The Fostering Mindset

The journey towards becoming a foster carer is often a time of uncertainty; families and individuals who are exploring fostering for the first time can find themselves wondering if they have the right skills.

At the Children First Fostering Agency, we believe that fostering doesn’t require a degree in child psychology or social work, instead it relies on the types of skills and experiences that most people possess.

Adults with patience, understanding and an ability to put themselves in the shoes of a young person experiencing difficulties in their life are key.

If you have brought up children of your own or have cared for children in some capacity, you might well have the skills and experience to be a great help to other young people in need.

Being able to be consistent, reliable and to provide stability to children who may never have experienced any of these qualities is also essential.

Successful foster placements rely on a mentality, a fostering mindset that involves putting a foster child first.

Considering a child’s needs above your own might seem like common sense to many of us, simply the obvious thing to do.

For many children in need of foster care, abandonment has been a key feature of their lives and being nurtured by a reliable adult they can trust is vital.

Increasingly, we all live ever more hectic and busy lifestyles. Working life and leisure pastimes take up large portions of our days and nights.

You might need to consider what available time you have, because fostering requires a commitment to put the child first.

Potential foster parents who have the skills, the patience, empathy and available time to make a major difference to a young person’s life are vital to the care of vulnerable children across the UK.

Children First Fostering Agency does not discriminate on the grounds of marital status, gender, culture, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

If you are considering becoming a foster parent and would like to work with Children First Fostering Agency, an organisation that values experience, insight and mentoring its carers, simply contact us on 0808 178 1144

Types of fostering – Part Three

At Children First Fostering Agency, we often see that a crisis within a family can happen and a child needs a safe and stable environment, it can be for a relatively short period of time.

Children can often be returned to their birth family when the social services act effectively to help parents cope with the difficulties they are having.

This means that short term foster caring is a vital role, giving a family flexibility and choices where otherwise they might not exist.

In some instances the local authority might decide that long term fostering is the best option for a young person, but a period of short term care is needed first so they can evaluate the situation and its at this point, along with other types of fostering that CFFA can help.

Sometimes short term foster care is necessary because a parent or carer is in hospital or recovering from an illness, leaving children with no adult to take care of them.

If you have been investigating the possibility of becoming a foster carer, short term fostering is an essential part of the range of caring roles that the team at Children First Fostering Agency organises.

Most people who come to foster caring do so because they are empathetic, caring and have a powerful need to make a difference to the lives of young people.

However, long term fostering is not an option for everyone, due to work, family and other lifestyle commitments.

Short term placements can be equally rewarding and can work better with families who cannot commit to longer than two years with a placement.

Many short term foster placements last for a matter of weeks or a few months, but in that time it is possible to make an immense difference to a vulnerable young person and CFFA can support you all the way in your short term fostering journey.

If you are considering becoming a foster parent and would like to work with Children First Fostering Agency, an organisation that values experience, insight and mentoring its carers, simply contact us on 0808 178 1144

Types of fostering – Part Two

Making a long term commitment to a vulnerable young person in need of a safe, secure and nurturing home can be one of the most rewarding choices a prospect foster carer can make.

At Children First Fostering Agency we’ve noticed a popular perception of foster caring in the media and on television is that it involves a long term placement of many years.

There are many different types of foster placement that can be arranged and depending on the needs, motivations and future plans of the foster carer, long term caring might be an option.

Fostering a child to adulthood is a significant undertaking for anyone and it needs to be a decision that works for the whole family. It also needs to be a choice that you as a foster carer can sustain in the long term as the children who you foster need to know you will be with them no matter what.

Many children who require foster care have had the experience of being abandoned by parents or carers at an early age. As a result many fear that this might happen again and need carers who are committed for the long term.

Without support, this can be an overwhelming proposition for any foster carer, but at CFFA, we take your needs as seriously as those of the foster placement.

At CFFA we provide initial and ongoing training, a mentoring programme and regular contact with our trained workers. There is also a generous weekly allowance for each foster placement you accept.

If you think you have the time, energy and patience to offer a young person in need of stability and security a home, Alliance Fostering would like to hear from you.

If you are considering becoming a foster parent and would like to work with the Children First Fostering Agency, an organisation that values experience, insight and mentoring its carers, simply contact us on 0808 178 1144

Types of fostering – Part One

At the Children First Fostering Agency we know that exploring fostering for the first time can be complex, most people have little prior knowledge of the fostering process.

