Ramadan and Eid Festival Explained: Information for Carers

Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide and is regarded as a blessed month, which is observed on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. There are five basic rules in Islam which all Muslims must follow. These are known as The Five Pillars of Islam. Ramadan symbolises one of the Five Pillars and is referred to as ‘Sawm’, meaning the “Fasting during the month of Ramadan”.

At the beginning of the fasting month, Muslims will greet each other with ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ as a celebratory term. The fasting month lasts for 29-30 days each year however this is not set as fixed date, such as Christmas celebrated on the 25th of December yearly.  In order to observe Ramadan at the correct time, Muslims seek advice from their local Mosque who confirm the start and end date of the fasting period which is at dawn and sunset.

Family enjoying eid meal

Who participates in fasting and why?

It is compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, as long as they are healthy.  Many children complete fasts to practice for later life.  There are some exemptions for fasting which may include;

  • Travelling long distances
  • Menstruation for women
  • Severe illness
  • Pregnancy and breast feeding

Advice can to taken from the local Mosque to discuss individual needs if you are unsure about your circumstances. A person who is fasting is expected to refrain from consuming all foods, liquids and abstain from smoking and sexual activity from dawn until sunset.

Ramadan is set aside as a time for reflection and increased worship. Many Muslims will visit their local Mosque more frequently, perform regular prayers, read The Quran (Holy Book) and give to charity and/or volunteer for a good cause. Ramadan is regarded as a blessed month. It helps Muslims to develop self-control, acknowledge God’s Blessings and encourages one to have greater compassion towards others, especially the deprived.

Celebrating eid this year

Fasting timetable

A typical routine for a person fasting includes awaking before Sunrise to eat a meal of their choice. This is known as ‘sahoor’ or ‘sehri’. The first prayer then commences after breakfast. Sunrise times differ depending on where you live in the UK and the month Ramadan falls on. This year Ramadan is in the month of May/June 2019, therefore Sunrise is at approximately 2am.  Muslims tend to return back to sleep once they have prayed and eaten before sunrise, so to preserve their energy before they continue their daily routine of work / school / college etc.

Towards the end of the day a meal is prepared prior to sunset.  Many friends and families arrange a gathering to break their fast together.  Traditionally, once the time of sunset has arrived which is known as ‘iftar’, the first food item eaten is a date. This is also the time for the fourth prayer of the day.  In total there are five prayers observed throughout the day. Many local Mosques can provide you with a timetable of sunset and sunrise times for the fasting period, which makes it easier for any person to follow.  Generally, men are expected to attend the Mosque to observe these prayers. It is optional for women to attend and not all Mosques cater for female worshipers.

Eid Festival

Once the month of fasting is complete, Eid is celebrated. Eid is a religious festival which is held on the first day following the end of Ramadan.  On this day, Muslims wear their best outfits, usually traditional clothing. Muslims visit their local Mosque to observe Eid prayer, after which they will greet each other with ‘Eid Mubarak’ meaning Happy Eid.  Once home the family get together to have traditional sweets and breakfast.  Throughout the day many will receive visitors of close friends and relatives, gifts and share food.

Delicious prunes

How to support a Muslim child/young person in foster care:

  • Support a child/young person in identifying their local Mosque. It is the young person’s choice if they wish to attend the Mosque.
  • Provide a Prayer Mat
  • Provide a Quran
  • Provide a Hijab (Head Scarf) for females and a Mosque Hat for males. A child/young person will choose if and when they want to wear this.
  • There are multiple Islamic channels available via TV networks such as Sky or Virgin which a young person may choose to watch to support their faith, especially during Ramadan and Eid. For instance, British Muslim TV sky 845.
  • Provide fresh dates for a child or young person to break their fast. This is a very symbolic.
  • Provide a Halal diet – Halal meat can be easily obtained from most supermarkets, however can also be purchased at specific Halal butchers. Standard dairy produce can be consumed such as milk, cheese and eggs.
  • Provide a meal of the child/young person’s choice once their fast is broken. This may consist of a cultural dish such bread, rice, chicken curry, kebab’s, samosas etc. This meal needs to be high in protein, carbs, fats and dairy so to ensure the young person is still receiving the recommended daily nutrients, to take them through the fasting period.
  • Eid is a very significant time in the Islamic faith and is one of the most celebrated festivities of the year. This occasion must be marked by having sweet treats such as baklava, kheer (rice pudding) and halwa (a semolina pudding). However western sweets are also enjoyed such as cookies, cakes and chocolate treats.

NFA Group Collaborate with Children and Foster Carers to Record Song Raising Awareness of Need for Additional 8,000 Carers

We’re excited to announce that NFA Group has collaborated with children and foster carers on the recording of an original new song which aims to raise awareness for fostering. We hope that the song will help to encourage people to start a career in foster care – with the UK currently in need of an additional 8,000* foster families.

More than 200 children and foster carers helped with the creation and production of the song, capturing the emotions felt by many foster children and the impact foster carers can have on the lives of vulnerable young people.

Named ‘The Light and The Calm’, the special song was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London by an ensemble of more than 40 children and foster carers, as part of our campaign to support The Fostering Network’s annual Foster Care Fortnight.

Find out how the song came to be and, more importantly, give it a listen, below.

Why We Wrote and Recorded ‘The Light and The Calm’

At NFA Group, we’re all about promoting the positive impact fostering has on the lives of children and young people in care. As part of our efforts to support this year’s Foster Care Fortnight event, which is themed around ‘Change a Future’, we wanted to do something that shouted about the importance of fostering – and help find the 8,000 foster families which are urgently needed.

Music is one of the best ways to convey emotions, ideas and important messages. It gives people a voice and allows them to express their feelings in a powerful and emotional way. It also helps people tell their story and make sense of experiences – something which we believe is hugely important for children in care.

Happy little girl enjoying while talking over a microphone during radio broadcast.

