What to expect when you’re applying to foster

When prospective carers are deciding whether or not fostering is right for them, at Alliance Foster Care we are aware that understanding of the application process is very important.

Fostering is both the offer of a long term commitment to a child and it is also the offer of a secure, stable and nurturing home environment.

This means it is important that foster carers who are suited to the role are selected and supported to face the many challenges that fostering will inevitably present them with.

The Alliance Foster Care’s selection procedure is therefore very thorough, but seeks to be as inclusive as possible, making sure that people with a wide range of circumstances are considered.

During the application process you will have to complete a disclosure and baring service background check, and whilst a previous criminal conviction does not automatically prevent someone from foster caring it is important for all prospective carers to be honest and open.

Before there is any need for background checks, however, trained fostering workers from CFFA will carry out a home visit to get to know you.

Often, our social workers and fostering assessors can find out as much about your suitability to foster by having a chat and helping you to explore your own feelings and motivations in fostering.

Alliance Foster Care’s selection process is designed to support prospective carers all the way through to their first foster placement; ensuring first time foster carers get the best fostering match possible helps the carers and the placement.

It is important not to feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the selection process, our assessors know that it can seem like a major undertaking and are understanding your concerns and questions.

Instead, view it as a first opportunity to learn more about fostering and your role as a prospective foster carer.

If you would like to have an informal chat with one of CFFA’s specialist advisors, simply contact us on 0808 178 1144

Activities and Fun Events!

We plan our year and our families enjoy a variety of activities all year round.

Easter, Summer, Christmas are all forward planned and we have different events around the country to suit our groups of carers in the locations we cover from London to Bedford.

In addition to all of these we run other events and activities that help develop young people within the fostering families.

We always ask our carers for ideas and follow through with requests as far as we are able to do so.

Join our group and become involved with the team at Children First!

Carer Success Stories!

Hello, we’re CFFA’S Foster Carers, we are a fostering family!

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

We are foster carers ourselves, so we really understand how you’re feeling and they are only a phone call away… we 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 hospitalised 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 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.

The Rewards come when you least expect them when you foster!

A foster carer with Children First, wrote to share her recent contact with a young lady who was placed with her and has since moved on. Our foster carers do such an amazingly difficult ‘job’ and it is wonderful and so rewarding for all of us when things happen as reported to us by one of our Group carers.

Our carer , was almost in tears when talking to Kim Selfe the Carer Recruitment Officer for CFFA, about the contact she had received from a past placement. They had not realised the impact she and her family had made at the time as this was amongst her first placements. It was a joy for Kim to listen to her and this is the sort of feedback we welcome and enjoy hearing. As if the work wasn’t worthwhile enough this gives us all a whole new passion for what we do.

Children First are proud of their fostering families as this provides an example for the level of care and support they provide. Kim was told “I just wanted to share a happy moment with you both, I received a call from SH on Tuesday afternoon, she sounded very happy and she said that she wanted to call and to thank us for what we had done for her, she said that she now understood why we called the police when she came home with drugs and she said that this was the wakeup call that she needed and she totally agreed with what we did. She said that she was now doing her ‘A’ levels and that she got engaged in August and she asked if she could come and see us, which I told her that we would be happy to see her. It was lovely talking to her and she reminded me of a lot of things that I had forgotten and she asked how we put up with her, however she said that she is glad that we did. This is one of those moments that remind us why we are doing it and made us both feel very happy as this was unexpected. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone at the agency and our network support for all their help and support and I look forward to this continuing.”

The Rewards of a Foster Carer!

Children First are always delighted when approved carers make referrals to the recruitment team.

2 families recommended by the same family were visited and proceeded to a full assessment, being approved as foster carers.

As a result of referring carers received the appropriate number of Rewardlines points which equated to approx. £750.00 in ‘Love to Shop’ vouchers. They were able to put these vouchers to really good use and have been out purchasing items for a new home they are looking to move into to continue to support a sibling group who will be staying with the family permanently.

This is a real example of how carers recommending others can really show benefits in many ways, not only to the carers involved in monetary terms but more importantly in the longer term and in a tangible way to the young people we provide care for with our fabulous group of foster carers.

Rewardlines has been replaced by Rewardclub which works in a similar way but with a much more up to date method for spending.

One of our cares at Children First recently was awarded points with carers recommended was approved and first young person placed- this equated to £500.

Very worthwhile!

Children First Cultural Days!

