Q: Who can be a Carer?
Most importantly, we ask that you have the space in your home and the support of family to create the right caring environment for a vulnerable child/ young person, and that you genuinely care about the welfare of children and young people. Many people can become foster carers:-
- You can be single, married, co-habiting or divorced
- Couples will need to arrange their working hours so that one carer can be at home full time or have flexibility for part time employment
- Single foster carers will need to be at home full time, or have flexibility for part time employment
- You may be a home owner or a tenant
- You will need a bedroom for the exclusive use of the looked after child
- We welcome applications from all ethnic, cultural, religious backgrounds and sexual orientation
- You must be a British Citizen or have permanent leave to stay in the UK
- Experience I looking after children and/or young people would be advantageous
Q: Do I need previous experience of fostering?
No, you do not. Many of our Carers have previous experience of fostering or of caring for other people. Some of our Carers have worked as teachers or in the health or social services, or have gained experience in working with children/young people through voluntary organisations such as scouts, youth clubs etc. Certainly, any previous experience of caring, particularly for children/ young people, would be an advantage, however, having the right personal skills to care for a disadvantaged child/ young person is just as important.
Q: Can you help me develop the right skills for foster caring?
We think it is essential that all our Carers, whether or not they have previous experience, are prepared to spend time developing their skills and experience.
We also expect our Carers to help the child/ young person in their care to thrive and develop. We provide ongoing, relevant training for our Carers, based on their individual training profile. This can include courses in dealing with challenging behaviour or sexual abuse, for example.
Q: What happens in the assessment process?
The assessment process usually takes around three to six months, and involves a thorough look at your life. The Supervising Social Worker is highly skilled and experienced in undertaking these assessments and will support you every step of the way.
At the beginning, we will require your consent to undertake the following checks on you and your family:
- Access NI
- Local Heath & Social Care Trust check
We also pay for you to have a full medical check with your own GP, and if you have children who are in full time education, we will take up an education check with the relevant school/college.
We ask you to provide three referees (only one of which can be a family member) who can comment on your suitability to become a foster carer.
We will then invite you to attend our the three-day ‘Skills to Foster’ training course, which will give you the opportunity to learn more about the fostering process, meet an experienced foster carer and meet other local people who are also in the fostering assessment process.
A Supervising Social Worker will arrange to visit you and your family on a regular basis to enable them to collect all of the information for the assessment report. Once completed, this report is checked by Kindercare’s Quality Assurance department, prior to be presented to the Fostering Panel. You’re invited to attend the Panel, where a recommendation will be made.
Although this process sounds like a big commitment, most people who go through the assessment have told us they found the experience very satisfying.
Q: What happens after I’m approved?
Once approved as a Foster Carer with Kindercare NI, our Social Workers willl begin their search for a placement for you. Where a potential match with a child is being considered, brief details of your suitability will be provided to the local Health and Social Care Trust by one of our Supervisory Social Workers.
Q: Do I have a choice in the type of child I care for?
Children who require care must have foster carers who can meet their needs. Throughout the fostering assessment process we work with you to identify your strengths and skills to assist you in identifying the children and young people you could care for. We will also identify specific training needs to assist you in expanding your skills as a foster carer.
Before you are approved by the fostering panel, we will have agreed on the type of child who will fit in with your family. This includes the age, gender, ethnicity and religion of potential foster children.
Q: Do I get ‘paid’ for the work I do?
All our Carers are professionals who do a valuable and often difficult job. We expect them to be rewarded for this, especially, as it may be difficult to take paid work elsewhere, since on some occasions Local Health and Social Care Trusts ask them to be available for the children/ young people in their care on full-time basis. As well as providing a reward for the work the Carers do, the remuneration also includes Allowances designed to cover the costs of having a child/ young person placed with you. All Carers are regarded as self employed and must seek their own tax and financial advice. www.inlandrevenue.org.uk
Q: What kind of children and young people will I be caring for?
We carefully match the needs of the child or young person referred with the resources and skills of the Carer and their family situation. You may be able to take a sibling group (several children/ young people from one family), a young parent and baby, or you may only have room for one child or young person.
Many of our placements will be for children/ young people with challenging behaviour, but they will only be placed with Carers who have the resources to deal with their special needs. We will work with you to identify your strengths and limitations and place children and young people accordingly. Ultimately, you have the choice whether or not to accept or decline the placement of a particular child/ young person.
Q: What will I know about the child/young person before they are placed with me?
We discuss every placement with our carers and it’s their decision to accept a child into their home. We share as much information about the child or young person and their background as possible. However, sometimes children come into foster care with very little information, especially in an emergency situation.