David Leatherbarrow, CEO of NFA Group, commented: “Our song captures the important role and positive impact fostering has on many vulnerable children and how it can truly help transform young lives. Foster carers are trained and skilled experts in their field and provide an exceptional service to local communities, opening not only their home but also their heart to children in need and local to them.”

In the words of one of the foster carers who joined us at Abbey Road, the song is “a touching message about how fostering changes lives for the better”, adding that it was “a privilege to be involved”.

How ‘The Light and The Calm’ Came to Be

The story of ‘The Light and The Calm’ began back in November 2018, when NFA Group’s Emma Finch, Dan Rowles and other members of our marketing team landed on the idea of writing and recording a song to promote fostering for Foster Care Fortnight.

From the outset, we wanted the song to capture the real stories and emotions of those who have experienced fostering, and so reached out to our foster families for ideas on what the lyrics should be. We asked foster children, young people and foster carers ‘what does fostering mean to you?’, and our community responded in earnest – with over 150 people sending us their ideas about the song and what the key messages should be.

After compiling all the different lyrics and ideas which had come through from our foster families, Emma and Dan were tasked with sitting down and putting the song. When the song was finished, we took six young people to the Redwall Studios in Bolton to record the song for the first time, so that we could make changes and get the melody right before travelling to London to make the official recording.

From here, we spent a couple of weeks organising for the big day, which was scheduled for early April. We met with the ‘We Can Sing’ choir, who contributed to the backing vocals on the finished track, and ran a competition asking children to design a cover for the single – the winner of which will soon to be announced.

On 6 April 2019, we accompanied an ensemble of children and foster carers to London’s famous Abbey Road Studio, where the likes of The Beatles, Ed Sheeran, Adele and Oasis have all recorded. Recording our song in the same room as these famous bands and artists was a special and surreal experience for everyone involved, and we’re incredibly proud of the end result.

Since recording the song, we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve had from everyone involved in its creation. Here, Emma tells us about some of the feedback she’s had from our fostering community:

“The project has had results beyond anything we would have expected or hoped for. I have read so many emails and Facebook posts from our carers, saying how much this project has changed their life and the children’s lives. People have told us it was their dream to go to Abbey Road, and we made it come true. Others have said talking about music has helped their young person open up for the first time – which really sums up what an amazing experience it has been, and reinforces what the whole song is about.”

What Next for Our ‘The Light and The Calm’ Campaign

We’re proud of everyone who has been involved in the writing and recording of ‘The Light and The Calm’ and want our song to be shared far and wide to spread the message of fostering. With your help, we can help raise awareness of the importance of fostering and support The Fostering Network’s Foster Care Fortnight campaign, so please share the song with your friends and family on social media.

Singers singing the song

Foster Care Fortnight 2019 will take place from 13 to 26 May, and during the event, we plan to launch our ‘8,000 Seconds’ campaign, in which we try to collect 8,000 seconds of footage of people singing or dancing to ‘The Light and The Calm’ – the same number of seconds for every new foster carer that we need across the UK.

Vicky Dobson, NFA Group’s Head of Marketing, concludes: “We are committed to dreaming big, both for the children in our care, our foster families and our employees. Creating a unique song with such a significant message and objective is hugely satisfying, but being able to offer a unique opportunity such as recording the song at Abbey Road to our fostering families was exceptionally rewarding. We have equally big aspirations for the song later this year and are looking forward to sharing more details with you in the future.”

Remember – sharing our special foster care song will help raise the profile of fostering, helping us to recruit new carers while spreading the message of how it can transform young lives. For more information about our foster care services, visit the homepage or call us today on 0808 178 1144.

*6,800 in England, 550 in Scotland, 550 in Wales, and 200 in Northern Ireland. Source:

https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/media-release/2018/urgent-need-over-8000- new-foster-families-across-uk-year

What Are Autism Spectrum Disorders? Autism and ADHD Explained

Autism spectrum disorders affect around 700,000 people in the UK, meaning that over 2.8 million people have a family member on the autism spectrum. It’s a lifelong condition that affects how people interact with others, and it can be mild or serious depending on where the person sits on the spectrum.

For families with an autistic child, everyday life can be a real challenge. Autism affects how children see, hear and feel the world around them, and different people will need different support depending on how the condition affects them.

Because autism is a spectrum condition, every child experiences it differently – and this can make it challenging for those who care for them. Foster carers can sometimes find it difficult to offer the right kind of support to autistic children in their care due to their different needs.

But, small changes and a better understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can make a big difference for foster carers supporting children with autism. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on ASD – giving foster carers the help and information they need to provide the right kind of support to an autistic child in their care.

Quick Links:

What is Autism and How Is It Defined?

Autism spectrum disorder is defined as a developmental condition that affects how people view the world around them. It’s a lifelong condition that children have from birth, and, because it’s not an illness or disease, it can’t be cured.

Autism is very common, with 1 in 100 people on the autistic spectrum. Signs and symptoms of the condition vary from person to person, which is why an early diagnosis is so important for children with ASD.

For many autistic children, the condition causes the most difficulty when they’re interacting with other people. Everyday interactions can be overwhelming, and they can struggle to build a rapport with those around them – even their closest friends and family.

Diagnosing ASD early is important to ensure children get the developmental support they need from a young age. However, because it’s not a physical condition, autism can be very difficult to spot, and many people often mistake the signs for behaviours that a child will grow out of.

Diagnosing autism is very complicated, requiring many tests to define where the child sits on the spectrum. Depending on the outcome, autism specialists will suggest strategies to help the child live life to the fullest.

What Are the Most Common Signs of ASD in Children?

While children exhibit ASD in many different ways, most autistic people share common behavioural traits. As a foster carer, understanding these traits could help you identify autistic behaviours in your child.

Here, we look at the five behavioural traits which children with autism may exhibit.

Social Communication

Autistic children can find it difficult to interpret both verbal and non-verbal communication, such as tone of voice, hand gestures, facial expressions, humour and emotions. They may also struggle to communicate verbally or non-verbally. For this reason, autism specialists often suggest sign language or visual symbols as a way of communicating clearly with very young autistic children.

