Tag Archives: fostering service

5 steps to becoming a foster carer

Step 1  – Register your interest

Thinking of becoming a foster carer? How do you find out which fostering providers to approach?

As with anything in life, when it comes to becoming a foster carer, you should do your research. As a foster carer, you will need excellent support so you should look for local fostering providers who offer quality, 24 hour support. Smaller agencies are often better placed to offer quality, tailored support.

A young child holds up a scrap of paper on which he has drawn a rainbow and the words "Love makes a family". This represents how becoming a foster carer can create a loving family for a child.

The Fostering Network have a tool on their website that allows you to search for local fostering providers. Moreover the internet is an excellent source of information. However, you need to know what you are looking for when deciding which fostering provider might best suit you and your individual needs.

I want to become a foster carer, shall I approach a fostering agency or the Local Authority?

Deciding who you want to foster with is a personal choice. The Local Authority prefer to place children with their in-house foster carers and will give them priority. Therefore you might get a greater choice of children. Increasingly, however, due to the shortage in foster carers, fostering agencies also receive a high number of requests.

The main difference between fostering agencies and Local Authorities is in the quality and level of support you will receive. In particular, smaller agencies such as Eastern Fostering Services will know you, your family and the children you foster very well. This means that when you need to call for help, you will speak to a team member who knows your situation – no need for lengthy explanations!

I have found some fostering providers – what now?

Ask yourself, are these people you could work with?

You can contact fostering providers by phone, email or web enquiry form. Indeed some fostering providers can be found on Facebook. Simply get in touch with them and ask them for more information.

Fostering providers should offer you the chance to talk either over the phone or face to face.

Here is a quick suggestion of what you might ask them:

What support do you offer carers?

Can you tell me about your matching process?

How does the assessment process work?

What positive outcomes do you achieve for children?

What training and development do you offer?

Which children do you need carers for?

In turn, Fostering providers might ask you:

Why do you want to foster?

Are there birth children living at home?

Do you have a spare room available for fostering?

Have you got experience working with children or vulnerable adults?

What type of child (age, gender etc.) do you feel would suit you best?

What do you do for a living?

Can you drive?

Do you have a criminal record?

A more in-depth conversation is now needed.

When you have decided which fostering provider(s) might be the best fit for you, you can request a home visit. This is a great opportunity for you to ask any other questions. In addition you can get an even better feel for the fostering provider. Ask yourself, are these people you could work with?

To get the best out of your home visit, keep your eyes open for our next blog: Becoming a Foster carer, step 2 – the home visit. You can access all our blogs from our homepage.

Independent Fostering Agencies: right to reply

On Tuesday 27th August, the BBC covered a news story relating to fostering, and in particular, to the role of independent fostering agencies in fostering. Radio 4’s Today programme devoted a large swathe of their air time to the subject and a written article can be found on the BBC News website.

Eastern Fostering Services, as a small, independent fostering agency, were disappointed to find that the independent providers were yet again vilified as cash counting mercenaries who are only working in the fostering sector for financial gain. Such broad-based assumption feeds in to the negative associations that are held in relation to fostering more widely.

A group of adults work together to throw a young girl into the air. The image represents team work between independent fostering agencies and public sector to provide excellent care to children.
The private and public should be able to work together to provide the best care for vulnerable children

The bigger picture

We believe that there is a way for Local Authorities and independent fostering agencies to work together in the best interests of the children. Sadly, there are systemic failures that make this incredibly difficult for the small agencies such as Eastern Fostering Services.

It is fairly typical for Local Authority commissioning to weight their tender invitations to independent fostering agencies towards cost rather than quality. A common 70% onus on cost versus 30% on quality of care provision means that both measures are naturally driven down.

There have been innumerable conferences, consultations and collaborations focussing on more ‘intelligent’ commissioning but in over 20 years of our experience in the sector, little has changed. Local Authorities continue to have unmet needs and the tension between the public and private sector continues, translating to a poorer service for vulnerable children.

We well understand the enormous financial pressures that Local Authorities are subject to but whilst a view persists that the independent sector are a threat rather than an opportunity, unhelpful myths and misapprehensions will continue to fester further debilitating the system.

What do the experts say about independent fostering agencies?

As was correctly pointed out in the media, the Nairey report concluded that although independent agencies were slightly more expensive (we would note this is an average and does not reflect the huge price range that exists in the sector), the difference in cost is negligible versus the quality of outcomes for children who are living in foster care.

We were disappointed that this information was very much an afterthought rather than the presiding point and we are left yet again trying to justify our position as child-centred practitioners, rather than financial opportunists. Such a portrayal is damaging to our working relationships with Local Authorities and other professionals, to the public perception of fostering more generally and ultimately for the children to whom we have all made a commitment to serve.