Understanding the different types of foster care is important for prospective carers, so they can make informed decisions about the type of care they can offer so the team at CFFA have put together a series of blogs to help you

Some carers specialise in having short term foster placements. The length of these placements can last from a couple of days to a maximum of two years and are for children and young people who might return to their birth families.

Long term placements are for children and young people who are very unlikely to return to their birth families.

Younger children in these placements are often placed for adoption but older children are better suited to long term foster care until they reach adulthood.

Long term foster care involves a considerable commitment to the child, who will become part of your family.

A much shorter arrangement than either of these options is bridging care. A bridging carer will look after a child while long term foster parents or adoptive parents are sought.

Two other types of fostering, emergency placement fostering and respite fostering are both short term and short notice.

As an emergency carer, a young person in crisis, in need of a safe place away from the family home might be placed with you.

Respite fostering happens when a birth family is experiencing difficulties and a child is placed temporarily with carers to give all family members a break from the strains they are experiencing.

At the Children First Fostering Agency we know that there are as many different types of carer as there are children in need of care, so we encourage you to explore the options that are available.

The care you offer needs to match the life you lead, foster care can be flexible for both you and the child you care for.

If you are considering becoming a foster parent and would like to work with the Children First Fostering Agency, an organisation that values experience, insight and mentoring its carers, simply contact us on 0808 178 1144

Finance and fostering – How we support our carers financially

For most carers, the desire to contribute to the life of a young person who need support, nurturing and understanding is their prime motivation.

Placing a child’s needs first and making the home a safe, caring space where they can be themselves is the most rewarding experience that foster caring can offer.

However, Children First Fostering Agency also makes sure its carers are well paid for the work they do; for some families fostering makes both emotional and financial sense.

Carers receive a minimum starting allowance per week of £366 for each child or young person they foster, which covers food, clothing, travel and leisure activities.

At Children First we provide guidance on what you will need to spend your allowance on to give your foster placement the best chance of a balanced life.

Because we not only value the foster child in your care, but we also value your time, expertise, patience and compassion, the allowance can help you with your own household finances.

The role of a foster carer doesn’t come with a salary, but it is still an important, full time job and the funding reflects the time and commitment carers give. In addition to the allowance, there are tax exemptions available for carers. The government has set a threshold for foster carers on lower incomes and many pay no income tax on their allowance.

Some carers with multiple placements might find their income is above the tax exemption, but this is normally the exception to the rule.

The government views foster carers as self-employed; this means that if you are liable for tax, you will have to complete a self-assessment form. It does not necessarily disqualify you from tax credits and other forms of benefits as these will be calculated alongside your annual income.

At Children First Fostering Agency, we truly believe that fostering can work for both you and your foster placement and whilst it is personally rewarding in countless ways, it also pays financially too.

If you are considering becoming a foster parent and would like to work with the Children First Fostering Agency, an organisation that values experience, insight and mentoring its carers, simply contact us on 0808 178 1144

How to choose the right foster care agency for you

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, whether on your own or as part of a couple, it can be tricky to know how and where to get started. Technically as a foster carer you will be self-employed, but as you will work with an independent agency or your local authority it’s important that you take the time to find an agency that you feel happy and comfortable with, and offers you the support you need.

In addition to your local authority, there are hundreds of independent fostering agencies across the UK, including CFFA. But how do you begin to find the one that is the perfect fit for you?

Starting your foster agency search

When you begin searching for a foster care agency, it’s sensible to start your search in your immediate local area, whether for an agency that is based near you or has a regional branch. This is because you’re likely to need to the support of staff that are located within a reasonable travelling distance.

Some agencies have particular specialisms – they might mostly arrange emergency foster care, short term care, long term care or respite care, or perhaps place babies or siblings. With this in mind, if there’s a particular area of fostering you are most interested in this should naturally help to narrow your search.

Most foster care agencies, and local authority foster care departments will have an online presence, so you may find that it’s fastest to begin your search by entering ‘foster care agency near me’ into your favourite online search engine.

Understanding the types of foster agencies

In addition to local authority fostering services, you have the option to work with independent foster agencies. But what are the differences?

Local authority services tend to work alongside or as part of the authority’s social work department and select and train their own foster carers; on the other hand, independent agencies like CFFA provide placement opportunities for children that local authorities are unable to place. This is done by employing their own pool of foster carers who they are responsible for recruiting, training and supporting themselves.

Why choose to work with an independent foster agency?

