Helping Foster Children Through the Holiday Season

Christmas can and should be one of the most wonderful times of the year for children, excited about the arrival of Father Christmas and the magic the festive period brings. But, for many looked after children and young people, Christmas can be a stressful and difficult time of year.

In the build up to Christmas, all around us the vision of the perfect family enjoying the festivities is portrayed – not only through the media, but through conversations with friends about their plans for the holiday, with whom they’ll be going to visit and what activities they have planned with their families. For a looked after child who has been separated from their birth parents this can evoke powerful emotions, both positive and negative, and stir up memories and feelings from their past.

With this in mind, we’ve come up with simple things you can do this Christmas time to help looked after children cope and make this festive season a happy one…

  1. Talk about Christmas
  2. A child in care may not have a good understanding of the Christmas holiday, what it means and what traditions it brings in your home. Take time to read a few books in the run up to Christmas and be ready to hear about their past Christmases. Encourage them to share good memories, then work out ways that traditions can be integrated. Let them know what to expect, even if it’s as simple as decorations, Christmas music, stockings and lots of family meals!

  3. Maintain routine where possible
  4. Christmas can be a hectic time of year, with gifts to be bought being left until the eleventh hour and plans being changed last minute! It’s important to remember the importance of planning and how children thrive on routine. If for any reason routines can’t be maintained, talk the potential changes through with your foster child, discuss any worries they may have and outline the steps you can both take to help them cope.

  5. Involve everyone
  6. Make your home inviting and cosy together! The key is to ensure that the children or young people see the change in setting as positive and a fun activity to do together.

  7. Write a letter to Santa
  8. For younger children, if this is their first Christmas with you, it’s important that Father Christmas knows where to find you!

  9. Anticipate Christmas to be an emotional time
  10. Expect Christmas to be an emotional time for the children you look after, especially for those who may be unable to see their family. All families have their good moments, even if they are few in number and children may want to talk about these and share memories with you. Take time to listen and enjoy time to bond.

  11. Prepare for guests
  12. Introducing children or young people to extended family or family gatherings can be a daunting experience for them. Planning around family gatherings is important – let them know who’s coming and when. Sometimes, it helps to talk about the visitors in advance, so that your foster child feels a familiarity and level of comfort before they have arrived. If the children or young people want to social that’s great, but remember to give them time and space to get comfortable at their own pace if they would rather.

  13. Be alcohol aware
  14. Be wary that children in care may have witnessed the misuse of alcohol and drugs at home, and seeing people drinking at home could cause anxieties to surface, so drink responsibly.

Tips for a Successful Winter’s Day Out

Winter is a wonderful time of year, but often the chill of the outdoors is motivation enough to close the curtains and stay well within the warmth of your home. Whilst this is cosy, it often doesn’t take long until the kids are bursting with energy and looking for things to do. Here are some tips and ideas for a successful Winter’s day out:

Staying warm:

  1. Make sure everyone is all wrapped up with scarves, hats and gloves. Keeping heads and hands warm is crucial and will ensure nobody catches a cold!
  2. Waterproof clothing – expect the expected! Always take big coats or waterproof anoraks with hoods to hand. An umbrella is always a good idea if you’re planning to be outside, and of course wellies! After all, squelching about in the mud and jumping in puddles is what it’s all about.
  3. Thick fluffy socks are a must.
  4. Don’t forget lip salve and hand cream – cold, windy weather can dry out lips and hands.
  5. Portable hand warmers – an inexpensive treat.

Things to do:

  1. Take a walk around the park. Though it can be a bit nippy, admiring the changing season, kicking up piles of leaves and stopping for a quick coffee or hot chocolate can make for a lovely time with the children.
  2. Trip to the local cinema. You can find great deals online to keep the kids and your wallet happy!
  3. Ice skating – search online for a Winter Wonderland near you.
  4. Visit somewhere you haven’t been before, or haven’t visited in ages. Beaches can be perfect this time of year, especially with dogs.
  5. Explore the Christmas markets! Christmas comes around quickly – now’s the time to start your Christmas Shopping and pick up little gifts for the family.

Short Term and Long Term Fostering

Fostering is about providing a child or young person with a safe, comfortable place that they can call home for a while. There are many types of fostering placements, but the main two are short or long term.