Social Interaction

Given the communication problems touched on above, many autistic children struggle to interact with others. They can easily misinterpret another person’s feelings, meaning or intentions, and can appear insensitive. They may seek time alone and become ‘overloaded’ by social situations, or may talk at length about their own interests, dismissing customary forms of conversation and interaction.

Repetitive Behaviour and Routines

Because autistic children can find new situations stressful and overwhelming, they sometimes enjoy a set daily routine. This helps them avoid unpredictable scenarios in which they can become confused and anxious. Even simple things like requesting the exact same breakfast every morning could indicate autistic traits.

Highly-Focused Interests

Many autistic children develop highly-focused interests from a young age – it could be music, drawing, animals, or a particular colour. Often, the interest may be unusual, and this can cause problems at school or make it difficult for them to make friends. As with repetitive behaviour, children often become fixated on a particular subject because that’s what makes them the happiest and most comfortable.

Over or Under Sensitive

Autistic children may experience sensory sensitivity, in which they grow over or under-sensitive to taste, touch, sounds, light, colour or pain. The most common type of over-sensitivity is sound, in which quiet background noises become overwhelming and difficult to block out. Whatever they become sensitive too, it’s important to avoid this where possible as continued exposure can cause anxiety or, in some cases, physical pain.

Remember, children exhibit autistic traits in many different ways, so it’s important to make a note of any behaviour you find unconventional and seek a professional diagnosis if you are concerned.

Support Strategies for Foster Carers, Parents and Guardians

Caring for a child with autism can be challenging. There are, however, several recognised strategies that can help you provide the right help and support to your child – and we’ve touched on a couple of these below.

SPELL

SPELL is the National Autistic Society’s framework for responding positively to children on the autism spectrum. It stands for Structure, Positive approaches and expectations, Empathy, Low arousal, and Links. Basically, SPELL emphasises the need to change our approach to autism, so that we can provide the right support, help, communication and interaction to everyone on the autism spectrum – whether they have ADHD or Asperger syndrome.

TEACCH

Like SPELL, TEACCH is recognised by the National Autistic Society as one of the most positive strategies parents and carers can use when interacting with an autistic child. TEACCH stands for Teaching, Expanding, Appreciating, Collaborating, and Holistic, and it prioritises building understanding around the ‘culture of autism’ and the use of visual structures to aid development, learning and communication.

Social Stories

One of the newest coping strategies recommended by the National Autistic Society, Social Stories is a series of visual stories, created by Carol Gray, which aim to help autistic children understand social situations through visual learning. Since they were released in 1991, Social Stories have proved extremely helpful in developing greater social understanding for autistic people, and families are encouraged to create their own comic strips and storyboards to help children develop their social skills.

Helpful Resources

There are lots of resources available online offering advice on how to provide help and support to children with autism. Here, we list our recommended resources for foster families:

  • National Autistic Society – The UK’s primary autism charity, offering a broad range of information and advice, as well as a confidential helpline.
  • Resources for Autism – A registered charity which aims to provide practical services for children and young people with autism.
  • Child Autism UK – The UK’s largest dedicated charity for children with autism, offering a range of support guides and advice for children and their families.
  • NHS autism support groups hub – The NHS’s autism support hub, which can help families find support groups and services in their local area.

At Children First, we provide complete training and support to all our foster carers, so they can provide an effective and supportive home for children with autism.

For more information on how to foster with us, register your interest here or call us today on 0808 178 1144.

Understanding the fostering placement matching process

Young Girl Talking With Counselor At Home

 

Placement social worker Melissa provides an introductory explanation of how foster placement matching works.

When you’re approved to become a foster parent, it’s an exciting time — you’re a step closer to changing not just your life but those of vulnerable children.

But to ensure your placement is as positive an experience as possible for you, your family — and each young person — the matching process is an important step.

What happens after my panel assessment?

After panel, an Agency Decision Maker (ADM) will use the minutes and recommendations from the panel meeting to make the final call on approval.

Once a positive decision has been made, we’ll check again their availability to start accepting placements.

For sibling groups particularly, the shortage of suitable homes means that ‘the sooner the better’ applies for new carers.

But the best placement is more important than the fastest one — and holidays, notice periods and other domestic changes can all delay a carer’s start date.

Once you’re ready to welcome a young person into your home, referrals from the local authority will be assessed for the most appropriate match.

You’ll also be introduced to your supervising social worker (SSW), who will complete a comprehensive and helpful induction with you.

 

woman answer questions of outreach worker

 

And you’ll typically be given a ‘buddy’ — a more experienced carer who can offer help and advice during your introduction to fostering.

How are foster placement matches decided?

Successful matching will always depend on good assessments, high levels of information sharing and careful decision making.

Ultimately, the strongest potential matches will be based on whether the skills and experience of the carer meet the assessed developmental needs of the child.

Huge importance is placed on understanding each young person’s situation before matching, so information gathering about them is vital.

We find out as much possible — both from a positive and potentially negative point-of-view — to help inform the matching process, such as:

  • Pre-care history
  • Age
  • Ethnicity and cultural needs
  • Language barriers
  • Details of previous placements (number, duration, reasons for ending)
  • Developmental needs (health, education, emotional and behavioural)
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Special needs due to disability (physical or learning)
  • Any behaviours displayed, triggers and potential risks

All of these aspects will be discussed with the foster parent prior to a placement starting, so they’re fully aware and better prepared.

Some carers will have been exposed to the realities and rewards of helping young people, through close friends and relatives who foster.

 

Family playing with water pistols in the garden

 

When the referrals team comes to assess a new foster parent, important factors considered during the fostering matching process will typically include:

  • Household dynamics (pets, other family members — particularly birth children or grandchildren)
  • Carer attributes and temperament
  • Transferrable skills
  • Capacity for empathy
  • Resilience
  • Potential for further development and training
  • Transport capabilities

Location and travel can play a big part in matching, as logistics are important — especially for school runs with younger children.

