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Do I get paid to be a foster carer?

When it comes to fostering, money is an emotive and controversial topic of conversation. Nonetheless, in the interest of answering the questions we get about finances, it is a topic we’d like to address.

Good foster carers are always motivated by a desire to make a positive difference in the lives of children. The best foster carers seek to nurture, love and advocate for the children in their care. In our experience, very few carers are ever motivated by financial gain and it is very important to us that they are not.

However, one cannot escape the fact that it costs money to raise a child. It is for this reason that Local Authorities pay a fostering allowance to foster carers.

The money foster carers receive will cover the cost of caring for a child. It includes the cost of food, clothing, pocket money, savings for the child, personal items such as toys or toileteries. It will include extra-curricular activities, school uniform and equipment, school meals, lesiure and sports activities. It is expected to cover other incremental household costs associated with caring for additional children, such as utilities.

Many people want and need to know how much money they will receive for fostering so that they can decide whether it is a viable option for them. The answer to this is that the amount will vary and is dependent on the needs of the individual child.

For example, a carer who looks after children with profound care needs would receive a higher allowance. This is because there might be significant costs associated with providing the required level of care. Children and young people whose care needs are less challenging might require less round-the-clock care and a lower care-related expenditure and therefore carers looking after these children would expect a lower allowance.

It is worth saying that Fostering Providers will differ in what allowance they pay foster carers. We would strongly urge prospective carers to look at the whole package offered to them by Fostering Providers. Whilst we would expect no foster carer to be out of pocket when caring for a child, when it comes to fostering there are some things that money can’t buy and which are vital to ensure stable, positive and fruitful fostering experiences. When looking for a fostering provider, we recommend you check:

1.      How child focused the fostering provider is – talk to fostering providers and gauge how invested they are in the children they support. Their policies and activities should be child-centric and should promote stable, nurturing and successful fostering experiences for carers and children alike.

2.      What support you will be given: does the provider offer 24/7 support? Is the team small enough to get to know you, your family and the child you care for?

3.      What additional support is offered: does the provider offer services to promote emotional wellbeing and resilience amongst its carers? Is there an active and supportive fostering community who can meet regularly to support and encourage one another? Is there a sound Social Worker to carer ratio, ensuring carers and their families can be seamlessly supported and listened to?

4.      What training and development opportunities exist – a good fostering provider will provide varied, relevant and tailored training and development for their carers. It should be easy for carers to communicate their training needs and aspirations and fostering providers should be able to demonstrate that they are responsive.

 

If you would like to talk to us about any aspect of fostering, including the finances, please contact us at info@easternfosteringservices.com or call us on 01206 299775.

Alternatively, pop into one of our events. Our next drop-in session will be on Thursday 19th July from 10.30-12.30 at our offices in East Bergholt, Suffolk. A full list of events can be found at www/facebook.com/EasternFosteringServices/events

Showing Affection

“I was told you can’t cuddle a child or sit on their bed to read a story!”

This is a comment we get all the time and in the majority of cases, it couldn’t be further from the truth. In the fostering household, we want to replicate all the positives of growing up in a nurturing family. We want children to feel listened to, cherished, nurtured and advocated for. In lots of families, this sense of security and being valued comes from physical affection too, something that many of us take for granted.

One of the differences between fostering and parenting is that as a foster carer, you have to be a lot more intentional around things like physical affection. In other words, you have to tailor your approach to the individual child in your care.

It may be that the child you are caring for thrives off physical affection and that this is a very important part of the healing process for them. But for others, it might be a very different story.

Some children might be over-physical, indiscriminate with physical affection, even with complete strangers. This can put them at risk and therefore as a carer, you would need to think carefully about how, when and with whom physical affection is shown. For children who have a propensity to be overly and inappropriately affectionate, carers might consider helping the child develop boundaries by giving them alternative ways to show affection.
For some children, physical affection is something to be mistrusted and feared. Some abusers will dress up their abuse as affection or a means of showing love to a child and this can make any form of physical affection confusing for the child and can be interpreted as a prelude to abuse.

It’s really important then, that carers take time to understand the child before wading in with a bear hug. It’s true that carers will have some information on the background of the child, and that this background will help the carer develop an approach towards that child. That said, there might still be things that are unknown about what that child has been through.

Whilst allegations of abuse made by children towards carers are not common, carers should be aware of the possibility of this and should take steps to protect themselves and their families. It is possible that children could misinterpret affection or that it could trigger a trauma response, which leads to angry and confused behaviour. This is why it is so important to tailor your approach to the specific child and their circumstances.
To the average person, the idea of setting out a caring plan could be looked upon as overkill, but the purpose of a Safer Caring plan is to make sure that the carer and the child are comfortable with what nurturing and staying safe looks like for that particular child. Many of our carers can happily cuddle up with their child at bed time to read a story. Many of our children need a cuddle in front of the TV to help them feel loved and secure. And of course of a good proportion of our children wouldn’t be seen dead cuddling their carers! Some carers have been free to show affection from day 1; for others it has been a slow, laborious process of trust building and for others it has never been appropriate to hug and the hi-five has become king.

Fostering and the spare room

Do I need a spare room to foster?

We’ve talked to many people interested in fostering in Essex, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. One of the most common questions is “Why do I need a spare room in order to foster?”

The short answer is that it is a mandatory requirement to have a spare bedroom to dedicate to fostering when you apply to be a foster carer. Many people find this frustrating and we often get further questions asking us why this policy exists for foster carers.

Would you move into a house and share a bedroom with a complete stranger?

Moving in with a new foster family is a frightening and confusing time for children, no matter how young or old they are. It can take time for a child to trust carers and to establish that they are safe from harm. In order to process events, change and transition, it is crucial that children have their own space. When in their own space, children are much more likely to examine their feelings and therefore be able to deal with them than they would in a shared or more public space.

For many children the bedroom might have been a dangerous place..

Many children coming into foster care might never have had their own bedroom or safe space. They may have witnessed or been subject to inappropriate, harmful or frightening behaviour. The importance of having a space that is respected and not compromised by others is not to be under-estimated.

Sometimes it’s about you too…

It is not unusual for children who have suffered loss, grief, trauma, abuse or neglect to have a range of issues with sleep. There might be nightmares, bed-wetting, aggression at bed time, insomnia and even sexually inappropriate behaviour. Careful thought must be given to respecting the privacy of children grappling with these issues but also the impact on other family members, particularly if you are expecting that particular family member to share a room with the child.

For more information, please email us at info@easternfosteringservices.com or call us on 01206 299775.

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.