Here at Children First we are proud of the diversity within the agency and our young people.

We celebrate this at the same time of year as ‘Black History’ celebrations. Usually at end of October!

We arrange quizzes and games as well as music and food to highlight the positive differences between us all that we can share and enjoy.

Carers and staff alike bring in food representing their cultures and backgrounds. We are encouraged to dress up in national costumes. The days usually have a theme – the 1st year we had quizzes around cultural heroes and in 2015 we went with national flags, costumes and music based quizzes. We decorate the room with themed images which everyone enjoys. We also have a selection of musical instruments from around the world and the team are pleased to join in and support our families!

The young people, not to mention the Carers and staff had a great day!

It is something we will continue to organise as a regular event.

Foster Care Fortnight

Foster Care Fortnight 2017 is taking place from Monday 8 to Sunday 21 May.

What is Foster Care Fortnight?

Foster Care Fortnight is the UK’s biggest foster care awareness raising campaign, delivered by leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network. The campaign showcases the commitment, passion and dedication of foster carers – Children First Foster Care are fully supporting this campaign.

There is a need to raise the awareness of at least 7,180 new foster care families required throughout the UK in the next 12 months. Carers are required to care for a range of children, with the greatest need being for foster carers for older children, sibling groups, disabled children and unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

Foster care transforms lives

The overarching theme of Foster Care Fortnight is ‘foster care transforms lives’. Like the Fostering Network, we are passionate about the difference that foster care makes to the lives of fostered children and young people, and Foster Care Fortnight is an excellent opportunity to showcase that difference. But foster care doesn’t just transform the lives of the young people who are fostered, it also has the power to change the lives of foster carers, their families and all those who are involved in fostering. Foster Care Fortnight shares the stories of people who have had their lives transformed by foster care, and by doing so to raise the profile of fostering and the need for more foster carers.

Find out more about becoming a foster carer here.

Spread the word

One of the aims of Foster Care Fortnight is to raise the profile of fostering and the transformational power of foster care. We often find that existing foster carers are the best advert for fostering, so if you are a foster carer or are part of a fostering family please help spread the word.

Tell others your fostering story. Encourage them to find out more by visiting our website.

If you’re not a foster carer already, perhaps now is the time for you to consider becoming one.

The hashtags used during Foster Care Fortnight 2017 are #FCF17, #ProudToFoster, #ProudToSupportFostering.

We encourage everyone to download and print off a placard, take a photo of you and/or your family and share them online using the hashtags.

Could you foster?

One of the main aims of Foster Care Fortnight is to encourage more people to consider becoming a foster carer.

Do you have the skills and qualities to be one of the thousands of people we need to come forward to foster?

Do you have the skills and qualities fostering services are looking for?

Will you be attending any local events for Foster Care Fortnight?

If Foster Care Fortnight has made you think more about how you could improve children’s lives by becoming a foster carer, register your initial enquiry here

‘Tinder for Teens’ App, Yellow, Compromising Children Safety

The NSPCC has warned that new app for teenagers, Yellow, is putting young people at risk of predators.

Yellow is a free mobile phone app similar in function to dating app Tinder that allows children to connect with local people. Like Tinder, users can connect with strangers by swiping right on their profile picture if they see someone they want to connect with, or left if they are not interested. When both users mutually ‘like’ each other, they can chat by adding each other on picture-messaging service Snapchat.

But unlike dating app Tinder – which raised its minimum age to 18 after charities said predators could use it to groom children – Yellow does not have checks in place to verify ages. As such, users can override the age and parental control restrictions to sign up, meaning it is possible that adults can pose as children to access other users Snapchat and Instagram profiles.

The app has raised significant concern amongst parents and the NPSCC as it enables young people to connect with strangers with ease.

What can you do?

  • Make sure children only have people they know and trust as online contacts.
  • Remind children it’s never OK to meet someone they’ve met online in person.
  • Let children know their location and profile photo isn’t private in Yellow.

It is important to be aware of which apps and social networks children in your care are using and monitor their online activity. For help protecting children in your care from online abuse, visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk

Specialist Fostering

Foster care can be necessary for children and young people for a range of reasons, but there are some foster placements that are the result of abuse and neglect.

The most traumatised, damaged and distressed children need carers with specialist skills in order to help them firstly navigate the challenges of foster care itself and secondly deal with the results of abuse and neglect.

Other children who are already in the foster care system and who have had traumatic experiences might have found it hard to fit in a number of foster families.