What is short term fostering?

Short-term fostering is more common with young children, and can be anything from a one night emergency stay up to up to two years. These placements often occur whilst plans for a child or young person’s future are being made, for example in between care proceedings or court hearings.

What is long term fostering?

Long-term fostering placements provide children with more permanency if they are unlikely to be returning to their family. Children and young people in long term placements are typically cared for up until they reach adulthood and are able to care for themselves.

Which type of fostering is right for me?

Whether short term or long term placements are suitable for you depends on your own family and lifestyle, and the needs of the looked after child. The type of fostering you provide will be agreed as part of your foster carer assessment and may change as you move through your fostering career.

There is a national shortage of foster carers who are looking for long-term placements, with most placements being short-term.

If you’re interested in finding out more about becoming a carer or would like to find out more about the other types of fostering, get in touch today – click here.

Empty Nest Fostering

Empty nest? Could fostering be the right choice for you?

It’s that dreaded time for teenagers and parents alike – A Level results are out. Whether youngsters do as well as expected, or have to go through clearing, university life is just around the corner for around one third of the UK’s 18 year olds – and an ‘empty nest’ for worried parents.
For some parents, an empty nest is a welcome relief from the hectic schedule of looking after teenagers. No more loud music, no people creeping in the front door hours past bedtime, and no more sulky teenagers. However, for some, the quiet life just doesn’t cut it. That need to love, care, nurture and mentor someone just isn’t being met – could fostering with Children First Fostering Agency provide the solution?
Parents can go through a lot raising their children including – but not limited to – sleepless nights, stress, worry, tears of happiness and frustration, and at Children First Fostering Agency we think this gives them a fantastic set of skills which can be utilised through fostering. Providing a safe and secure home for a child or young person is only part of becoming a foster carer, having the patience, commitment, perseverance and determination to succeed are just as important. Fostering can provide a refreshingly different challenge from traditional parenthood – one that many find extremely rewarding.

For many, the ‘empty nest’ stage of their life is the perfect time to look into fostering. The impact of birth children is lessened as they begin their exciting new life at university; there are less financial pressures with one less mouth to feed, along with extra space in the home. When children return from university in holidays or visit as adults they provide an excellent role model for young people in your care and a welcome distraction.
The journey to becoming a foster carer usually takes around 4-6 months to complete. During this time a social worker will complete an assessment on you and your family – which includes contacting birth children, completing a series of background checks and references, and also involves attending a 3-day training course arranged locally. Once approved as foster carers, you will be supported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by our qualified Social Workers, attend regular training courses, and receive a generous weekly allowance to assist with household living costs. You will also be invited to various children’s events, charity events and support groups so that you always feel part of the CFFA family.

If you would like to know more about fostering, please call us on 08081781144 or register your interest on children-first@cffa.co.uk and we’ll be in touch!

Do I Need a Spare Room?

One of the most common questions asked when people are considering becoming foster carers is, ‘Do I need a spare room?’. The answer to that is, ‘Yes’!

There are clear National Minimum Standards* of children having their own room.

Most children in need of a foster home are at an age where they need their own space, to play or be creative without distraction. Their own room can provide a sense of security and allows children to have a dedicated place to be calm, where they can get rid of their frustrations and just be themselves. This is especially important for vulnerable children who may have experienced trauma and are having to adapt to life in a new home, with different people and routines.

Their own room can also be instrumental in helping foster children adjust to new routines, such as a consistent bedtime routine. Children that come into foster care have often never experienced clear boundaries or set routines, and it can take time to help them establish these.

The benefits of a spare room don’t stop at the foster child, there are also benefits for the foster carer and their family. If you have children of your own, a spare room will help foster children and your own children to adjust to the fostering lifestyle with minimising disruption.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what’s involved in becoming a foster carer, click here.

*For further information about Fostering Services, you can view the National Minimum Standards Regulations 2011. See section 10.6 in relation to spare rooms.

What happens during a fostering assessment?

Whether you’re at the very start of your fostering journey and doing research before you make an initial enquiry, or whether you’re preparing to have an assessment soon, we understand that you may feel apprehensive about this step.