In these circumstances the professional team will work as quickly as possible to piece together information.
We have highly skilled staff who match children with the right foster family, but the decision to take a child in and look after them always rests with our carers.
Q: What sort of behaviours do foster children have?
Foster children, like all other children, have their own behaviours relating to their age, experiences and development. Children who need to be looked after by foster carers have the added difficulty of separation from their families, friends, homes and pets. They may also be learning to deal with painful experiences.
Some children cannot express their complex feelings, and may present behaviours which can be extremely challenging. A foster child may have difficulties in sleeping, eating disorders or being withdrawn. Whatever the behaviour, with the right carer and the support of a professional team, great improvements can be made with many children.
Q: Will I find it difficult when the children move on?
Without doubt, the children you care for will make a huge impact on your life, and you will surprise yourself with your ability to help a child move on. You will have a period of missing a foster child once they are gone. However, you will have made a difference when it mattered, and go on to make a difference for many more children.
Throughout this process, you will be supported by your Supervising Social Worker and from talking with other foster carers.
Q: What is short term foster care?
Short term foster care can be from a few days up to two years. When a child is placed in foster care, a minimum period of stay is normally given.
Q: What is long term foster care?
Long term foster care is when children are unable to return to their birth family. In these circumstances, many younger children are placed for adoption. For some older children however, it may be more appropriate for them to remain in long-term foster care.
This normally means that they remain with a foster family up until reaching a period of adulthood when they are able to take care of themselves. Children in long-term foster care are very much a permanent part of the foster carer’s family.
Q: What is respite care?
Respite fostering gives support to families who are in need of a short break. Normally these families may be experiencing unusually high levels of stress and need to have short periods without the pressures of caring for their child or children. In many cases, families with a disabled child need a little time away from caring for a child with special needs.
Children are linked with a foster carer who will provide regular periods of short-break care, perhaps alternate weekends or at holiday times. Many foster carers who work full-time are able to provide this type of fostering.
Foster carers don’t always do one sort of fostering – often they combine different fostering types to fit in with their lifestyle or the needs of the child.
Q:What effect will fostering have on my family?
It is the whole of your family who will be assessed as a fostering home. We consider that the entire family needs to be committed to caring for a child.
Throughout the assessment process we will help you understand the potential changes you may need to make to make a foster child feel welcome and safe.
You will need to consider how you will amend your routines, accommodate another person (with their own likes and dislikes), manage family dynamics and so on. You will gradually learn how these changes can work and how your family can manage them positively. Your Supervising Social Worker is on hand for advice and guidance, and you’ll benefit from the advice of other foster carers who you meet in your local support group.
Thinking about the changes can begin right now. Becoming a foster carer is a worthwhile decision that changes lives and is an exciting prospect.
Q:What if my own children don’t get on with the foster child?
Your own family will be part of the fostering assessment from the beginning, and will continue to be seen and listened to by your own Supervising Social Worker.
From time to time, children will disagree, become possessive (of parents and belongings) and have occasional personality clashes. Adults can help children to resolve these problems and find practical ways to resolve issues. Infact, our Foster Carers tell us that in general, fostering has a very positive impact on their own children, making them more well rounded, caring individuals with a realistic and sensitive approach to other children.
Q: Can a foster child come on holiday with us?
Foster children are encouraged to experience as many things as possible and to be a part of your everyday family life and routines. If you are planning a holiday or a period of time away from the family home, we discuss your plans with the foster child’s social worker. They ultimately make the decision, but holiday plans can usually be agreed
Q: I have a criminal conviction. Does that mean I cannot foster?
It depends on the nature of the criminal offence. You may wish to contact us and get some advice before you make an application to foster.
Q: Who can I turn to for advice?
All our Carers are allocated a local Supervising Social Worker who will support them throughout the fostering process. All these workers are suitably qualified and have considerable fostering experience. This support service is available to Foster Carers twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Kindercare Fostering Northern Ireland also facilitates Foster Carers support groups where valuable advice can often be found from other Foster Carers.
Q: What if a placement doesn’t work out?
We try to match children/ young people with the skills, experience and personal circumstances of each individual Carer to ensure a lasting and rewarding relationship for all involved. However, if things don’t work out as expected, we will work with the Carer and the Local Health and Social Care Trusts to make alternative arrangements. However, at Kindercare Fostering NI, we are very proud of the fact that we have an extremely low placement breakdown record.
Q: How can I keep up to date on fostering issues?
Our Carers automatically receive free membership of the Fostering Network, which entitles them to free subscription to their quarterly publications, invitations to fostering events and training, and information on local fostering issues.