Where foster care continues to break down and the young person is left without a family who can look after them, a specialist foster carer might be called upon to offer a place. Children who have experienced abuse or neglect or who’s families have been devastated by a bereavement can present specific challenges to the people looking after them.

This means that the carer often needs as much support as the foster placement, and at Children First Fostering Agency we provide this through skilled professionals who work with our foster carers and their families.

At CFFA, we carefully match the needs of foster placements to the skills and experiences of foster carers to avoid carers being overwhelmed. Specialist foster care is caring at its most challenging, but it is also caring at its most rewarding.

Children who have experienced abuse in their formative years or who have been abandoned by their biological parents are desperately in need of adults in their lives that they can trust.

To be able to offer a young person the type of stability, reliability and emotional security that they have lacked in their family home is a rare commodity.

However, the patience and care that you can put into a vulnerable young person will be rewarded by the knowledge that you will have made a significant difference to their life.

If you are considering becoming a foster carer 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

Learning Fostering Skills

As a society, we are used to the idea that there are expert doctors, dentists, teachers or lawyers. It is less common for foster carers to be seen as experts in their field, but many have years of knowledge, experience and understanding in a vocation that presents all manner of challenges.

At Children First Fostering Agency we often see new foster carers inevitably experience a learning curve when they accept their first foster placement and the most successful caring experiences are those based on training and knowledge.

It goes without saying that most carers new to fostering bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience from their family lives and careers, but in caring there is always something new to learn.

At CFFA we provide a comprehensive training package to all new foster carers who work with us.

In a society that is constantly changing (along with the young people in it), no fostering organisation can afford for its members not to constantly add to their skills and knowledge.

If you are a new applicant with us, you will be invited on to a three day Skills to Foster course, which will equip you with the latest child protection and child safety skills.

In addition to this you will begin to learn how to deal with challenging behaviour, equality and diversity issues from highly experienced carers and the best practices they have used.

At Children First Fostering Agency we know that learning doesn’t simply take place on training courses and the most valuable learning you will do is with your foster placement, the children you care for will be your best teachers. However, to make sure you are fully supported, we offer ongoing professional development on a range of different skills and the opportunity to learn online.

Fostering is a major undertaking for anyone and the best carers have the skills and support to make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable young people. If you are considering becoming a foster carer 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

Fostering and the whole family

One of the pre-requisites for fostering with Children First Fostering Agency is prior experience of raising children either as a parent or guardian. This means that most carers (though not all) who work with us already have families of their own.

This can be a source of immense stability and strength for both foster carers and the children they look after, especially when they are new to fostering. Fostering can also present a family with challenges as new children enter the family unit with needs and concerns of their own.

If you are parents with children of your own, you must prepare carefully before you begin your first fostering placement. Your own children will have many expectations both positive and negative about how the foster placement in their home will affect their lives.

At CFFA we believe that it is important to fully explore these feelings with them, even if at first they seem to be unrealistic or overly anxious.

If you are fostering with a partner or spouse it is also important that you explore how each other is feeling both before and during the placement.

The young person who comes to live with you and your family might well have strong feelings of abandonment or have come from a home background without stability or routine.

By welcoming them into your home you are offering the opportunity of becoming part of the warmth and stability that has often been lacking in their lives.

A family environment can be one of the most important and nurturing experiences for a young person in foster care, but in order for the placement to be successful the family’s needs also have to be addressed.

At CFFA we often see that communicating, especially when there might be challenging behaviour or unmanageable feelings from the young person in your care, your family will be able to handle whatever issues fostering presents.

If you are considering becoming a foster carer 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

LGBT Fostering

At Children First Fostering Agency we often notice that many people wrongly assume that their sexuality will discount them from becoming an approved foster carer. In fact, it is illegal to discriminate against potential foster carers because of their sexual orientation.

It seems hard to imagine that it has only been a decade since discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples and individuals preventing them from fostering was made unlawful.

In the past decade, the contribution that LGBT carers have made to the lives of thousands of children across the UK has been immense.

In 2006 the law changed, allowing both foster or adoptive carers in an LGBT couple to appear as legal guardians on the adoption or fostering paperwork.

This change has resulted in a steady increase in LGBT foster carers; with both parents’ rights acknowledged by law, fostering has become far more viable and attractive to couples.