Often, it’s a requirement that a child continues at their current education provision and maintains any contact agreements they may have.

Although the team can specify a distance radius, carers can feed into this themselves, as their knowledge of local traffic and transport is more accurate.

 

Mother fastening child safety seat belt in the car

 

Any wishes and circumstances you express during the matching process will also be taken into account.

Provided you agree with the match once you’re satisfied you’ve been given the relevant information you need, your SSW will be informed of the decision.

An offer will be sent to the child’s local authority and their social worker will ultimately make the final decision over the matching process.

Do children have any say in placement matching?

Ideally, a young person will have the opportunity to visit their potential new home beforehand but some emergency placements mean this isn’t always achievable.

Most importantly, we’ll always conduct any fostering placement in line with the National Minimum Standards (NMS) for Fostering Services.

The ‘wishes and feelings’ section states that any fostered children must:

‘…know that their views, wishes and feelings are taken into account in all aspects of their care; are helped to understand why it may not be possible to act upon their wishes in all cases; and know how to obtain support and make a complaint.’

But regardless of NMS legislation, our priority is to ensure young people aren’t ignored or marginalised during fostering placement matching.

What happens next?

Throughout any placement, you’ll receive unrivalled support and your feedback will help shape the matching process for your next placement if required.

If your preferences as a foster parent change based on your experience and confidence gained, these will all be taken into account.


Hopefully this has made the fostering matching process clearer but if you’ve any questions, please contact our helpful team online or call 0808 178 1144.

So glad we kept sisters together | How fostering siblings works for us

Kids petting horse behind gate

To mark Fostering February, we asked Michael to tell his story of 12 months since fostering siblings.

It’s just over a year since we welcomed sisters M__ and E__ into our home — in the early hours of one winter morning.

Coming from an inner city environment, the girls were understandably unsure at first about our countryside location.

Today, they’re perfectly happy outdoors or playing with our ‘pack’ of four pugs — and are now living with us as a permanent placement.

Pugs playing in snow with child

But we didn’t get to this point as a family overnight — once me and my wife Louise decided we wanted to foster, we had a lot of research to do.

Starting our fostering siblings journey

One of our oldest friends has been a foster parent for years, so we knew what a difference it could make to vulnerable children.

When we started looking into it, we spoke to a number of IFA’s — but it wasn’t until we got in touch with our current agency that it felt ‘right’.

They gave the impression of a ‘family’ environment — friendly contact, helpful information and a lovely initial visit.

It’s been a learning curve — we were apprehensive about our final panel meeting but needn’t have been.

Same with the first LAC meeting we went to — lots of new people, plenty to take in — but not scary at all once you’re there.

And we quickly revised our initial aim not to foster anyone older than our sons, R__ and M__, instead deciding to assess placements on their own merits.

We’re glad we did, as the girls are benefitting from having brothers — and vice versa — plus the age gaps aren’t that big anyway.

Kids being pushed on a swing

Although neither of the girls were in education when they came to us, we got to work enrolling them in local schools.

While waiting for their places to be confirmed, I was able to spend time with them — I’m self employed and mainly work from home.

And although time with the dogs and enjoying various craft activities was great, it was a relief when the girls were able to join their new schools.

Both sisters have flourished — especially considering how much school they’ve missed out on — and E__ is predicted top grades in every subject.

Making new memories – keeping siblings together

It’s not all work though, we’re a very ‘doing’ family — all of the kids have had a go at steering our canal boat during trips away.

Kids playing in snow

And you’ll often find me up above the treetops — I’ve got a microlight aircraft and also fly powered parachutes.

Louise and I both qualified as pilots years ago in the US and we love getting up high and enjoying the views of Rutland Water and the surrounding countryside.

E__ has already been up for a flight — and we’re even working on persuading our social worker to strap in when she visits during warmer weather!

And now we’ve sorted out the girls’ passports, we can’t wait for our first family holiday abroad — Sri Lanka this Easter.

Giving more children a chance

This last year has been fantastic — the girls are as good as gold and we love them to bits — I would recommend fostering to anyone.

The training has been excellent, we’ve been given all the support we’ve needed and everyone we’ve met has been a huge help.

And our social worker Paula is great — nothing is ever too much trouble for her — but she’s also the one who told us the most heartbreaking thing.

Kids walking in snow

At the ‘Skills to Foster’ course we attended, we found out not only how many kids need help — but also how many a month unfortunately can’t be placed.

Louise and I were lucky to have the childhoods we did — and we’ve done what we can to make sure the girls have the best we can give them.

But it’s important to share our experience — so other people will see how much the girls have enriched our family by coming to live with us.

And hopefully someone will be inspired to change a vulnerable young person’s life — and change their own at the same time.

There’s no better time than now, during Fostering February.

If you’d like to know more about how you could help brothers and sisters who need each other stay together, please contact us online or ring 0808 178 1144.

7 lessons I’ve learnt from introverted children

Young introvert studies alone in his room

If you care for a quiet, shy or ‘less sociable’ young person, this knowledge gained working with foster parents who care for introverted children may help you support them.

Courtesy of NFA North West training manager Kath Hamblett.

 

1. Introverts aren’t aloof

Some children may exclude themselves simply because they’re frightened of forming an attachment.

If you’ve often been let down by adults, the relative sanctuary of your bedroom may feel more solid than promises made by ‘new’ people.

Carers can refer to their training — particularly the importance of sensitivity as detailed in the ‘Secure Base Model‘ to help children manage these feelings.

By tuning into what young people might be feeling, a foster parent can start to understand introvert behaviour and offer the right support.

2. Introverts aren’t boring

A young person might be reluctant to join in or try something new — that doesn’t mean they’re no fun.

They may have been punished or abused for ‘failures’ at tasks and activities in their past — so sticking to the familiar makes sense.

The empathy to see that a lack of participation doesn’t always mean a lack of ambition or ability is an important carer attribute.

And by being patient and encouraging, they can give a young person the best chance to explore how much they want to ‘join in’.