Along with our carers, who are supported to provide long-term, stable placements, we are an important constant for these children.

Anecdotally as a small fostering agency, we are increasingly one of the few constants in the children’s lives. Many children experience changes in social worker on a frighteningly regular basis and often the agency social workers support and advocate for the children and carers and provide a safe base for exceptional care to be carried out by our foster carers. Along with our carers, who are supported to provide long-term, stable placements, we are an important constant for these children.

Is there hope?

Many small independent fostering agencies work tirelessly to promote the well-being of the children in their care, challenging poor decisions and speaking up for those most vulnerable children when their voices are not being heard. Equally, we work creatively to find solutions to problems that might impede the very best care, often supporting and bolstering Local Authority resources.

In short, we want to work with other professionals to put the needs of children first. We believe that dialogue, cooperation and a change in the cultural perception of independent fostering agencies would really help unlock creativity, efficiency and ultimately better outcomes for the children.

Becoming a foster carer: 5 things you should know

Becoming a foster carer will change your life. Here are 5 things you should know.

  • Fostering is hard but rewarding

Becoming a foster carer is one of the bravest steps you can take. It is a job that takes place in your home, 24/7. Fostering will require you to make changes to your life. Not only will you be fostering the most vulnerable children in society but you will be working within a difficult system too. It’s hard work. BUT the rewards are beyond anything you could expect in any other job. If you’re in two minds about fostering, simply ask yourself, “in what other job can I transform lives?” With the right support, from the right fostering agency, fostering can be a joy.

Male and female foster carers with their two birth sons, smiling and looking excited.
Becoming a fostering family
  • When you become a foster carer your life will change too!

As with any big life change, foster carers need to learn to live differently. When you apply to foster, you will open your life up to examination. It is important that foster carers realise that no-one is judging them. You are not expected to be saintly! Fostering providers need to check that you have what it takes to foster and that you are offering the best standard of care for the child. However within that, it is understood that you are an individual with your own approach and you should be free to add your uniqueness to the fostering process. Any good provider will nurture you as an individual and support you to foster in the best way you can.

If you’re in two minds about fostering, simply ask yourself, “in what other job can I transform lives?”

  • You may lose some friends but you’ll gain some too.

Not everyone will understand the changes that will happen in your life when you foster. Many of your friends will want to support you; undoubtedly friends like this are gems and will form an important part of your support network. But there will be others who don’t understand that you may need to cancel plans at the last minute. They might not understand your motivations and feel left out. It is important that you can be part of a fostering community. Making friends with other carers will ensure that you feel understood and supported. Take advantage of the fostering communities offered to you by your fostering provider.

  • You will surprise yourself.

Fostering gives you endless opportunity to learn about yourself. The children that you care for will provoke all manner of reactions in you! Some children may cause your own unresolved issues to surface. It is for this reason that you must choose a fostering provider who will offer excellent support and supervision. But it’s not all bad! When you foster, you will discover strengths you did not know you had. As you help children to heal, you too will grow, learn and develop as a person.

In a world where kindness and understanding can be hard to find, one often sees them alive and kicking in fostering families.

  • Fostering will make your life richer.

We all know that good foster carers can transform the lives of children. This is one of the main motivations of good foster carers. Yet, it is also true to say that fostering will transform and enrich the lives of fostering families. Foster carers often tell us that their birth children have become more resilient, more empathetic and more emotionally intelligent. Both children and adults who foster learn something vital about their own humanity and that of others who are different to them. In a world where kindness and understanding can be hard to find, one often sees them alive and kicking in fostering families.

If you think that you have what it takes to become a foster carer, we have lots of information on our website, including some excellent fostering seminars. Find out more about fostering here.

We also post information about Eastern Fostering Services events on our Facebook page. See if there is a fostering event near to you!

Could you #changeafuture

Good fostering can transform lives

This May sees the start of Foster Care Fortnight, the UK’s biggest awareness raising campaign for foster care.

In the UK, it is estimated that over 8000 additional fostering families are needed .

“In the East of England alone, we need over 600 additional carers to allow us to provide well matched foster carers to the children who need them,” says Eleanor Vanner of Eastern Fostering Services, an agency who look after children across Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. “Every 20 minutes in the UK another child comes into care needing a fostering family; it’s vital that we have a good pool of carers for these children.”

Fostering offers children and young people the opportunity for secure, safe and nurturing homes when they are unable to live with their birth families. Indeed good foster care can help transform the lives of children who have experienced loss and trauma in their early lives.

So what makes a good foster carer?

“There are several things that we look for in potential foster carers,” says Lucy Stevens who recruits carers for Eastern Fostering Services. “Foster carers are expected to support, listen to and advocate for children. They need to be empathetic, good communicators, patient, kind, warm, nurturing, strong and determined. They need to be able to work with a wide range of individuals and professionals. They need to be resilient and perhaps most importantly of all be in possession of a good sense of humour!”

