we’re hoping we get that far!) You’ll see our hopes and aspirations; share in our triumphs and our failures. We might encourage you in your journey or we might put you off, but either way we’d love to have you along for the ride. If you’re up for it?