3. Introverts can reach out

Take opportunities to establish (and build on) trust whenever these are presented if possible.

If a child wants to play lego with you rather than go to bed, maybe some shared bonding over bricks would be more beneficial than a strict routine at that time.

By allowing such interaction, you can provide a safe space for a young person to play, explore and share with you.

And as the relationship develops and trust grows, it should become easier to introduce clearer defined routines.

4. Introverts aren’t robots

A perceived lack of emotion may not tell the whole story — some children simply haven’t known a nurturing environment to help them understand their feelings.

If a young person hasn’t learnt what an emotion means, they may not even know if they’re mad/sad/glad/scared — let alone how to express this.

Be there for them and leave no doubt that they’re a member of your family, to develop a sense of belonging.

As the young person becomes more comfortable with their environment, they may learn how to recognise and express emotions by seeing others do so.

5. Introverts aren’t broken

You don’t need to ‘fix’ an introverted young person by keeping them permanently occupied or frequently placing them in social situations.

Sometimes, quiet or alone time is hugely valuable — especially for children who need time to process a lot of unfamiliar information.

A new home, new family, new school — even new feelings — can be a lot to deal with — so be available but recognise the value of space.

If you can give this support, a young person can start to associate that solitude with reflection, rather than exclusion or punishment.

6. Introverts may have history

When involving an introvert in a group or family event, consider that you may need to manage expectations.

Just because a party or barbecue means a good time for most, such occasions could have different associations for a looked-after child.

Violenceneglect, abuse — be aware that something most people look forward to may be linked to a previous bad experience for a young person.

So they may appear more anxious than excited at the prospect of a get-together, particularly one with lots of people, alcohol or an unfamiliar location.

Address concerns by explaining what goes on at such occasions in your family — and maybe even dig out a photo from a previous similar event.

7. Introverts may need ‘guesswork’

An introverted child’s lack of visible confidence may go hand-in-hand with not understanding consequences.

When kids are told ‘don’t run with scissors’, ‘hold hands to cross the road’ and ‘take off coats indoors’ — they learn about cause and effect.

But without this understanding of reasons for actions, a young person may not understand why they’re being asked to do (or not do) something.

Using ‘guesses’ to prompt them to question themselves can encourage them to understand the causes and outcomes of certain behaviour.

Try phrases like: ‘I guess you wanted to stay in your room rather than eat with us because you’re feeling upset about XXXX’, to start the process.

So… one step at a time

So a child who isn’t the ‘life and soul’ doesn’t need to be forced to change, they need acceptance and availability.

Remember — ‘quiet’ is a subjective term and someone who seems withdrawn at first in your home may be dealing with much more than they’re used to.

Maybe a one-to-one game of cards will be all they can deal with initially — but give them opportunities to learn the value and fun of spending time with others.

With time and luck, the young person will become an important part of your family who can also spend time apart without being seen as rude or sullen.

 

Find out more about the Secure Base programme and other specialist training available for carers by calling 0800 044 3030 or if you prefer, contact us online.

To see when you can talk to some of our friendly staff in person about training and support, see our latest events near you.

Introduction to attachment and foster care | Joe Nee

Expert in attachment theory Joe Nee highlights some of the impact a child’s attachment experience can have on them and their foster families.

As children develop, from conception to adulthood, they need support from those responsible for protecting them during this journey.

When going through the various stages in this developmental process their experience of attachment plays a crucial role.

This continues throughout the young person’s development, from absolute dependence, to independence and autonomy as an adult.

And the different needs of children at each stage demand differing responses from those charged with their care.

Each develops at their own pace — from being unable to let their main carer out of their sight to the ‘terrible twos’, ‘sibling rivalry’ the ‘lazy teenager’ and so on.

Studying how a child attaches to their parents/carers helps us understand how this process is affected by the nature and quality of our early experiences.

This is particularly true of children who have experienced early trauma and/or neglect.

Stressed young mother sitting on her sofa whilst feeding her baby son. She has her head in her hand and is surrounded by mess.

All children need to develop a secure emotional attachment to their parents or their primary/main carer at an early stage.

Young people may seem ‘unable’ to learn, or understand consequences, behaving in ways that seem to guarantee they won’t get what they want.

They may even feel responsible for their problems and those of their parents, believing themselves to be ‘bad’ or deserving of punishment.

The quality of the attachment relationship a child develops with their key caregiver is a good indicator of their ability to cope and adapt.

And as the child grows, this relationship means they continue to view this caregiver as a potential source of comfort in any stressful situations.

Unfortunately, this can continue to be the case even if the caregiver proves to be abusive, neglectful, fails to protect them, or their life seems to be in chaos.

For foster parents, this can clearly prove a challenge, as the child seeks comfort and approval from whichever caregiver to whom they have been attached.

The effects of attachment on foster parents

Attachment relationships are a biological inevitability, designed to ensure a child’s protection and survival.

But a child or young person’s ability to attach and form a bond with a caregiver often depends on the type of care they received from others earlier in their life.

It’s important that foster parents get appropriate support to promote healthy attachments for the children and young they care for in their family.

And where young people are removed from birth parents permanently, it’s vital that the appropriate matching and training takes place.

Foster parents looking after children who have disorganised or extremely anxious attachments can experience similar emotional upheaval.

Of course, fostering can be challenging at any time — but the stress involved in caring for some children can have a serious impact on the placement success.

In such situations, support from social and/or professional networks is typically a major factor in alleviating carer stress.

Particularly important is access to timely and effective support from social workers and other professionals.

Research has shown that the absence of this can exacerbate the strain on carers and their families.

Meeting a young person’s needs

Some younger children with a history of maltreatment can respond quickly to changes in their emotional environments, forming secure attachments to carers.

But research and experience tells us that this will not always be the case with certain children.

Some appear to resist support, continue to distrust adults and seem unable to seek care or comfort when distressed.

In these cases, if foster parents wait for a ‘signal’ or sign from a child to provide care, the young person’s needs may remain completely unmet.