All foster carers need to fulfil some basic criteria. They must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have a spare bedroom big enough for a young person to live in
  • Be a full time resident in the UK or have leave to remain
  • Be able to commit in terms of time to the child they are looking after

Think you could #changeafuture? What do you do next?

If you think you meet the basic criteria required to foster and that you have many of the qualities that foster carers need to have; and if you live in Essex, Suffolk or Cambridgeshire contact Eastern Fostering Services at info@easternfosteringservices.com We have lots of useful resources both on our website; try https://easternfosteringservices.com/faqs/ and on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EasternFosteringServices.

We also hold regular local drop-in information mornings, details of which can be found at www.facebook.com/EasternFosteringServices/events

Our next event is at Falafel and More in Colchester on 18th May between 11 and 2. We hope to see you there!



Foster carers needed in Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire

Local children need local foster carers

In the UK, there are now more children than ever in need of foster carers. Children in Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are no exception.

Our children need local foster carers who can keep them in education, in local communities and near to the people who are important to them.

Which children need foster carers?

There are children in every age group who are in need of a nurturing foster carer. From young sibling groups, teenagers, mother and babies, children with additional needs and unaccompanied children. The list goes on. By far the most typical children are sibling groups and young people between the ages of 10 to 16.

What does it take to foster?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need qualifications to foster. We look for more general qualities such as empathy, warmth, resilience and passion. In fact, we produced a short film outlining the qualities foster carers should have. You can view the film here.

What are you waiting for?

It could be that you are the perfect match for a child in need. If you want to know more about fostering and you live in Essex, Suffolk or Cambridgeshire, call us on 01206 299775, email us at info@easternfosteringservices.com or follow us on Facebook.

Come and meet us!

You can come and meet the Eastern Fostering Services team and our carers at one of our fostering coffee mornings. Details of all events can be found on our Facebook page. And don’t forget we’ve put loads of information about fostering on our website, so do take a look.

Do I get paid to foster?

Fostering finances

Do I get paid to foster?

When it comes to fostering, money is an emotive topic of conversation. Nonetheless, people ask “Do I get paid to foster?” and in order to answer the questions we get about finances, it’s a topic we’d like to address.

We’d like to make it clear that good foster carers are 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 money 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 and 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 toiletries. It will include extra-curricular activities, school uniform and equipment, school meals, leisure 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; it helps them decide whether fostering 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. Instead of solely asking, “do I get paid to foster?”, we would 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. Many other things 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(ren) 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 fostering, including the finances, please contact us at info@easternfosteringservices.com or call us on 01206 299775.

Alternatively, pop into one of our events. A full list of events can be found at www/facebook.com/EasternFosteringServices/events

Why foster?

“Why am I doing this?” is a question all foster carers will ask themselves at some point and it’s an important question to ask yourself as it enables you to keep your motivations central to your fostering experience.

So why do people foster?
Most people who foster feel passionately about the wellbeing of children. They want to give opportunities to children who may not have had the best start in life; they want to share something of themselves, if you like.

For many, this is not centred around sharing material wealth, this is about loving, nurturing and caring for a child and for others there is a sense that “I have so much and want to share it.”

Most foster carers have a strong sense of social justice – they believe every child deserves the same opportunity to live a good, healthy and happy life and that this is not just the right of any one group of people. Carers also see the value of the “one child at a time” mentality which values the commitment to justice for one child at a time.

It’s true that many carers have had difficult times in their lives; things they’ve lived through that have made them stronger or more wise. Often people wish to share what they’ve learned with children going through similar things and can teach them resilience and a sense of hope for the future.

Carers understand that they are working in an imperfect system and are often at the mercy of government policy and rules and regulations. They do, however understand that it is often the children who pay the price. As such, carers realise that they have a unique opportunity to be the one good thing in a child’s life during difficult times.

There are many carers who are driven to fostering because of what their belief system is. Faith can play a huge role in a person’s desire to foster. Looking after the most vulnerable in our society is an important way for many to live out their faith.

Whatever the initial reason for fostering, all carers will say that they want to make a difference in the lives of children and this is at the root of their motivation.

If you can relate to any of these key motivations to foster and would like the opportunity to discuss fostering with us, please come along to our drop in session next Thursday 13th September at 10.30; we’d be delighted to talk to you.

Our address can be found at www.easternfosteringservices.com or email us at info@easternfosteringservices.com fore more information.

Do I get paid to be a foster carer?

When it comes to fostering, money is an emotive and often 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.

We’d like to start out by making it clear that good foster carers are always motivated by a deep 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 and 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 rightly need to know how much money they could expect to receive for fostering when deciding 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 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(ren) 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.

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.

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