Tag Archives: Suffolk fostering

Fostering children: a new PATH?

A boy of about 6 holds a kite over one shoulder, the sun is low in the sky. The boy is starting to run and is aiming the kite for the sky. This image represents the empowerment of children.
Fostering should empower children to make a better future for themselves.

When fostering children, how do we ensure we keep children at the heart of everything we do?

Many foster carers are highly driven to provide child-centric care to the children they are fostering. This takes many forms from therapeutic fostering, advocacy, support in education and providing boundaries. And let’s not forget good old fashioned love and nurturing. All foster carers however need to work within the system and its associated requirements and constraints. It is within this arena that many foster carers see the child-centred approach turn on its heels and disappear.

Is a child centred approach to fostering children always adopted in meetings with professionals?

many foster carers see the child-centred approach turn on its heels and disappear.

Fostering involves meeting and liaising with the professionals who are responsible for fulfilling statutory obligations towards children. This is obviously an important part of the overall fostering picture. Professionals need to ensure that the needs of children are met in every area that forms a part of their care. And rightly so.

Fostering professionals perform a good deal of this box ticking during the Child in Care Review meeting (misguidedly acronymed to CIC). During this meeting a range of professionals and other individuals will be present. Often the child, the foster carer, birth parents, social workers, teachers or other advocates might sit together for all or part of the meeting. The aim of the CIC is to establish progress of the child in a number of areas. In addition to this professionals make plans for the future which will be reviewed at subsequent meetings. At their worst, they are an excruciatingly boring exercise in box ticking which means little or nothing to the child. In fact they can bear little relation to what is truly important to them. At their best they can be an opportunity for the children’s views to be heard and acted upon.

Anecdotally, children who are present for all or some of this meeting can struggle with the monotony of examining everything with a  fine-toothed comb. They can feel scrutinised and vulnerable. One Eastern Fostering Services carer reports, “Our child would stay for the entire meeting. Whilst he was always keen to give his views on certain things, this took a relatively small part of the meeting. About mid-way through, his eyes would glaze over and I don’t think he once left a CIC review without a crushing headache. I suppose he and I saw it as a necessary evil.”

So how do we get it right for the children we’re fostering?

When fostering children, carers can feel it’s like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. Indeed when she is good she is very, very good and when she is bad she is horrid. Of course, all foster carers have some horror stories to tell. Furthermore, when things don’t work, we are quick to hear about it in the media or from colleagues. But sometimes the professionals do get it right and when they do, they get it very, very right.

The PATH to good fostering is not paved with gold.

It would be grossly unfair to suggest that the fostering journey is furnished with anything but good intentions; both on the part of foster carers and the myriad professionals responsible for the holistic care of children. However, whilst it is difficult to make statutory box ticking child-centric, children’s views can be heard. Suffolk Virtual School has developed excellent child-centred ways for their social workers, schools’ staff and foster carers to hear and act upon children’s views. The process that they use is called PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope). This was a process originally designed by Inclusive Solutions who trained Suffolk’s Psychology and Therapeutic Service to deliver the process to children and young people in conjunction with Virtual Schools.

“Two years on, it’s having an amazing impact,” says Dr Imogen Howarth of Health, Wellbeing and Children’s services, Suffolk. “Their latest Ofsted Inspection showcased dozens of PATHs across the county with Children and Young People’s services and schools being able to explain their PATH contents and how the children and young people’s views captured in the process were being translated into real world practice.”

Image shows a boy dreaming of space, possibly he wants to be an astronaut.
Children are encouraged to verbalise their dreams with no restrictions.

How does PATH work?

PATH is a process that creates a vision of a positive future for the child which is shared with those who are important to them. This might be foster carers, birth family, social workers, therapists and teachers. It is completely child-centred and therefore is focussed on the young person and their very personal dreams for the future.

The session is delivered by a facilitator who guides people through each stage of outlining the dream and what needs to happen to make it a reality.

The first stage is to set out the dream. The child or young person is asked to verbalise their hopes and dreams for the future. There are no limitations or constraints during this part of the process and a good deal of time is spent in understanding the dream so that it can inform the rest of the PATH.

It was all about the child. There was so much positive feedback to build her esteem and you could see that she felt heard, loved and empowered.

The next part of the process involves some good old fashioned time travel as the group journey to a year from the present and articulate all the positives that will have been achieved in that year. Thereafter the child is brought back to the present to express how they feel about what is happening now.

The child will then identify some key individuals who they will need on their path. This list will invariably include all those who the child considers important to them and others who will be important in the realisation of their dream.

Goals and aspirations require strength and perseverance. The next stage of the process is to encourage the child to think about what they will need to stay strong. This might be the learning of new skills or the support of their carer. It might involve buy in and enthusiasm from the birth family or additional support from school.

Finally the child decides on their next steps. These steps might be large or small but aim to give very practical means for the child to make progress in the actualisation of their hopes and dreams.

Where does the PATH lead the child?

At the end of the session that was geared around the child our carers support, a beautiful piece of art had been produced. This masterpiece pictorially laid out the dreams and the path that would be taken. It was peppered with positive words and phrases that described all the attributes of the child and laid out a hopeful vision for the future. This art work takes pride of place on the child’s bedroom wall as a constant reminder of what the future might look like and a map of how to get there. No glazed eyes, no crushing headache, just the hope of what the future could look like and the very real possibility that she can make it happen.

“This was an amazing process to be part of,” says Samuel Perryman, Supervising Social Worker at Eastern Fostering Services. “It was all about the child. There was so much positive feedback to build her esteem and you could see that she felt heard, loved and empowered.”

No glazed eyes, no crushing headache, just the hope of what the future could look like and the very real possibility that she can make it happen.

For more information on PATH and the part it can play in supporting the positive fostering of children, click here.   

For more information on the process, please contact IF@suffolk.gov.uk

If you would like to find out more about Eastern Fostering Services and the work we do in Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire, visit us at www.easternfosteringservices.com

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.

What qualifications do you need to be a foster carer?

The short answer to the question of what qualifications foster carers need is none!

So what do we look for in foster carers?

Whilst foster carers do not need formal qualifications, there are qualities that we look for. Foster carers need to be resilient. During the fostering assessment resilience is looked at and foster carers can cite their life experience to evidence this.

Foster carers need to have emotional intelligence, empathy and kindness. Because many looked after children have specific emotional needs. But don’t worry if you don’t know a lot about the ins and outs of fostering. Foster carers undergo training as part of their assessment.

Whilst it is helpful to have experience of children and child care, even this is not a must. Undoubtedly what we look for is someone who has a passion to make a difference. Having empathy and a desire to positively change the outcomes for children is the most important thing.

A spare room to foster

The only thing we have to insist on is that foster carers have a spare room available for fostering. For some people this is a barrier to fostering. We understand that this is frustrating for some people. Nonetheless it is important to have enough space to enable long term plans to be made for looked after children.

I want to foster. What do I do now?

Email us at info@easternfosteringservices.com. We can send you information about fostering and can organise a visit to you in your home.

Fostering is difficult. However, it is also one of the most rewarding and valuable things that a person can do.

If you are thinking of fostering, contact Eastern Fostering Services today.

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

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