Independent fostering agencies tend to have their own focus and ethos, so with a bit of research you are sure to seek out an agency that matches your beliefs and goals. Because independent fostering agencies are dedicated to working with you and for the benefit of the children they place, they have strong support networks in place, and the financial rewards are good too.

Questions to ask prospective fostering agencies

Once you have a shortlist of foster care agencies that appeal to you, you should contact them and arrange a visit for an informal chat to help you decide which agency you feel best matched with.

Before making a final decision, you may also want to ask to chat to foster carers who are already working with the agency. You’ll likely have questions about your own personal situation and how that might fit with their support structure but you might want to be armed with a few more general questions too. We’ve listed a few questions below as a starting point:

  • How big is your agency?
  • How much of a presence do you have in my local area?
  • How many members of staff do you have compared to number of carers?
  • How does your placement process work?
  • What kind of specialist training do you offer?
  • Can we take breaks or holidays from fostering?
  • What does your fostering allowance cover and how is it paid?

Be prepared to talk rather candidly about your reasons for applying for fostering and any previous experience you have of looking after children. It’s important both you and the agency feel like you’re a good fit before you progress onto training as should you decide to transfer agencies later, on you’ll be required to go through their own training programme.

We hope that this post has given you a better idea of the process you can use to choose a foster care agency that is right for you. If you have any questions that aren’t covered above or would like to book an informal chat with CFFA to ask us any of the questions above, or some of your own, you can find details of how to get in touch on our contact us page.

What you should know about taking foster children on holiday

Holidays are part of family life, and in many cases you will find you are not only able to take foster children on holiday with you but are encouraged and supported to do so.

That’s because experiencing a ‘typical’ family holiday benefits children in a number of ways. It introduces them to new cultures and experiences, helps them to socialise, building confidence in different circumstances. And of course, it gives them notes to compare with school friends about how they’ve spent their six weeks off!

If you’re making holiday plans with your foster children, or contemplating fostering in the future and want to know whether it’s feasible to take foster children on holiday with you, here’s what you need to know…

Holiday permission: Rules and regulations

As laid out in the Government’s Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards: “Children can stay overnight, holiday with friends, or friends and relatives of their foster carer, or go on school trips, subject to requirements of the care/placement plan, if foster carers consider it appropriate in individual circumstances. CRB checks are not normally sought as a precondition.” This means that as long as the child’s individual circumstances are taken into account and their welfare and safety considered paramount, in most cases foster children are able to go on holiday.

When a child is placed with you, you will usually be informed of any reason why they may not be able to go away and whether extra permissions will need to be sought from the local authority or birth parents for such trips. In any case, it’s always wise to consult with your Supervising Social Worker if you are planning to book a family holiday. They’ll be able to offer specific advice and advise if extra paperwork is required for the trip, they will be able to help ensure it is provided in time.

Home or abroad?

For some foster families, a holiday here in the UK is an ideal choice because it it doesn’t mean being too far out of reach of social workers or their fostering agency. For foster children who are going on holiday for the first time, a trip to the British seaside or countryside is a treat without being as much of a shock to the system as a trip abroad may perhaps be.

That being said, depending on individual circumstances, children can benefit from holidaying abroad and experiencing new cultures, foods and activities and so long as you have the necessary paperwork and permissions, this is an option that is open to many foster families.

Other key points to consider

The suitability of accommodation is a concern for many foster parents planning family trips. We always ask that foster families are able to provide foster children with a bedroom of their own at home. On holiday, not all children will be able to stay in shared family apartments – before you book, speak to your Supervising Social Worker who will be able to advise you on how best to approach choosing places to stay, and if appropriate help you complete a risk assessment.

Your foster child’s personal safety parameters will also have an impact on the type of activities you choose to include in your holiday. There will be lots of fun things you can do together but along with careful planning and consideration of suitable undertakings, little ones and even older children may need extra reassurance over the course of your holiday. For example, if travelling abroad children may need you to explain cultural norms they are not familiar with so that they feel more at ease.

Holidays are an expensive event for any family and in recognition of this many fostering agencies increase the foster carer allowance over the school holidays, which can go some way to helping fund holiday fun. You may also be entitled to an additional payment should you choose to take your foster child with you on a family break, so check with your agency or local authority to be sure.

And just as a handy tip, don’t forget to check you’re all covered on your holiday insurance too, in case anyone falls ill while you’re away.