However, as we celebrate LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, Children First Fostering Agency wants to reach out to couples who have considered fostering and who may be able to offer a home to a vulnerable child or teenager.

Normally, couples and individuals considering foster care for the first time have a range of questions about the kinds of qualities that are required in order to foster.

The ‘fostering mindset’ is the most important attribute that any prospective carer needs; empathy, patience, the ability to nurture and to support are all vital components of this outlook.

When children and young people enter foster care, they are vulnerable and can display challenging behaviour.

A foster carer needs to be able to offer stability and security, as they will be caring for children who’s lives have become chaotic and bewildering.

LGBT foster carers who can offer stability to young people who have experienced abandonment by other adults in their lives can make great contributions to their well being.

In a recent article in the Guardian newspaper about LGBT fostering and adoption, it was revealed that in the past decade LGBT foster carers had often been more willing to care for children with behavioural problems or other special needs.

Whilst prejudice against non heterosexual carers has declined and society has become more educated and open minded, Children First Fostering Agency still find that recruiting LGBT carers is still a challenge.

Many LGBT people are unaware that they have a legal right be considered as a candidate to foster.

In 2013 Action for Children revealed that just under a third of all LGBT people in the UK believed that they were barred from fostering or adoption on the grounds of their sexuality or gender identity.

The social workers interviewed tended to view them as more accepting, tolerant and able to see the positives in young people.

They also believed that they would be better able to support a child who felt ‘different’ (a feeling nearly every foster child experiences), with compassion and empathy.

Fostering presents many challenges to a family, however your sexuality isn’t one of them if you would like to work with CFFA! An organisation that values experience, insight and mentoring its carers, simply contact us on 0808 178 1144

Fostering February Roadshow 2016

Fostering February is a campaign aiming to raise awareness about what foster caring involves, alongside dispelling some of the myths and misconceptions which surrounds it.

No matter where you are in the country, there is someone near you making a difference to children and young people’s lives by offering them the love and everyday human needs they deserve- things which most of us take for granted.

So why couldn’t it be you? Fostering February is all about learning more about the facts and becoming properly informed on how to become a foster carer;

For example, did you know you don’t need to own your own home or be married to become a carer?

If you are thinking about life as a foster carer, the campaign takes time to answer your questions, and pushes to find out if you could make an amazing difference on a young person’s passage to adulthood.

If you think you could make a difference, come along to our information events throughout the month and ‘Talk To Us’
https://www.facebook.com/fosteringfebruary

Essentials for Prospective Foster Parents

What every prospective foster parent needs to know!

At Children First Fostering Agency we maintain that knowing and understanding the child or young person who has been placed in your care is the most essential and important part of the fostering process and it begins before the placement even starts.

Fostering relationships are like any other kind of relationship, they depend on trust, openness and the foster placement knowing that you are on their side. This is why at CFFA we make sure you know the background, circumstances and needs of the children and young people who will be placed with you.

All foster children have faced major challenges in their lives and come to foster care with specific and often complex problems. Some prospective foster carers can feel anxious or worried that the problems the foster child faces or their behaviour might be overwhelming.

At Children First Fostering Agency, we have seen in some cases, a child or young person in foster care exhibiting very extreme defiant or anti social behaviour but this is by no means all cases.

We are careful to match the child with the right foster parents with the skills and outlook to cater for their needs and we make sure that the carer knows everything about the child before the placement begins.

Prospective carers also need to know about the support that is available to them before the placement starts.

CFFA offers constant support and mentoring from our staff and from experienced fostering mentors (foster carers who have successfully completed many placements). This means that as a new foster carer, you are not stranded or alone to deal with whatever challenges might arise.

This security frees our carers up to do what they do best, care. It enables them to put their energies, commitment, emotional strength and love into a fostering relationship.

This gives the foster placement the stability and security they require.

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

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.

Protocol for the Movement of Carers between Fostering Agencies

Approved foster carers have freedom.

Approved foster carers have the freedom to change the fostering agency they belong to if they so wish.

This right is supported by The Transfer of Foster Carers Protocol 2014, which was developed in a partnership between The Fostering Network and the joint forum of independent fostering providers, with the support of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

The Facts about Fostering as a Single Parent

Foster parents need to be supportive, nurturing and patient.

If these are characteristics you possess, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re single, married or in a relationship.

It certainly doesn’t matter if you are male or female either; what is important is that you are able to offer a child a caring home and that you can provide a bedroom within that home that a child can call ‘a space of their own’.