We know that looked after children benefit greatly if they can develop secure attachments with their caregivers.

To enable this for those with attachment or trauma issues, foster parents can aim to engage with them at their emotional age (rather than chronological).

In order to ensure that young people with attachment issues are cared for most effectively during foster placements, several measures can help:

• Capacity of prospective carers to recognise/tolerate difficult behaviour and remain sensitive/responsive to a child’s needs should be evaluated

• Regular training and support to ensure carers can reflect on a child’s behaviour with reference to their needs rather than react immediately to their behaviour

• Carer access to reflective space and non-judgmental listening to promote sensitive, responsive care and alleviate the strain on all concerned

Any professionals, including foster parents, who are asked to care for or work with looked after children should have basic but specific training.

This should concern the impact of early attachment issues and trauma on those children.

And the support available should be proactive — not crisis driven or occurring only when stress levels are unacceptable.

Attachment and teenagers

A young person may appear to be settled, happy and thriving in a foster family environment.

But one of the triggers that can disrupt the situation for all concerned can be the onset of puberty.

The stresses and confusion for a young person during this time and their teenage years, can pose problems in terms of changing behaviour.

Mother and teenage daughter having an arguument

Another potential influential factor is young people’s vulnerability to harmful external influences.

A teen’s early experiences of mistrust, inappropriate attachment and confusion about relationships can make them an obvious target.

The potential threat of controlling relationships, sexual exploitation or gang associations increase for those with an inability to manage social relationships.

Learn more about attachment

Understanding the impact of attachment and how it can affect the fostering experience for young people and carers is important.

Find out more about the available training and support available by using the bibliography below, contacting CFFA, or see further resources on attachment from the Fostering Network.

About the author

Joe Nee is an independent psychology professional with extensive experience in the education and child protection sectors.

He has worked with local authorities, government departments, the police, prisons and voluntary organisations throughout the UK.

As a renowned authority on child protection, families, fostering and adoption, his expertise as a consultant is both insightful and invaluable.

 

Bibliography

  • Dozier M, Albus K and Bates B (2001) Attachment for infants in foster care: the role of caregiver state of mind, Child Development, 72, 1467-1477

  • Dozier M, Peloso E, Lewis E, Laurenceau J P and Levine S (2008) Effects of an attachment-based intervention on the cortisol production of infants and toddlers in foster care, Dev Psychopathology, 20, 845-859

  • Fonagy,P. and Target, M. (2002) Early Intervention and the Development of Self Regulation. Psychoanalytic Inquiry. V 22,Issue 3

  • Furnival, J. Practice with looked after children and young people IRISS Insights no.10. May 2010

  • Hughes, Dan (2006) Building the Bonds of Attachment

  • Holmes, J (2001) The Search for the Secure Base: Attachment Theory and Psychotherapy. Routledge

  • Hosking G and Walsh I (2005) Wave Report 2005: Violence and what to do about it, Croydon Wave Trust

  • Kochanska G, Barry RA, Stellern SA and O’Bleness JJ (2009) Early Attachment Organization Moderates the Parent Child Mutually Coercive Pathway to Children’s Antisocial Conduct, Child Development, 80, 1288-1300

  • Millward R, Kennedy E, Towlson K and Minnis H (2006) Reactive attachment disorder in looked-after children Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties, 11(4)

  • Steele M (2006) The ‘added value’ of attachment theory and research for clinical work in adoption and foster care, in J Kenrick (ed) Creating New Families Therapeutic approaches to fostering adoption and kinship care, London: Karnac Books

  • WilPerry B and Hambrick E (2008) The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, Reclaiming children and youth,17(3)

  • son K (2006) Can foster carers help children resolve their emotional and behavioural difficulties? Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 11(4), 495-511

  • Zeanah C (2001) Evaluation of a preventive intervention for maltreated infants and toddlers in foster care, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(2), 214-221

Unity UK Dance Company – Final Performance!

We were thrilled to work on an incredibly exciting project with Unity Dance Company UK (you may know them from Britain’s Got Talent and Got to Dance!) with some of our very talented Looked After Children.

We have been following the progress of the dance progress, which ran for over 6 weeks and you might have seen some of our other posts of their journey. The commitment and dedication demonstrated by the children throughout the project was colossal and their determination to learn the new skills was an absolute inspiration.

Some of the children had dance experience before this project, but all of the children made huge progress and took to street dance very quickly. Throughout the project, support and teaching came from Unity UK’s Director and Choreographer, Tashan Muir. The children becmae highly skilled street dancers in a matter of weeks under Tashan’s expert guidance.

On the 14th of February at the North London Children’s Achievement Awards, in front of an audience of over 200, the group performed their polished dance at the Stratford Circus Arts Centre. The first time many of the children had ever performed in public!

After the performance the children were presented with trophies to commemorate the event and to look back at the hard work and dedication they exercised to achieve their goal.  The end product is this inspirational video, powered by the positive attitudes of the dance team who can take so many positives form the whole experience.

On behalf of everyone we would like to say a massive Thank You to all at Unity Dance Company, our wonderful carers, our carer engagement officer Kate Davis and most of all our fantastic performers.

We hope to bring you more exciting projects like this very soon!

Saying ‘Goodbye’ To A Foster Child

The time between the beginning and the end of a placement with a foster child can feel like no time at all. Saying goodbye can be one of the biggest challenges faced by foster carers, as well as for the young people in their care.

Having looked after a person for a period of time, you celebrate their successes, are a shoulder to cry on and you watch them grow up. They become a substantial part of your family.

The Importance of Staying Positive

Whatever the reasons for the departure, it’s normal for foster carers to experience a range of emotions when a child leaves their home. It’s important to realise that having stayed with you for a period of time will have benefited their lives for the better.

If they’re an older teenager and they’re now ready to live independently, you will have probably played the part of an important role model. You would have helped teach them valuable life skills such as learning to cook, clean and manage budgets in preparation for them to live their life on their own.

