There are various different types of fostering and you may suit an approval for one or all. It will be your preferences, your situation and the individual circumstances of your household that dictate the type of fostering that fits you and your family. The important thing for you is to find a way to care that suits you best. Whichever area you choose, the one thing you can be certain of is that every child will benefit from your care and support.
So, to help you become that special person in a child’s life, here are some brief descriptions of the types of care that you can offer. Every child has different needs, requiring many different forms of support, all equally important to them. The average length of stay for a child in an Independent Fostering placement is 21 months.
Short term fostering
Initially ranging from an overnight stay to up to two years, this usually results from difficulties in the family, or the child being harmed or abused in some way. You will need to provide a safe place for them to live. You’ll help them to understand what’s happening and offer support, whilst the Local Authority engages with the family to return the child home as soon as possible. Sometimes this will not happen and the child will need a longer term placement which could be with you if everything is working well.
Many parents, despite loving their children dearly, are unable to provide the care needed. In such cases, these children will not be able to live with their own families even though they may want to. You can help by offering a child the chance to grow up in a safe and supportive environment, where they’ll receive care, nurturing and the opportunity to keep in touch with their family. Usually, but not always, some experience of fostering is required before you can become a long-term carer as it would be hard to take on this commitment before testing whether fostering actually worked for you and your family. However many children are placed short term initially until it becomes clear they will need a long term placement so it is not unheard of to be asked to continue looking after a child when an initially short term placement is working well.
In many cases, staying together is very important to children who have had changes in their lives. They need the security and comfort of each other as much as they need you. We always need people to take on groups of brothers and sisters. This is probably our biggest proportion of referrals and we are keen to recruit carers from all communities with two or more bedrooms spare so we can enable this to happen.
Parent and child fostering
You may feel able to help some parents who need support and security. We need people who can teach and encourage vulnerable parents without taking over their responsibilities as mothers/fathers. This is a specialised task as your role is more about mentoring the parent than looking after baby.
If you take on a Parent & Child placement you will need to undertake our Parent & Child training course as you will need to operate in a certain manner and contribute to the decision as to whether mum/dad has the skills to keep the child.
Some children, usually over the age of 10 years, require experienced specialist care to meet their complex health needs and/or challenging behaviour. If you choose this challenging option you will need to be available full-time and will probably have a range of skills and experience of working with children.
Some children can not be placed with other children and these are called ‘solo’ placements. You would be unlikely to have any children living at home and even if you possessed further spare bedrooms they would need to remain empty.
If Children Always First offer you a specialist placement it will only be because we think you can offer a positive experience to the child and that you have the skills to deal with their needs and behaviour. We will always make sure you have easy quick access to therapists and psychologists and that you have an enhanced level of placement support from our staff.
Working together with our carers as a team, Children Always First hopes to become known for’ sticking on in there’ when others would have folded. This is about damaged children and making their lives better… nobody is promising you it will be easy… but we do promise you it will be worthwhile.
Respite care is looking after young people/children who are already fostered by other foster carers for a short time limited period. These tend to be arranged in house when our carers need to have a holiday without the children, or a weekend away or, occasionally, when something has gone wrong within the existing placement and we need to take some pressure off the situation.
Occasionally some children have respite weekends built into the package so the carer can recharge their batteries if the placement is particularly demanding.
We seldom get external requests for respite but try to help wherever we can. We do not plan to approve ‘respite only’ carers until the agency has grown and we can see what the demand is. All of our full time carers are approved to do respite as it gives new carers valuable experience.
Under 5’s (possibly Pre-Adoption fostering)
Many children aged under 5 may have a plan for adoption if they are not returning home. Therefore, if you take on children in this age group it is unlikely you will be able see them through to independence unless you adopt or the plan is for long term fostering. Until we are able to offer the ‘Fostering to Adopt’ scheme, carers who take on young children could be primarily preparing them to be adopted. As the children are often young, secure attachments are formed and it is difficult for everyone when the children move on. However, your job is to restore their normality and trust in adults so they are able to adapt successfully to adoptive placements in the future, or be returned home. If they achieve that then you have made a difference and we will be here to support you all the way.