Tag Archives: how to foster

Fostering trans young people

Transgender flag used to illustrate fostering trans young people.
Transgender flag waving in blue cloudy sky, 3D rendering

7 things trans young people need from their foster carers

We know that children and young people in foster care are highly vulnerable and need their foster carers to support and advocate for them. We also know that trans young people are vulnerable to discrimination and oppression. So how should carers prepare for fostering trans young people?

What should foster carers know about what it’s like to be a trans young person?

One could say that generally our society does not treat young people well. Teenagers are often treated with suspicion and criticism and a degree of contempt. For young people in foster care, these attitudes are largely exacerbated. When it comes to fostering trans young people, the challenges can be even more pronounced.

  • 81% of trans young people will avoid certain social situations out of fear, for example over 50% have said they avoid public toilets (Trans mental health review 2012)
  • 62% of trans young people have experienced harassment by the public in a public space (James Morton, Scottish Transgender Alliance, 2008)
  • 30% reported that a health care professional refused to discuss a trans-related concern with them (Trans Mental Health Review, 2012)
  • 84% have considered suicide at some point (Trans Mental Health Review, 2009)

Should trans young people be treated any differently when it comes to fostering?

Of course the answer is a resounding no! All children in foster care should expect their carers to support, encourage, respect and advocate for them. Trans children and young people are no different. But it would be naïve to assume that a one-size-fits-all approach will cover all eventualities. Trans young people may be dealing with additional problems related to their identity and it is this that foster carers need to be mindful of and prepared for. In short, foster carers need to educate themselves.

Metaphor for the challenges around fostering trans young people
Gender gap, sex inequality concept as male and female stand on different size cliffs. Metaphor of discrimination social issue, women superiority, feminism idea dominance.

What do trans young people need from me as their foster carer?

Most young people desire to be accepted and understood. Some trans young people will feel this need more keenly amidst rejection and ridicule by peers or society at large. As a trans young person in foster care therefore, you may be looking even more closely at your carer’s actions and reactions.

Trans young people may be dealing with additional problems related to their identity and it is this that foster carers need to be mindful of and prepared for.

  • Be empathetic.

Foster carers need to be able to put themselves in the shoes of others. How important is your identity to you? How would you feel if your identity was questioned or denied? Do all that you can to understand the young person’s perspective. Read blogs, articles, research and TALK to your young person.

  • Create a safe space.

In order to understand a young person’s point of view, you need to create trust and opportunity to share conversation. Always be led by the young person and go at their pace but the aim should be to normalise discussion. This allows a young person to feel heard and accepted.

  • Be accepting.

We all want to be accepted for who we are and foster carers have a duty to accept children and young people and meet them where they are at. Trans young people might have experienced rejection, abuse and alienation as a direct result of their identity. They have a right to be respected and accepted in the home environment.

All children in foster care should expect their carers to support, encourage, respect and advocate for them.

I also need you to…

  • Find out what is important to the young person.

What pronoun do they want you to use for them? What name? How open do they want to be with others? Do they want to access support services? Do they want to explore their identity further and do they need help to do so? Don’t assume. Ask.

  • Support the young person to educate themselves.

There are many good sources of age appropriate information which can help trans young people to understand their feelings. Seek these out and offer to share them with your young person

  • Advocate for your young person.

Once you know their experiences, expectations and desires make sure other professionals understand and abide by them.

  • Challenge other professionals!

Correct stereotypes. Be sensitive to mis-gendering. Try to engage those who don’t listen.

Fostering a trans young person? Start right here.

Trans Youth in Care have produced an excellent guide and toolkit. In addition to this they have a great list of further resources. Well worth a look!

If you think you have what it takes to foster a young person, get in touch with EFS at info@easternfosteringservices.com or visit our Facebook page to learn a bit more or find out about our information events near to you.

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!

Fostering Information Event dates for your diary

Fostering Information Events

We hold regular events for people who are seeking information about fostering. Often we have some of our carers with us who are more than happy to share their experiences of fostering.

When you are looking into fostering it is important that you do as much fact finding as possible. Equally, it’s vital that you get a feel for how well the agency will support you.

When is the nearest fostering event to me?

Keep an eye on our Facebook events page for future events around Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Equally, let us know you’d be interested in dropping in and we can arrange something with you!

www.facebook.com/EasternFosteringServices/events

Which children are most in need of foster carers?

Every month we get between 150 and 190 referrals for children who are in need of foster carers. Contrary to popular belief these are not all tiny babies; rather they include a variety of children and young people.

This month we have had numerous requests for carers for young mothers and their babies, small and large sibling groups and children entering or well-established into their teen years.

To cope with the demand for carers across a wide range of children, we need carers of all sorts. There isn’t a “one size fits all” mould for carers. Carers can be of all backgrounds, religious persuasion, sexuality, race or standing. What we hope to find in potential carers is a desire to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and young people and to promote their needs.

It may be that you feel an affinity to teens having had a colourful or challenging adolescence yourself. Perhaps you believe that mothers should be given every opportunity to parent their own children with confidence. It may be that you feel strongly that siblings who are unable to live with their birth families have the right to remain with each other. Fostering can cater to all these beliefs and motivations and indeed much of the above is simply impossible without a wide pool of carers to do the hard work.

If you are interested in making a difference to young mothers seeking guidance, to teens who need someone to believe in them or have enough space and time to help siblings thrive. If you want to nurture, guide and advocate for young people or children, please get in touch to find out more.

We hold events across Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Our next events are in Peterborough on 29th October and we will be holding an informal drop in on 7th November at our offices. Drop us a message and try to come along. For further information visit our events page or email us at info@easternfosteringservices.com

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.

We’re here to answer your fostering questions

As we speak to people across Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire about the shortage in foster carers, we are always struck by the fact that the same questions get asked and that many similar misconceptions are held.

In a series of videos we’d like to answer the questions we hear most frequently. But of course we’ll also answer any other questions you’d like us to. Please feel free to message us or comment with your questions or tell us what’s stopping you from taking that step towards fostering.

If you’d prefer to ask your questions in person, you can come to one of our events or drop in to our offices. For all dates and details please visit our Facebook events page at
www.facebook.com/EasternFosteringServices/events or call us on 01206 299775.

Eastern Fostering Services - Whats so special about us

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.