For younger children who move onto more long-term, permanent placements, it’s important to remember that moving on is in their best interests as it’s eventually helping towards placing them with their ‘forever family’.

Dealing with Grief

Losing a foster child is likely to provoke feelings of grief, so give yourself time to recover and also to celebrate the journey you’ve had together. Being open about these feelings with friend, family and other foster carers will help you to heal.

How We Can Help Foster Carers

If you are a foster carer or are considering becoming a foster carer, we can provide a range of training on how to deal with foster children moving on. Contact our team for more information by clicking here.

Fostering February 2019

Don’t rule yourself out…find out!

This month we will be showing our support for Fostering February by starting conversations about fostering both online and offline!

What is Fostering February?

Fostering February is a month dedicated to raising awareness about the facts of becoming a foster carer and aims to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions which surround it.

It gives an invaluable opportunity to people who are considering becoming a foster carer to have their questions and concerns addressed.

Have you ever thought about becoming a foster carer, but immediately ruled it out?

 

“I’m in a same sex relationship so I won’t be allowed to foster”
“I am disabled so I won’t be allowed to foster”
“I don’t have a driving license so I won’t be allowed to foster”

 

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

There are lots of different family living situations that can allow for a foster child which are often assumed can’t. Be sure to find out before making assumptions. For example, your sexual orientation won’t affect whether you are allowed to become a foster carer. The most important factor is that the children feel safe and loved and importantly are properly looked after.

How can you get involved in Fostering February 2018?

Whether you are considering becoming a foster carer or just want to help raise awareness, there are plenty of ways for you to get involved with Fostering February 2018.

If you think you could help a child, please register your interest by clicking here and a member of our friendly team will be in touch.

National Storytelling Week 2018

Connect with your foster family through stories

From 27th January – 3rd February 2018, it is National Storytelling Week, held by The Society for Storytelling.

The week is the perfect chance for families to come together and celebrate the power of telling stories, an oral tradition which was the very first way of communicating life experiences and the creative imagination!

Sourced from https://www.sfs.org.uk/national-storytelling-week

What’s so important about storytelling?

Storytelling isn’t just a fun activity for children and young people, it can also have a significant impact on their psychological development. Not only can it improve their language skills and imagination, but their ability to tell their own story, articulate their emotions and make themselves heard.

Stories can provide a child with insight into how the world works and can help them to understand themselves and others. Stories can help give a child greater understanding of human emotion and feelings.

The Importance of Storytelling in a Foster Family Environment

Storytelling can be useful for foster children to help strengthen their relationship with their foster carers, as the process of telling and listening to stories can build attachments and relationships.

The storyteller’s own reactions, both in how they tell and talk about the story, can create an environment that brings well-being and playfulness to the relationship.

Go on, join us in celebrating National Storytelling Week and find time to sit down the with the family to tell some inspiring stories!

Reasons to Kick-Start Your Fostering Journey

If you’ve been thinking about fostering for a while, but have been dwelling on the reasons not to foster, here are some reasons that might encourage you to make your initial enquiry.

  1. You’ve got a lot of love to give
  2. Feeling loved and cared for is one of our most basic and fundamental needs, no matter what age we are. However, when children miss out on the feeling of love and care during their early years, it can have a negative impact on their personal development and cause low self-esteem.

    Becoming a foster carer is an opportunity for you to provide a vulnerable child with the love and care they deserve.

  3. Children need to form lasting attachments
  4. Forming lasting attachments in our early years is important to help develop relationships in later life. Unfortunately, many children within the foster care system have not had the opportunity to form these attachments in their childhood due to their changing environment.

    Foster carers play a crucial role in helping children and young people to trust people by forming positive, responsive relationships with them.

  5. Too many children don’t grow up in a family setting
  6. Too many children within the foster care system grow up without their basic needs being met in a safe and happy family environment. Fostering is an opportunity to provide a child with the guidance and support that we all need.

  7. Your care can have a lasting impact
  8. The impact you could have on a foster child, even in emergency and short-term placements, can stay with them forever. Foster children can learn what being part of a caring family environment is like which can, in turn, have a positive effect on their outlook on family life and can positively influence their future.

  9. Fostering is an opportunity to learn new skills
  10. Foster carers receive ongoing support and training, which provides the opportunity to develop new skills and improve existing ones. Your supervising social worker will be there to help you along the way and will provide you with access to various training courses.

    If you’re ready to take the first step to becoming a foster carer and changing a child’s life for the better, click here to get in touch with our friendly team today.

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.

#giveabook Campaign

Books are precious. They can open your eyes to endless possibilities, or take you away from the everyday, to somewhere extraordinary. Sadly, many children do not have books of their own and we want to do something about that!

Last year Chicken & Frog launched the #giveabook campaign, in partnership with Children First Fostering Agency. The Children First Fostering Agency head office is in Basildon, but they provide local support in the form of ‘carer hubs’ in Bedford, Hitchin, Manningtree and Brixton.

We were overwhelmed by people’s generosity last year, and we would love to be able to hand over even more books this Christmas. The campaign launches tomorrow, and runs up until the 15th December, so that we have time to wrap, tag and deliver the books to the team at the CFFA.

If you’d like to get involved, you can pop into the shop, call or email.

01277 230068/info@chickenandfrog.co.uk

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!

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.

Fostering parents and children

Fostering can sometimes work for the whole family, especially when the parents of vulnerable children themselves need help, support and guidance.

If you are considering becoming a foster carer with Children First Fostering Agency , one type of fostering you might consider involves making a stable and supportive home for a parent and child experiencing difficulties. Invariably, parents with older or grown up children have accumulated valuable life skills and experience that can be passed on to younger parents who are struggling.

The parent and child foster carer has several roles, they are responsible for the well being and care for both the parent and child, but they also have a mentoring role too. Bringing a struggling parent into your home, often a young or teenage parent with little family support, is an ideal opportunity to help them develop their child care skills.