Holiday alternatives

If you’re not able to take a holiday with your foster child for whatever reason, you can still make sure they have lots of fun this summer by planning some fun day trips

Sharing holiday time with foster children can be very fulfilling but it’s also important to remember that when you work hard at any job you do need to take a break. With this in mind, you may want to consider seeking some respite foster care to allow yourself the opportunity to rest and recuperate too.

How to make your foster child’s bedroom a happy place to be

One of the fundamentals of applying to become a foster carer is that you are able to provide a child you are caring for with a bedroom all of their own. This is so they feel safe and protected. During the application process you will specify what age and gender of children you would like to care for and when it comes to preparing a room for the child’s arrival, this can help a little. However, as each and every child is different and has differing interests, priorities and needs, it can be tricky to ready a room in a way that exactly matches their requirements. With this in mind, preparing a room for foster placements can be hard and in many ways is something that should be approached with a flexible, adaptable attitude as making the bedroom a happy place to be goes beyond decorating.

Creating a feeling of warmth

When the child arrives you’ll want to make them feel welcome and as comfortable as possible, so try and prepare for their arrival in the same way you might if welcoming a family member to stay. The room itself should be clean and tidy but try not to go too overboard on decorations or filling the room with toys as this might make the child feel overwhelmed. Often a child can arrive hungry and may be shy of asking for food, so you may want to consider laying out a snack for them.

Give a tour of your home and the room, which may for young children need to include looking in wardrobes or under beds to provide extra reassurance of safety. You could also use this as an opportunity to introduce any house rules in a gently and friendly way – for instance, talking about bedtimes and when people generally use the bathroom in the morning.

From a furnishings perspective, some foster carers report that items such as pillows and bean bags are good additions that allow the child to be comfortable in the room whilst also acting as objects to vent anger and frustrations upon.

Decorating ideas for a foster child’s bedroom

We’ve made recommendations for decorating an older foster child’s bedroom on the blog before and this post is worth reading if you know you’ll be caring for a child within this age group. Many of the points covered in this earlier article will apply whatever age the children are too. So, just to recap – selecting neutral colours for the walls will mean that the room doesn’t feel stereotyped. To allow for personalisation you could fit panels that can be painted and repainted according to children’s tastes, put pin boards on the walls for attaching photos or posters and you could even consider using chalk paint on a section of the room where young children can draw directly on the walls. As you get to know the child you can start adding personalised touches that make the space more their own – this could include peelable wall stickers with themed bedding and their toys.

Furniture should be as versatile as possible – some beds can be used for a wider range of ages than others so consider that when making a purchase. You should be prepared for the possibility of things getting broken too. So, while you won’t want the room to look cheap you may want to fit it with good quality second hand furniture that can be replaced. Empty frames give children the option of putting out their own photos or pictures and a nightlight can also be a useful addition. Don’t forget to take into consideration safety – if you’re planning to care for young children you’ll need to fit items like cord tidies for blinds to help prevent any accidents.

It’s natural to feel excited and anxious before a child arrives but try not to get too hung up on creating the perfect bedroom for them. Making a foster child’s bedroom a happy place is something that will happen as you get to know each other and develop the space together, why not start by asking them what you can do to make them feel at ease?

Do you have any questions about bedrooms for foster children? However small or silly you think the question is, we’d be happy to help!

Hello, we are Children First Foster Carers.

Like most people, you’ve probably got a few questions to ask before deciding whether fostering’s right for you.

That’s where we can help. Our team of friendly fostering experts can offer honest and practical advice. Our recruitment officers have a wealth of experience that they can share with you. We are foster carers ourselves, so we really understand how you’re feeling. And they’re only a phone call away… Nick and I had been considering fostering for a few years before we contacted Children First. We felt that we had the love, time, patience and space for this and we both wanted to make a difference no matter how small in a child’s life that had not had the start in life that we had given to our children. We knew that not all children come into care because of neglect, abuse or many other things that a child should not experience and that at times it would be because for a short time a child may need to be accommodated for other reasons, possible illness of a parent, or hospitalisation or a prison sentence (there are many reasons for this).

However we wanted to in some small way improve a child’s life and to help them come to terms with their past experiences and to give them the love, support and guidance to hopefully have a better future that everyone deserves. We were approved in December 2012. Since fostering for the last two years we have come across some very challenging behaviour and we have needed support in this from both our network support and the agency, sometimes for advice or just for some reassurance for ourselves, or to blow off steam and with this support and training that is available to us, we have been able to see that we can make the difference, and what would possible not be noticed by someone that doesn’t foster, like a child saying thank you when you give them something can be this difference or just the start of a bigger difference.