As you’d expect, the fostering assessment process involves an in-depth analysis, but it shouldn’t be intimidating or frightening. So, to help you feel more at ease when your own assessment approaches, today we’re going to outline how a foster care assessment works in a little more detail for you.

When will your Children First foster care assessment happen?

The foster care assessment is usually the third stage in an individual or couple’s foster care application journey. Following an initial enquiry, which may happen over the telephone or in person, you will receive a fostering pack full of information to help you decide if fostering could be a good fit for you. Next you will be visited by one of our team who will talk to you in more detail about fostering and how it might impact on your lifestyle, as well as answering any questions you may have about the process. If you decide to proceed, the next step is to complete a fostering application form. This will be followed by your fostering assessment.

What is the fostering assessment process?

Once we receive your application form, we will allocate an assessor who will work with you and your family during the assessment process. They will visit you at your home on a number of occasions and work through your assessment with you, gathering information about your family life, your background and history and about current and previous relationships.

We will identify any previous experience you have of looking after children or providing care. Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks will be carried out to confirm whether you have any previous cautions or convictions. The questions you are asked will be probing, but are designed to find out how fostering might impact on you and your family, so it’s important to answer fully and honestly. Your assessor will always try and make you feel as relaxed as possible. You will also be asked to provide the names of referees as part of this process, and these people will be contacted in relation to your application.

This process will help your assessor put together what is known as a Form F in relation to your application. This will pull the collected information together and you will have the opportunity to review your Form F before it is passed to the Fostering Panel. You will meet with the Panel to discuss your application and find out whether they will be recommending your approval. This gives you the opportunity to discuss with them your experiences, circumstances and other details outlined in the form.

Want to learn more about the assessment?

Hopefully this information has helped you feel a little more relaxed about the fostering process as a whole and about any approaching assessment meetings you may have. If you’re unsure whether you could be suitable for fostering or you’ve been put off by what seemed like a scary process in the past, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We are always happy to answer questions to put any concerns you may have at ease.

Can I foster?

Here at Children First we know that successful foster families come in all shapes and sizes, so today on the blog we’re debunking a few myths to explain who can foster and help you to decide if becoming a foster parent is something that might be a good option for you.

First, let’s talk about the three most important things you need to be able to commit to before becoming a foster parent. Along with a bedroom that could be used exclusively for a foster child, you’ll also need the patience and understanding required to help nurture a child placed in your care. As you’d expect, being able to commit time to care for a child properly is also incredibly important and at least one carer needs to be on hand all of the time. However, if you are part of a couple where one of you works full-time or you are a single parent, fostering could be an option for you.

Fostering as a single parent

We have lots of foster parents working with us who are single parents. You don’t need to be part of a couple to foster; what matters is that you’re able to dedicate enough time and energy to looking after the child or children in your care. As a single foster carer this may mean that you need to be at home full-time or have flexible employment that can fit around the needs of a child.

LGBT fostering

It doesn’t matter whether foster carers are single or part of a couple, gender or sexual orientation is not a factor for consideration either. We’ll always consider whether candidates are capable of providing a stable and caring home for a foster child, so if you think you fit the bill, do get in touch.

Fostering for retired/older people

Fostering can be a very rewarding experience for older and retired people. Many people find when their biological families move out or they no longer work full-time that they have lots of energy they’d like to share with others. If this sounds like you, you could be a great candidate for fostering! There is no upper age limit for becoming a foster parent; so as long as you’re fit and healthy your application will be considered like any other.

Fostering for all

We welcome fostering applications from individuals and couples from all ethnic groups and work with social workers to place children of diverse ethnic groups. When placing a foster child, workers will always prioritise the needs of a child, which means you’ll need to support a sense of positive ethnic identity or religion but you won’t necessarily need to be of the same ethnicity or religion to be matched with a child. If you have any questions, please get in touch for a chat – no question is too silly.

Can I foster if I don’t have experience of childcare?

As part of your fostering application, you’ll be assessed to see where you may need extra support as you prepare to become a foster parent. While we do welcome applications from individuals and couples who have experience of caring for children – either within their career or perhaps looking after other family members – if you’re hoping to look after children for the first time we can support your fostering journey too.

Hopefully this post has answered some of your fostering questions but if you have any outstanding queries about who can foster, or anything else, please get in touch with our team and we’ll be happy to talk through them with you.