In today’s increasingly fragmented society, the opportunities to learn about being a parent from older generations is no longer available to everybody. Instead some young and often vulnerable parents grow up unable to cope with the many challenges that babies and small children present.

Being able to help guide a young person to care for their child, support them and give them a break from the many tiring tasks of parenting is often the key to enabling a happy family to flourish in the future.

The parent and child foster carer must be as patient, skilled, resilient and resourceful as a normal foster carer and have the time and energy to devote to at least two other people.

Often both the parent and child that require foster care can exhibit difficult behaviour as they both struggle with overpowering and unmanageable feelings.

However, with time, patience, support and above all love and understanding many parents and their children begin to make real progress towards having happy, fulfilled family lives of their own.

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

Remand fostering

When a young person is charged with a crime and is awaiting a court appearance, magistrates can place them on remand.

This is not the same as a prison sentence, which can only be imposed if the person has been convicted of a crime. Instead it is an order that keeps the young person in a secure location before a trial date and means they are safe and cannot commit further offences.

Placing a young person in a remand centre or adult prison while awaiting trial is a very drastic step that courts do not take lightly; an alternative to incarceration is the use of remand fostering.

Remand fostering is specialist foster care, where the children or young people are facing a court appearance. A young person who is accused of a crime might well exhibit signs of anxiety, distress or worry and you will need to be as supportive and understanding as possible.

You might find that young people on remand who you foster have already had previous convictions, but courts will normally place young people accused of serious offences in secure accommodation.

Part of your role will be to make sure that the young person in your care attends bail hearings and meets with solicitors, many will have chaotic lifestyles and lack the organisational skills needed to comply with the court’s wishes.

In addition to this, a young person on a remand foster placement might have the opportunity to show that they can interact with society in a positive way. This will be vital if they are convicted, as it might form the basis of pre sentencing reports ordered by the court to guide the judges in their decision making.

Remand foster caring is a challenging role for any carer but it can be one of the most rewarding. A young person’s future often hinges on the type of care they receive before they face a courtroom and the right carer can have an immense impact.

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

Fostering background checks

It is a sad and unavoidable truth in Britain today that a small proportion of adults who are given positions of responsibility towards children harm them.

Many thousands of children in Britain sadly suffer physical, emotional and sexual abuse and neglect at the hands of the very people who are entrusted with their well being.

Sometimes this is their own parents and in some cases the social services are involved and fostering arrangements and adoption can be possible solutions.

In other cases, teachers, youth workers, sports coaches and a wide range of other adults with access to children have been found guilty of abuse.

One factor that comes up in many cases of reported abuse is that next to nothing was known about the abuser and their past was allowed to remain secretive.

In recent years there have been considerable changes to the way information is shared to safeguard children.

At Children First Fostering Agency, the wellbeing of children and carers is our number one priority and we use the Disclosure and Baring Service to carry out background checks on all applicants.

The DBS check lists any prior criminal convictions that a person has had and any other relevant information that a police force or social services may hold on them. It is important that you inform our fostering assessors as soon as possible if you have had a criminal conviction in the past.

Depending on the circumstances of the conviction it might not automatically mean that a fostering application would be turned down.

If you have no prior convictions and you have never had a DBS check before, it is a routine process that everyone in Britain who works with children and vulnerable adults is required to undertake.

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

What to expect when you’re applying to foster

When prospective carers are deciding whether fostering is right for them, an 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.

At Children First Fostering Agency, our 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, our trained fostering workers 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.

Our selection process, here at CFFA, 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 understand your concerns and questions. Instead, view it as a first opportunity to learn more about fostering and your role as a prospective foster parent.

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

Finding support from other foster parents

The first foster placement for a newly trained carer is invariably a daunting and challenging task.

Taking a step into the unknown and inviting a child into your home who will normally be dealing with a range of overwhelming feelings requires support and help.

All foster carers, whether new to caring or not receive close support and help from us at Children First Fostering Agency, as we put carer well-being as a top priority.

However, another very effective tier of support for carers that should not be overlooked is the support they give each other.

Peer support and mentoring in foster caring is invaluable; hearing directly from another person who has experienced (and overcome) the same challenges can help to make difficult situations seem manageable.

Fostering requires a wide range of talents, from managing the mundane and the everyday (dealing with schools, bedtimes, pocket money and routines), to coping with the fears and worries that foster children invariably have.

Challenging behaviour or dealing with a child in distress can be overwhelming for even the most experienced adult to deal with on their own.

Friends and family who are not carers might be able to sympathise, but they rarely have the insight required to help because they have not experienced fostering first hand.

This is why a fostering mentor is such an invaluable resource for carers, someone who knows your situation because they have been there themselves.

Having this kind of expert help can make all the difference to carers and foster children and ensure that the placement is a success.

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

First steps to fostering

Becoming a foster carer is a major life decision and not one that anyone enters into without serious consideration and care.

At first the process of becoming a foster carer might seem complex and daunting, but at Children First Fostering Agency we support all prospective carers throughout.

Once you’ve first made contact a carer recruitment officer will get in touch and explain more about the fostering role with Children First Fostering Agency and assess your eligibility.

The next step will be an initial home visit from a social worker who will come to your home and discuss fostering with you in greater depth.

At this stage it will be important to see whether you have a spare room that is suitable to be used as a child’s bedroom so this is something that should be prepared in advance.

Following the visit, you will need to submit a formal application and then you will be visited over a period of weeks by a fostering assessor and there is a mandatory disclosure and barring check.

The assessment stage includes a three day ‘skills to foster course’. Following this there is a selection panel that candidates attend to find out if they have been selected as carers.

This might seem like a rigorous and lengthy process but it is designed to make sure that carers make informed decisions and won’t be overwhelmed by the challenges of fostering.

Above all, throughout the process you must be able to show that you can offer a secure, stable and supportive home to a young person facing difficulties in their life.

If you feel that you can offer an environment to a young person that reassures, nurtures and offers commitment and stability, then you probably have many of the attributes required of a foster carer.

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